The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June through November and, although most of the time all you will see are some heavy bouts of rain, some major hurricanes have hit the region in recent years. That is why it's important to always be prepared. The best type of hurricane is the one that just misses, but there are time when you're not so lucky. So, no matter if you're living in a hurricane prone area or just there on vacation, keeping prepared is most important.
Before a Hurricane
All proper preparations should be done before the hurricane hits. This will ensure that you aren't left without certain necessities. When a major hurricane is headed towards your area, people tend to panic and stores run out of important staples like, water, batteries, and flashlights very quickly. Truthfully, if you live in a hurricane prone area you should always be stocked with the staples so you never have to worry about the panicking crowds.
Here are some helpful pre-storm prep tips:
- Make a plan. When emergency strikes it is important that you and your family have a plan in case you get separated. Agree on a common meeting place that is easy to find and a method of contact.
- Create a disaster kit. This should consist of water (one gallon per person per day for three days for all uses), three days worth of food, batteries, flashlights, first aid kit, cell phone with back up charger, help whistle, garbage bags, pliers, a manual can opener, and any critical medications. Your valuable documents should be tucked away in a waterproof container as well.
- Fill all your gas tanks. This should be done as soon as possible because gas is usually one of the first things to run out of before a hurricane.
If you live in a sound structure outside of an evacuation area and do not live in a mobile home, stay home and take these precaution:
- Make sure your windows are protected and your home is secured. This may mean putting up hurricane shutters, which should be done in the days prior to a hurricane coming. This also includes tying down or taking in any outdoor furniture, garbage cans, outdoor decor, or lawn supplies that can blow away during heavy winds.
- Fill your bathtubs. Line the bathtub with plastic sheeting or a clean shower curtain, or caulk the drain with silicone caulking — it holds water for weeks and cleans up easily when dry.
- Know your property's elevation level. This will help you in determining if your home is flood- prone and can help you prepare for storm surge or tidal flooding.
During a Hurricane
During the storm, howling winds, driving rain, and the threat of tornadoes make riding out a hurricane a scary ordeal. Follow these tips for staying safe in your home during a hurricane:
- Stay inside and away from windows, skylights, and glass doors. Find a safe area in your home (an interior room, a closet or bathroom on the lower level).
- If flooding threatens your home, turn off electricity at the main breaker.
- If you lose power, turn off major appliances such as the air conditioner and water heater to reduce damage.
- Do not use electrical appliances, including your computer.
- Do not go outside. If the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm, but at the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane force and will come from the opposite direction. Also, do not go outside to see "what the wind feels like." It is too easy to be hit by flying debris.
- Beware of lightning. Stay away from electrical equipment. Don't use the phone or take a bath/shower during the storm.
After a Hurricane
More deaths and injury occur after a hurricane hits than during. Usually because people are too anxious to get outside and survey the damage and come into contact with downed power lines or unstable trees. Follow these suggestions for staying safe after a hurricane:
- Remain indoors until an official "all clear" is given.
- Do not touch fallen or low-hanging wires of any kind under any circumstances. Stay away from puddles with wires in or near them. Do not touch trees or other objects in contact with power lines.
- USE PHONES FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY. Call 911 only for life-threatening situations.
- Call police or utility companies immediately to report hazards such as downed power lines, broken gas or water mains, overturned gas tanks, or any other dangerous situation you come across.
- Watch for weakened roads, bridges, tree limbs or porches that could collapse unexpectedly.
- After power is restored, check refrigerated food for spoilage. (Spoiled food is the cause of much sickness two days to a week after the storm.)
- When reinstalling a CB, TV or satellite antenna, check in all directions to be sure no power lines are nearby. The same goes for climbing trees to clear debris.
- Do not operate charcoal grills, propane camping stoves or generators indoors.
If you live near the coast or in a flood-prone area, you may be asked to evacuate. Your "plan" should include researching your evacuation route and making arrangements in advance with family or friends for a safe place to stay.
Area public shelters are for people who have no other place to go. If you must stay in a shelter, listen to news broadcasts for announcements of shelter openings. Shelter volunteers do their best to make you comfortable, but a shelter is not a very comfortable place. Stay with friends or relatives if at all possible.
- Those with special medical needs (oxygen, etc.) should go to special needs shelters only. Special needs shelters do not provide hands-on medical care, only medical monitoring. Bring a caregiver with you if need.
- Only service animals are permitted in public shelters. Shelters that allow pets are limited, so other arrangements should be made for your pets.
- Bring food and snacks. Meals may not be available during the first 24 hours.
- Bring your identification, valuable papers, and medications in their original containers.
- Bring baby supplies.
- Bring blankets/sleeping bags, pillows. Those are either not provided or limited in supply.
- Bring cards/games/books to pass the hours.
- Bring flashlights and a battery operated radio or TV with extra batteries for all.
- Stay inside and follow directions that are given for your comfort and safety.
- You will not be allowed outside until the official "all clear."
If you plan on traveling to Florida during hurricane season — June 1 through November 30 — it is important to learn about hurricane guarantees and travel insurance to protect your vacation investment.
However, if a storm threatens during your visit, keep informed with local news and follow any evacuation orders that are issued. If you aren't required to evacuate, follow the tips above to help keep you and your family safe.