Are You Prepared For A Hurricane?
You know the story, the weather forecast puts out a hurricane warning and the store shelves are empty within two hours, but hurricane preparedness is much more than stocking up on extra food.
Hurricane Matthew is currently battering Haiti with 145mph winds, up to 175mph at the coast and seven deaths have so far been attributed to the storm. With Cuba and the Bahamas next in line and with the southeastern United States possibly in the firing line, how on earth do you prepare for such a force of nature?
Image credit: The Telegraph
The definition of a hurricane is:
1.a violent, tropical, cyclonic storm of the western North Atlantic, having wind speeds of or in excess of 72 miles per hour (32 m/sec).
Compare tropical cyclone, typhoon.
2. a storm of the most intense severity.
- Hurricanes cause structural damage through the sheer force of the winds but there are many other dangers they bring with them.
- Death and injury is often caused by building collapses and flying debris as well as trees felled in the incredibly high-speed winds.
- Flooding often occurs, either from the massive amount of rain these storms dump or from sea water inundation as the wind whips up the waves.
- Landslides and rockfalls are common as ground, particularly in deforested areas becomes saturated.
- Hurricanes have 5 categories with 1 being the lowest and producing winds that cause minimal damage, to 5 which have the highest wind speeds and cause massive damage in the areas they hit.
- Waiting until the hurricane is on the way before preparing for such an event is a fools errand and risks your life and the lives of rescuers who may have to come to your assistance.
You can read the latest updates and projected path of hurricane Matthew at nhc.noaa.gov
Everyone in the family should know the plans you have made. Depending on where you live it may be a foregone conclusion that you will evacuate to friends, family or even a motel outside the strike zone. If this is your plan you need to leave in good time because plenty of people are going to have the same idea. getting stuck in a queue of traffic that stretches for miles is not going to do anyone any good and if that jam happens to be in the area that the hurricane is going to hit a car isn’t going to provide the protection you need. If you plan to leave you should have a full survival kit in your car. Just because you are fleeing a storm doesn’t mean you don’t have to account for mechanical problems with the vehicle or other incidents holding you up even if you are outside the danger zone. Keep the car radio tuned to a local station so you can keep abreast of traffic and weather conditions along your route.
- There should be three days food and water for every person in the vehicle and enough supplies for any pets you are taking with you.
- You will need a change of clothes and should include wet weather gear in case you have to leave your vehicle.
- A full first aid kit
- Blankets or sleeping bags, and
- Flashlights and batteries are the minimum requirements.
- Take along feminine hygiene products if anyone in your group is liable to need them.
- Extra gas is a good idea as traffic jams can use fuel fast and as stated getting stuck on the highway isn’t a great idea.
- Make sure all cell phones are fully charged and personally I would have a charged power pack so I could recharge if need be.
- A few books and crayons for youngsters will help pass the time on the journey. A pack of cards and a favourite teddy can make a world of difference to a child.
- You should have at least two addresses that you can go to, preferably in different areas so if there is any knock on effect from the storm or another incident along the way you can divert to the second destination.
If you are evacuating to a centre of some kind, often a stadium or school outside the danger zone you would be prudent to take the same kit as you were going to take if you were going to friends or family elsewhere. The amount of people in evacuation centres varies widely and having some of your own supplies with you can make a massive difference to your comfort levels. The familiarity of having things from home also reduces the stress levels for children.
In both cases you should have cash on you. If the power fails the ATM machines will be down.
When packing for any emergency remember that it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
A plan if you are staying in your home may seem pointless but that’s far from true. Most areas have an emergency/community plan for major weather events and you should familiarise yourself with the plan for your area. Keep a wind up radio, or a traditional radio and spare batteries and stay tuned in to a local weather station to keep up with the news regarding the storm and to enable you to know if an evacuation order has come into force.
Again you should have bags packed so you are ready to leave at a moments notice. Storms can and do change direction and just because you were safe at the start, it doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Keep the bags where you can grab them easily but be sure not to block escape routes should your home become unsafe.
You should choose the safest place you can find in your home if you are going to sit it out. You need to know your homes strong points and you need to be sure everyone in the family knows that you may be living in very close quarters for a little while.
Choose a room with as few outside walls and windows as possible. This is often the hallway and in houses at least it has the added benefit of allowing you to use the space under the stairs as part of your shelter. Equip your safe space with pillows and blankets, games and toys for the kids, flashlights and a radio as well as having your food and water supply close to hand in the same general area. If you have a table that you can easily move into the area do so, it gives you another layer of protection should a ceiling come down. As I said storms can and do change course. Should you find yourself in that situation and know you can’t make it out consider removing a few doors and leaning them against the side of the stairs for extra protection against possible falling debris. many people die from crushing injuries and a door at an angle affords decent protection.
- Candles should never be used in such close quarters, they are too much of a fire risk. Stick to flashlights.
- Consider the bathroom needs of your group. Toilets can be used as long as the water is still running but people shouldn’t be wandering off to the bathroom when the worst of the storm hits.
- Waiting until the storm has almost arrived before stocking up on ready to eat canned goods and water is very unwise. Almost as soon as the alert is issued for your area the shelves will start to empty.
- Having supplies in advance is the way to go. Make sure to add water purification tablets to you list in case the municipal supply is interrupted. a couple of life straws would also be a Godsend in such a situation, food you can do without, water you can’t so think about how you can be sure you have at least five gallons on hand for every person in your group. For drinking only that would last each person for 5 days.
- Disposable plates and canned foods you can eat cold right from the tin will save dirty dishes piling up which is one less thing for you to worry about.
- Make sure you have plenty of strong garbage bags for the empty cans and plates and kitty litter and a bucket solely for bathroom use should you need it. Line the bucket with a strong bad and after use add kitty litter to prevent smells and spills.
- Hand sanitizer and baby wipes will help with hand washing and general hygiene during the time you are holed up. Getting sick at this point would make your situation far more difficult and hand hygiene is one of the easiest ways to prevent illness.
- Make sure you have cash on hand, if the power is out the ATM machines will be down as well.
Preparing your home is of prime importance:
- Board or tape windows.
- Move valuables such as photographs, passports and birth certificates into a plastic storage box. Try to make sure your insurance documents are also in the box.
- Make a note of all the numbers and store in a ziplock bag in case originals are destroyed and take photographs as well so you have a second copy.
- Soft furnishings should be piled onto a plastic tarp in the middle of each room and the tarp pulled up and secured on top, this will minimise water damage from windows breaking or more minor floods.
- Move garden furniture and bikes etc to the garage so they can’t blow around and cause injury.
- Sandbag doorways if possible.
- Make sure drains and guttering is clear so water can drain away.
A massive force of nature such as a hurricane is one of the most serious events we can face. As with most emergencies preparation is key regardless of whether you evacuate or sit it out.