Monthly Archives: July 2012

  • Hurricane Preparedness Mini-Series - Part Five: After The Storm

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    Summer hurricane season is here, and as long as a storm isn’t right on your doorstep, there’s still time to prepare. These five installments about hurricane preparedness will remind you of ways to stay safe and secure before, during, and after one of these destructive storms.

    Part Five: After the Storm

    Once a hurricane has fully passed, you may be surprised at how quickly the sun comes out, causing steam to rise from the soaked and flooded land.

    If you have evacuated, do not attempt to go home until the authorities have said that it’s safe to do so. You may be met with washed-out bridges and roads, flooded areas, and a home that is unsafe. If you know or suspect that your neighborhood was severely affected, check with local authorities or the Red Cross to find out when you should go home. Once you’re there, observe the same precautions as those who stayed home (outlined below).

    If you successfully rode out the storm at home, be cautious when venturing outside. Continue to listen to your radio and don’t go out if local authorities advise against it.

    Check your home for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear it hissing as it escapes, turn it off at the main valve if you didn’t do so before the storm. Report it to the gas company immediately—or to any authorities you can reach—and keep your family outside and away from the house until it is declared safe. Do not light any flames or start a car anywhere near the house. Gas mains require a professional to turn gas service back on; DO NOT attempt to do this yourself!

    If you suspect sewer mains have been damaged, try to call a plumber or your city utilities number. If you see sparks or broken wires in your home, turn off your electricity at the main panel, even if your power is still out. Don’t drink, wash, or cook with tap water until you hear from authorities that it is safe to do so.

    Other potential dangers include downed power lines that can cause electrocution if you step into water where live wires are submerged. Do not step or drive over downed wires or otherwise go near them. Report them to local authorities, especially if you live in an out-of-the-way area where they might not have been discovered yet. Don’t attempt to drive anywhere until the roads are cleared of trees and debris, and you know they are not washed out, flooded, or so muddy that you would get stuck. Many roads and bridges may be damaged and unsafe. Give the authorities a chance to get around and evaluate the situation. Be patient with all local authorities and emergency services, as they will be overwhelmed.

    Watch for displaced wildlife. The storm will have disturbed the habitat of snakes, alligators, and other reptiles as well as woodland mammals such as deer, bears, wild hogs, skunks, rabbits, raccoons, and possums, sending them fleeing into neighborhoods they would normally avoid. Most will be nervous and agitated. For that matter, so will domesticated animals and pets that have been out in the weather. Even dogs and cats that are normally friendly may be terrified and hostile after such an experience. Be wary of contact with them, even if you long to comfort and feed them. Don’t allow your kids to splash around in ponds and puddles or flooded areas, as you don’t know what reptiles may have taken refuge in them—or what sharp pieces of debris may be submerged. If you have a swimming pool or pond on your property, check that for unwelcome visitors, too! Be watchful of your own pets if they are with you, so that they don’t tangle with the wildlife.

    When it’s safe to do so, check on any neighbors who also stayed home, and give or call for aid if necessary.

    Evaluate and report any damage to your home or property to your insurance company. Take “after” pictures. (Don’t forget your roof, where shingles may be missing.)

    As soon as you have phone service and immediate emergency concerns have been met, let your relatives and out-of-town contact know that you are alive and (hopefully) well and safe. They’ll be concerned.

    Take down your shutters or boards, open your windows and doors, and let your house air out to prevent mold and mildew from growing. If water invaded your house, do your best to remove it as soon as possible. If upholstered furniture or mattresses got soaked, pull them out into the yard or driveway to dry. They may or may not be salvageable.

    It may take a while before everything returns to normal in your area, so be prepared for the long haul. If you have food storage of freeze-dried, dehydrated, ready-to-eat, or canned foods, you may need to depend on them for the duration. It’s handy to have a charcoal or gas grill, a couple of flat-fold stoves with cans of fuel, or a similar alternative cooking method to heat up or rehydrate foods. If you can boil water and have a thermos, you can cook pasta, oatmeal, or wheat cereal by letting it soak in the hot water till done. Be sparing in the use of the water you stored in your tubs and containers before the storm, just in case it’s a while before your service is restored.

    Just because a storm has passed doesn’t mean all danger is over—remember these tips, and be careful as you return home or venture outside to assess damage, make repairs, check on neighbors, and help rebuild your community.

     

    See more articles in this series:

    Part One: Advance Planning and Preparation

    Part Two: Prepare Your Home, Pets, and Property

    Part Three: Under a Hurricane Watch

    Part Four: Under a Hurricane Warning

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: hurricane preparedness, hurricanes

  • Hurricane Preparedness Mini-Series - Part Four: Under a Hurricane Warning

    Summer hurricane season is here, and as long as a storm isn’t right on your doorstep, there’s still time to prepare. These five installments about hurricane preparedness will remind you of ways to stay safe and secure before, during, and after one of these destructive storms.

    Part Four: Under a Hurricane Warning

    A hurricane warning means the storm is definitely heading in your general direction, and it’s time to decide whether or not you are going to evacuate. In making this decision, remember that a hurricane is not a spectator sport! While it may be pretty exciting to experience such a force of nature, the excitement could quickly turn to fear and panic if high winds, storm surge, and flooding destroy your home or make it impossible to live in.

    This is not a time for foolish bravado and hosting a hurricane party, especially if the hurricane is severe. Cat 5 is the strongest category of hurricane, but even smaller, weaker storms can cause wind damage, serious flooding, and loss of power and other utilities. These effects can possibly impact you and your home for extended periods.

    Any hurricane can also spawn tornadoes. I once saw twin water spouts (funnel clouds that form over the water) come ashore on a Florida beach and cause damage. The storm surge is the “wall” of water that the storm brings with it from the ocean or gulf, and is especially dangerous if it coincides with high tides. A friend showed me a photograph of a chain link fence dotted with the bodies of dead fish that got caught in the links during a powerful storm surge in Texas, all facing forward, their mouths gaping open. Wind and water are powerful forces. Respect them.

    Evacuating
    Some factors that mean evacuation is the best course include the following:

    • Your area is told or advised to evacuate by the local authorities
    • You live close to water (including a river, stream, canal, or inland waterway) or in a low-lying area that could easily flood
    • You live in a mobile home, an RV, a high-rise building, a beach cabin, or in an older home that might have become less sturdy over the years
    • You have a family member who might suffer from a power loss because of needed electric medical equipment—C-pap machines, oxygen, etc.
    • You live on an island or any area reached by a bridge that might wash out during the storm
    • Your gut instinct says “GO!”

    If you choose to evacuate, don’t hesitate, as traffic will only become increasingly heavy as the storm approaches. Put up the final boards or shutters on remaining windows, turn your refrigerator down to its coldest setting, turn off and unplug other major appliances and desk computers to protect them from electrical surges as the power comes and goes, and fill the bathtub, sinks, pans and pitchers with water to use for washing, flushing, and cooking when you come back in case your usual water source is cut off or contaminated. Your car should be loaded and ready—grab your loved ones and go.

    Sheltering at Home
    If you decide to remain at home and ride out the storm, fill bathtubs and sinks with water for bathing or cleaning, pans and pitchers with water for cooking, and have plenty of bottled water on hand for drinking.

    Open your fridge as little as possible, and turn it to a colder setting than you normally keep it, though not cold enough to freeze everything. If the power goes out—make that whenthe power goes out—you’ll want your food to stay cold as long as possible. If you’re preparing a meal, decide ahead of time what you need from the fridge and quickly take it all out at once rather than opening and closing it several times.

    If you have a freezer, fill empty spaces in there with containers of water so the entire freezer is filled with frozen items. Doing so will keep the temperatures down longer, and will prevent excess pockets of cold air that can be “lost” every time the freezer door is opened. Freeze containers of water or freezer-paks ahead of time; when the power fails, pop them into a cooler and use that to cool drinks and perishables as long as possible. Try to use up your perishable foods before you turn to the emergency foods that you would have taken with you if you had evacuated.

    Once the power is off, turn off and unplug all your appliances (even refrigerators and freezers) to avoid power surges. Be prepared with games, cards, books, puzzles and toys that do not require electricity to keep children—and adults, for that matter—entertained for quite a while.

    Be very careful with candles, either utility or 100-hour types, or with hurricane lamps, gas lanterns, flat fold stoves, or anything that has a flame. Keep them out of the reach of small children. NEVER bring a generator inside your house! The same goes for gas camp stoves or charcoal grills. They all emit gases or fumes that can be deadly. Alternatively, you could use a camp stove for short durations if you have adequate ventilation available. Think now about how you would survive without power during a hurricane, and plan ahead to have the needed equipment that can be run safely inside without access to utilities.

    Stay inside during the storm. It may be tempting to go outside and see what’s blowing around and making all that noise, but don’t give in—there’s no point in putting yourself in further danger to satisfy your curiosity! Even if the calm eye passes over you and the sun shines for a bit, remember the storm is only half-over and the winds will soon hit from the other direction.

    During the worst of the storm, shelter in an inner hallway—away from windows, doors, and skylights. Keep your flashlight and NOAA radio with you, bring pillows and bedding to curl up on, and snacks and water to sustain you. You will probably be uncomfortably warm, but with strong winds and blowing rain, open windows or doors aren’t the best solution for cooling down. If you absolutely must have some ventilation, crack open a window on the leeward side of the house. If you have a battery-powered fan, this would be the perfect time to use it. (Bring along a sack with extra batteries for any equipment you may be using.) Play games like “Twenty Questions” that don’t require light or equipment, tell stories, sing songs, and try to stay calm and soothe the fears of children.

    If water comes into your house, go to the highest level you have. Another precaution for this possibility: pile your most precious photo albums and other important items on a high (stable) shelf, bunk bed, or table. You might want to pile furniture up in the middle of the living room. If you have nice throw rugs, roll them up and put them on top of your stack. In a worst-case flooding scenario, if there is an accessible attic in your house you may need to go there—and you should have placed an axe and saw there ahead of time just in case you need to create an escape hatch (a fairly rare situation, but remember Katrina). In any storm situation, always err on the side of caution!

    Whether you stay home or evacuate during a hurricane, you’ll need to have specific plans and equipment available. Take the time now to create a plan, prepare your family, and gather the supplies you’ll need. You’ll be so glad you did if the time comes that you have to use them.

     

    See other articles in this mini series:

    Part One: Advance Planning and Preparation

    Part Two: Prepare Your Home, Pets, and Property

    Part Three: Under a Hurricane Watch

    Part Five: After the Storm 

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: hurricane preparedness, hurricanes

  • Hurricane Preparedness Mini-Series - Part Three: Under a Hurricane Watch

    Summer hurricane season is here, and as long as a storm isn’t right on your doorstep, there’s still time to prepare. These five installments about hurricane preparedness will remind you of ways to stay safe and secure before, during, and after one of these destructive storms.

    Part Three: Under a Hurricane Watch

    When a hurricane is out there swirling around and looking as if it might head in your direction, it’s time to get serious about your personal safety and that of your family, your pets, and your neighbors.

    Hurricanes are often unpredictable; they can stall, turn, and take unexpected tracks. This is why there are always multiple possible models for their progress shown on TV. Listen to the NOAA weather radio band to track the storm and get any instructions that are issued from the authorities for your area.

    Top off your gas tank and pack emergency kits and other supplies into your car. Keep it parked facing outward for easy merging into traffic, especially if you live on a busy street. If you have a boat, secure it the best you can or bring it ashore into a covered facility if possible.

    Be sure your cell phone is charged and that your car phone charger is in your vehicle. It's also a good idea to have alternative ways to charge your phone, like the Goal Zero Nomad 7m Solar Panel. Program important numbers into your phone, but don’t forget to take a separate list on a card or paper in case your phone is lost or service fails.

    Put away flower pots, lawn furniture, and anything else that might sail around in a strong wind—which is pretty much anything that isn’t bolted down! Board up your windows, leaving just one or two open for now for ventilation if you must.

    Gather your family around. Keep them close by in case you need to evacuate. Review your evacuation plans and revise if necessary. Check with those friends or relatives you’re depending upon for shelter to let them know you might be coming.

    Double-check on arrangements for your pets, and keep them on leashes or fenced into your yard—you don’t want to be hunting for them if you have to exacuate! If you absolutely must leave pets at home (not advised), tape a notice on the outside of a front door or the inside of a window letting emergency personnel know they are there: “2 DOGS INSIDE.” If your front door has a window, tape the notice on the inside so it doesn't blow away. Leave your bathroom door firmly propped open and the toilet lid up so they can drink if their water bowls go dry. Make sure they have plenty of food available, and for dogs, their favorite kind of chew toys for a little comfort. Realize that you will probably come home to quite a mess—and some very anxious pets.

    Post a paper on your fridge, the inside of your front door, or another prominent place giving the address and phone number where you can be reached. Give your relatives and friends the same information.

    Check with your neighbors to see if anyone needs help boarding up windows, getting last-minute supplies, putting away lawn furniture, etc. Be especially watchful for older folks or the disabled.

    There are a lot of things to think about when preparing yourself, your home, and your family for a hurricane. This article is a good starting point but certainly not comprehensive. Make a list specific to your home and family so you can have an organized way to prepare when a hurricane watch is announced for your area. Making these preparations can help you feel more secure in uncertain situations.

    See More Articles in This series:

    Part One: Advance Planning and Preparation

    Part Two: Prepare Your Home, Pets, and Property

    Part Four: Under a Hurricane Warning

    Part Five: After the Storm 

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: hurricane preparedness, hurricanes

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