Hurricane Preparedness: 6 Tips Learned from a Hurricane Survivor
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has been the third most active season to date, according to the National Hurricane Center. As a resident of Houston, I experienced the wrath of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. Here are some hurricane preparedness tips I learned from surviving a hurricane:
1. Know Your Hurricane Risk
You might not think you live in a place that’s at risk for hurricanes, but according to Ready.gov, hurricanes can reach over 100 miles inland from the coast. You may want to consider where your apartment or home is in relation to the coast to help determine the risk in your area. This map from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shows the frequency of hurricane and storm activity by county and may help you understand the hurricane risk in your community.
2. Make Your Emergency Plan and Kit Ahead of Time
The time to prepare for a hurricane is when there is no hurricane coming, says Ready.gov. In my experience, this is true. I went to the grocery store 24 hours before the hurricane was predicted to make landfall. Many of the store’s shelves had already been emptied of canned foods, bread, water and toilet paper. Several gas stations were also closed as people had filled up their cars’ gas tanks and extra canisters, and the stations had run out of fuel. Don’t wait until the weather report is showing a hurricane coming to your city to assemble your emergency plan and kit: Prepare when there is nothing going on.
Make sure your emergency kit has enough food, water, disposable plates and utensils, toilet paper, soap and antibacterial wipes for your family to last several days or more, says Ready.gov. Remember, you may also want to include some cash to have on hand for emergency expenses, adds Ready.gov. Don’t forget some comfort foods such as chocolate, cookies and other snacks. A little treat in the midst of a stressful situation may go a long way.
As you learn more information about the storm, you may need to refine your emergency plan and kit. You may also want to gather items into a “go bag,” in case an evacuation order is issued, says NYC Emergency Management. Based on reports of flooding and closed roads, consider mapping out various exit routes in case you need to evacuate your home. You may also want to find out where your emergency shelters are located in your area.
Remember, one plan and kit does not fit all. Ready.gov recommends making an emergency plan and kit based on your family’s specific needs.
3. Be Ready to Deal With No Power
Electricity is likely to go out during and after a hurricane. Here are few ways to be prepared in case you end up in the dark:
- Have some flashlights, lanterns and extra batteries on hand for lighting.
- Get extra battery banks or portable chargers for your smartphone to allow you to charge it when power is out. Make sure to also charge your smartphone and backup chargers the night before the hurricane is projected to hit.
- Unplug your sensitive appliances and electronics from power surges, according to North Carolina’s electric cooperative.
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting the day before the hurricane is predicted to hit and minimize opening the doors, says Ready.gov. As long as the doors stay closed, the refrigerator can keep food cold for four hours, while a full freezer may maintain its temperature for 24 hours, according to FoodSafety.gov.
4. Have a First Aid Kit and Medications On Hand
In the midst of a hurricane, it may be difficult to reach a doctor or get to an emergency room. It’s a good idea to have a basic first aid kit that includes pain relievers, allergy medicines, wound care supplies and extra glasses or contact lenses, says the American Red Cross. Don’t forget to include your family’s prescription medicines.
I found out the hard way that hurricanes and other weather changes may trigger migraine headaches. I have a prescription pain reliever. Unfortunately, I had not ordered my refill before the hurricane hit. There was no way to leave my building as the streets filled up with water. I made a note to never put off prescriptions again, as there were no pharmacies open.
5. Keep Communication Open
In a hurricane, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on. Stay up to date with the news with a battery-operated or hand-crank radio, says FEMA. Here is a list of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio stations. You may also want to consider downloading some weather apps on your smartphone to help you remain informed throughout the hurricane and its aftermath. During the hurricane, the weather app on my smartphone kept me informed of tornadoes and flood warnings nearby.
Social media may be essential when it comes to finding out about local issues. Immediately after the hurricane, I found out about my neighborhood’s fallen trees, flooded streets and intersections and open gas stations or grocery stores via social media.
Your family and friends will also be anxious about what’s going on with you. Designate one contact who can keep everyone informed on your behalf. Or, if you are able to get online, activate the safety check feature on Facebook, or use the Red Cross Safe and Well website.
6. Make Sure Your Pets Are Ready, Too
Your pet depends on you for safety and comfort, so include him in your hurricane safety measures. Build a pet emergency kit with your pet’s food, water, medicines, collar, leash, carrier and favorite toy, says FEMA.
Don’t wait until a hurricane is in the forecast. Preparing ahead of time can help you and your family stay comfortable and safe.