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Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricane Emergency Preparation Guide

It's important to have an emergency preparedness plan ready in the event of a natural disaster. Hurricanes are considered to be the most violent storms on Earth, and they typically form close to the equator over warm ocean waters, Hurricanes consist of condensed water vapor which forms into large clouds. The evaporation and condensation continue to build, with the cloud columns increasing in both size and height. At some point, a pattern begins to develop, with winds circulating around a center point, and as the moving air encounters more clouds, it transforms into a cluster of thunderstorm clouds, called a 'tropical disturbance'.

As the condensed air continues to circulate, wind speeds can pick up and circulate around the eye of the storm. Once wind speeds reach 74 mph, the tropical storm has officially become a tropical cyclone (or hurricane). The speed of winds in a hurricane are actually what determines the level of damage potential in a tropical storm. In fact, there are five categories of storm ratings: 74-95 mph is considered minimal (level 1), 111-129 is extensive (level 3), and 157 or higher means catastrophic damage is expected at landfall (level 5). While hurricanes usually weaken by the time land is reached, due to the absence of energy from warm ocean waters, they often continue to travel far inland, while dumping several inches of rain and causing a lot of wind damage before dying out completely. For this reason, it's incredible important to have a well thought out hurricane preparedness plan for your family, pets, home, and business before a storm hits.

Start With a Plan

First, you'll need to know where to go in the event of a hurricane. To discover your local hurricane evacuation routes, contact a local emergency management agency and be prepared to drive about 20-50 miles inland in order to locate a safe place to stay. In case any family members are separated during a disaster, it's important to have a plan of action to find one another. Because it's often easier to call long distance after a disaster, it's a good idea to ask an out-of-state relative or close friend to serve as your family's point of contact. Be sure that each member of your family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person prior to the storm. It's also extremely important to prepare an evacuation plan for any pets you may have, as well. Pets should wear identification tags and your veterinarian or local humane society should be contacted for further emergency preparation instructions.

Before a storm, it's important to prepare children for how to handle these incredibly stressful, and often frightening, emergencies. To do this, practice evacuation drills with kids so that, during an emergency, you are able to complete an evacuation quickly and as safely as possible. Sign up for local alerts and warnings, plan for possible shelter options, and stay tuned to local wireless emergency alerts, radio, or TV for weather updates, emergency instructions, or even direct evacuation orders.

Putting together a 'go-bag' days before a natural disaster, is extremely helpful during the emergency response period. Plan to pack a disaster supply kit which includes: food and water, a flashlight and extra batteries, chargers, cash or checks, a first aid kit, clothes, a map of your evacuation route, an extra set of car keys and a full tank of gas, medications for family members or pets, extra glasses or contacts, sturdy shoes, a portable batter-operated radio, blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, toiletries like toothbrushes, soap, and toilet paper, packaged or canned food and a nonelectric can opener, toys, books, games, drivers' licenses, and copies of all household members' birth certificates.

Prepare Your Home

Hurricane winds can easily cause trees and branches to fall near your home during a storm, causing even more damage. Keep plants trimmed and remove dead or damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your home safe during a storm. Secure loose rain gutters and reinforce the roof, windows, doors, and garage doors to reduce property and water damage. Be sure to cover windows with permanent storm shutters or, in a pinch, with 5/8-inch plywood boards before a storm and bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans, and anything else that isn't tied down or could damage the home if it hits during a hurricane. Sandbag any areas that may be subject to flooding in the home, relocate valuable or fragile possessions, secure electronics and office equipment with straps of Velcro, and anchor large furniture including bookcases, selves, and filing cabinets to wall studs to prevent as much damage to the interior of your home as possible.

In case you are unable to evacuate the house in time, it's important to designate a room in your house as a safe zone. The room should be one without windows or much furniture, if possible. To be on the safe side, preparations should be made to allow for self-sufficiency for at least three days. However, it's important to remember that it does take time for government responders to deliver supplies during major natural disasters, so having enough to live off of for a week is ideal. Preparations should include a weeks-worth of drinking water, which can be stored in large jugs, bottles, pots and pans, and clean bathtubs, to prevent dehydration during a power outage. To keep perishable food longer, turn the refrigerator and freezer settings to the coldest temperature possible and only open when absolutely necessary.

Staying Safe During a Hurricane

If you are located in the impact area of the storm, it's important that you, your family, and your pets remain inside at all times, and away from windows, skylights, and glass doors. Turn the power and water mains off when instructed to do so by local authorities and if power is lost, turn off all of your major appliances to avoid a power "surge" when electricity is restored. If the power does go out, use a flashlight for visibility, instead of candles.

If you are out and caught on a flooded road with rapidly rising waters when the storm hits, get out of the vehicle immediately and seek higher ground to avoid getting trapped or undertaken by the water. Avoid areas subject to flooding including underpasses, dips, low spots, canyons, and washes as they can easily and quickly be filled with water. After the storm, avoid contact with floodwater and do not allow children to play in it, as this water is most likely contaminated with sewage or contains dangerous animals and insects.

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