Hurricane Michael might have hit Panama City, Florida, more than a week ago, but its after effects are still being felt by residents. The Washington Post writes that Michael hit “with 155-mph winds that ripped and twisted a wide path through coastal and inland communities, flattening buildings, tearing up roads and knocking out power to entire counties. Michael didn’t just break objects, it upended everything.” Life in Panama City has been completely disrupted, with many residents lacking power, access to running water and reliable cell service.
Unfortunately, hurricane season is not yet over, and this year may see another tropical cyclone or two form before it comes to a close. In fact, according to the National Hurricane Centre, two storms have developed since October 20. It is impossible to tell whether a tropical cyclone will hit land before the storm system has been formed, and by then, it will be too late to properly prepare for its ravaging effects. Thus, it’s important to prepare for hurricanes, so as to protect yourself and your family.
As seen through Michael and Florence, hurricanes can have devastating consequences. While the forces of nature can’t be controlled, prior preparation can help ensure your safety when a storm hits.
Create an Emergency Plan
In times of stress, having a plan to follow can be a lifesaver. Rather than running around like headless chickens, a practiced emergency plan allows you and your family to take swift, methodical action in the event of a disaster. Among other things, your plan must include the following information:
- A designated meeting place to regroup in case you and your family are not all together when the storm hits
- Written down contact information of each member of your family
- An emergency contact — preferably someone who does not live within the storm’s predicted path
- Numbers of local emergency services
- Directions to local emergency shelter
- Designated duties for each family member when under an official hurricane warning
Make sure to go through your plan thoroughly with any family members, alleviating any doubts or confusion they might have. It’s prudent to do a practice run-through of your emergency plan so that, in the event of a real emergency, you and your family can remain calm and efficient.
Create an Emergency Supply Kit
When a hurricane hits, your access to everyday supplies might be cut off. It’s good to have a prepared emergency supply kit ready so that you aren’t left stranded. Some supplies you should include in your emergency kit include a three-to-five-day supply of non-perishable food like canned goods, prescription medications, and a well-stocked first aid kit. Additionally, pack some blankers, an extra pair of clothes, shoes, toiletries, and insect repellant.
You will also want to gather safety items like flashlights, a fire extinguisher, batteries, radio, emergency phone numbers, and cash. It’s a good idea to include a phone charger and cable that plugs into your car for one of your cellphones, as well as a charged portable charger. As we’ve written about in a previous article, you should also pack essential tools like pliers and a screwdriver. These are useful in case you need to remove projectiles, secure tarps and turn off valves that can be hazardous during a hurricane. Remember to store all these items in a sturdy waterproof container so that they are protected from potential water damage.
Prepare Your Vehicle
During hurricane season, your car should always be fully maintained. Ensure you always have a full tank of gas in case you need to leave an area in haste. Make sure you have researched the safest route to an emergency shelter, as well as alternate routes in case your primary route becomes blocked. You could also save these on your GPS or phone, as well as print a copy of directions to leave in your car as a backup. Consider keeping a second emergency supply kit in your car — this could be of much use in case you need to suddenly evacuate.
If the storm is expected to cause floods, The Clunker Junker suggests moving your car to a place that will most likely be safe. Avoid driving in flooded areas as much as possible, not only to protect your vehicle but also for your personal safety.
One of the best ways to be prepared is to stay informed. Register for emergency alerts on your cell phone, as well as email alerts for your tablet or computer. Storms often take out phone lines and cell towers, so make sure you have a battery-powered radio tuned to the appropriate channel handy.
Stay updated by checking the local news and emergency service messages. Remember to always listen to the authorities and follow instructions promptly. For instance, if you are told to evacuate, do so immediately so as to minimize risk to yourself and your family.
Know How to Deal With the Aftermath
It’s equally important to stay safe after a hurricane, as storms can leave much destruction and ruin in their wake. Always listen to authorities and follow orders on what next steps you can take. If you are involved in cleaning efforts, make sure you are wearing protective clothing to avoid injury. Never work alone, and never touch electrical equipment if it is wet or you are standing in water. As we mentioned above, storms often take out phone lines, so save any phone calls for emergencies until cellular service is back up and running.
On a more personal note, remember to document any property damage through photographs. This will aid you with insurance proceedings later.
If you have young children, pay extra attention to how they are doing post disaster. Children experience trauma differently from adults and are often left overwhelmed and disturbed, with no way to express their feelings. Dr. Elena Yallow encourages validating their experiences while also being a model of reassurance to help children better cope with what happened.
With these tips, you and your family should be better prepared in case a hurricane comes your way. Proper preparation and knowledge can keep you safe; and if a hurricane does hit, it’s definitely better to be safe rather than sorry.
Brooke Faulkner writes and raises her sons in the Pacific Northwest. She is always looking for ways to make healthy living an accessible part of every day life. Find more of her writing on twitter, @faulknercreek