Before the Storm | As the Storm Approaches | During the Storm | After the Storm
Before the Storm Season
Emergency Survival Kit | Inspect Your Home | Wind Events | Flooding | Safe Water Storage | Safe Food Storage | Insurance Policy | Special Needs
Be Prepared Before Severe Weather Strikes:
A major storm can knock out all utility service to your area, leaving you without electricity, heat, water or fresh food.
Plan NOW and get ready -- Tomorrow May Be Too Late:
Hurricanes in the United States are most threatening along coastlines. But such fierce storms also have been known to build up enough momentum to carry destructive winds inland for hundreds of miles. Heavy rains, flooding, and tornadoes add to the damage hurricanes can inflict upon home and community. Prepare for a hurricane by completing each item on the checklist below. Then meet with everyone to discuss and finalize your Family Disaster Plan.
Emergency Communication Plan -- Keep your Family in Touch:
In case family members are separated from one another during a storm (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a family plan for getting back together.
Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
Plan your evacuation route:
Contact the local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter, and ask for the community hurricane preparedness plan. This plan should include information on the safest evacuation routes and nearby shelters. Learn safe routes inland. Be ready to drive 20 to 50 miles inland to locate a safe place.
Source: Various Emergency Management Agencies
Have emergency disaster supplies on hand. Stock up today and store in a water-resistant container. Replenish as necessary, especially at the beginning of hurricane or storm season.
Keep tools handy in a tool kit that you may need:
- A supply of water (one gallon per person per day). Store water in sealed, unbreakable containers. Identify the storage date and replace every six months.
- A supply of non-perishable packaged or canned food and two (2) manual - can openers, hand operated (non-electric).
- A change of clothing, rain gear, and sturdy shoes.
- Blankets or sleeping bags.
- Towels, toilet paper and bathroom items
- A first aid kit and prescription medications, and a first aid manual and package of examination gloves.
- Additional family items include: bandages, antiseptic, tape, compresses, aspirin and non-aspirin pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, antacid, tampons, Syrup of Ipecac (used to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center).
- Two large coolers (one to keep food; one to go get ice).
- An extra pair of glasses, camera and film.
- A battery-powered radio, flashlight, spare bulbs, and plenty (seven sets) of extra batteries (check size needed) for each member of the family.
- Several boxes of candles and matches sealed in plastic bags.
- Credit cards and cash. ATM's may not be working.
- An extra set of car keys. Try them out, too.
- A list of current family physicians and current prescription medications. Do you have enough on hand for two weeks... should they be refilled now...!
- A list of important family health information; the style and serial number of medical devices, such as pacemakers.
Review the Special Needs Section for special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members.
- Make a Emergency power generator part of your family preparedness plan. Be aware of the safety rules for its use. Review the Inspect Your Home Section.
Make sure everyone in your family knows where the tool kit is kept. Review your emergency plan with your family and post the written plan. Practice your emergency plan. Be prepared.
- Hammer and 4 boxes of various size nails
- Screwdrivers or a Full Set
- Adjustable Wrench
- Small hatchet
- Hand Saw
- Work gloves
- Duct tape and Masking Tape for glass Windows
- Rope or 100ft clothesline
- Heavy Duty Plastic Sheeting - 9' x 12'
- Various Sizes of Tarps
- Furring Strips - Hold down tarps and plastic sheeting
Sources: Various Emergency Management Agencies
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Home Hazard Self Inspection Check List:
- Make sure your address (house number) is CLEARLY marked on your home.
- In a disaster, ordinary items in the home can cause injury and damage. Anything that can move,
fall, break, or cause a fire is a potential hazard.
- Locate and TAG ALL the MAIN shut off valves including the incoming water valve, main breaker or fuse box and incoming natural gas valve in your home.
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections.
- Fasten shelves securely.
- Test ALL your smoke detectors. Date and Replace ALL batteries.
- Place large, heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Hang pictures and mirrors away from beds.
- Brace overhead light fixtures.
- Secure water heater. Strap to wall studs.
- Repair cracks in ceilings or foundations. Grade water AWAY from the house foundation.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products away from heat sources.
- Place oily polishing rags or waste in covered metal cans.
- Clean and repair chimneys, flue pipes, vent connectors, and gas vents.
- Clean yard of loose objects, toys, chairs, bikes, yard tools, etc.
- Check roof, and clean gutters and downspouts. Grade and flow roof water AWAY from house foundation.
- Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased or damaged limbs, then strategically removing branches so that wind can blow through.
- Make a Emergency power generator part of your family preparedness plan.
- Install a special generator main electric breaker double-throw switch. Place a generator outside for proper ventilation. Turn off the house main electric breaker before using the generator. This will prevent your generator electricity from traveling to otherwise de-energized electrical lines outside your house and possibly injuring repair crews.
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Have hurricane straps installed in your home or business to better secure the roof to the walls and foundation. This will reduce the risk of losing your roof to high winds.
Install and maintain storm shutters over all exposed windows and glass surfaces, and use them when severe weather threatens. Besides protecting against wind, shutters also prevent damage from flying debris.
Protect your windows. Permanent storm shutters are the best protection. A lower-cost approach is to put up plywood panels. Use 1/2 inch plywood--marine plywood is best--cut to fit each window. Remember to mark location or number which board fits which window. Pre-drill holes every 18 inches for screws. DO THIS LONG BEFORE THE STORM. BE PREPARED.
Trim back dead or weak branches from trees. Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased or damaged limbs, then strategically removing branches so that wind can blow through.
Have your home inspected by a building professional to ensure that roof and other building components are capable of withstanding wind effects.
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Move valuables and appliances out of the basement of your home or business if it is prone to flooding. By doing so, you increase the chance that your belongings will be safe and sound when a flood event occurs.
Elevate the main breaker or fuse box and the utility meters above the anticipated flood level in your home or business, so that flood water won't damage your utilities.
Buy flood insurance to cover the value of your home and its contents. Not only will insurance give you greater peace of mind, but it will also greatly speed your recovery if a flood occurs. To learn more about insurance in your area, contact your local insurance agent.
Before you begin your work, make sure you'll do it right -- contact your local building official! Nearly every community has building codes and ordinances which guide construction practices. Many of these are designed to reduce your risk from all types of hazards, including floods, earthquakes, high winds, and wildfires.
Before you begin incorporating many of the above mitigation measures, or make more substantial structural changes to your home, contact your local building official. He or she can let you know what the codes require as you do your work, and can provide you with assistance so that you can mitigate properly the first time.
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency
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Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more.
You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene. Store a total of at least one gallon per person, per day. You should store at least a two - week supply of water for each member of your family.
If supplies run low, never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.
How to Store Water:
Store your water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. NEVER use a container that has held toxic substances.
Plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles, are best. You can also purchase larger food-grade plastic buckets or drums. Seal water containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place. Rotate water every six months.
Emergency Outdoor Water Sources:
If you need to find water outside your home, you can use these sources. Be sure to purify the water according to the instructions listed below before drinking it.
- Streams, rivers and other moving bodies of water
- Ponds and lakes
- Natural springs
Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it first. You should not drink floodwater.
Three Ways to Purify Water:
In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis. You should purify all water of uncertain purity before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene.
There are many ways to purify water. None is perfect. Often the best solution is a combination of methods. Three easy purification methods are outlined below. These measures will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. Before purifying, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.
Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 3 to 5 minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.
Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. DO NOT USE scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.
Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.
The only agent used to purify water should be household liquid bleach. Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
While the two methods described above will kill most microbes in water, distillation will remove microbes that resist these methods, and heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.
Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt and other impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot's lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
Hidden Water Sources in Your Home:
If a disaster catches you without a stored supply of clean water, you can use the water in your hot-water tank, pipes and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).
Do you know the location of your incoming water valve? You'll need to shut it off to stop contaminated water from entering your home if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines.
To use the water in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your house at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the house.
To use the water in your hot-water tank, be sure the electricity or gas is off, and open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet. Do not turn on the gas or electricity when the tank is empty.
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency
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Short - Term Food Supplies -- build your two-week supply:
Even though it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supply for two weeks, you should prepare a supply that will last that long.
The easiest way to develop a two-week stockpile is to increase the amount of basic foods you normally keep on your shelves. Get in the good habit of dating all items with a marker pen.
- Keep food in a dry, cool spot - a dark area if possible.
- Keep food covered at all times.
- Open food boxes or cans carefully so that you can close them tightly after each use.
- Wrap cookies and crackers in plastic bags, and keep them in tight containers.
- Empty opened packages of sugar, dried fruits and nuts into screw-top jars or air-tight cans to protect them from pests.
- Inspect all food for signs of spoilage before use.
- Use foods before they go bad, and replace them with fresh supplies, dated with ink or marker. Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in front.
During and right after a disaster, it will be vital that you maintain your strength. So remember:
- Eat at least one well-balanced meal each day.
- Drink enough liquid to enable your body to function properly (two quarts a day).
- Take in enough calories to enable you to do any necessary work.
- Include vitamin, mineral and protein supplements in your stockpile to assure adequate nutrition.
Food Supplies -- Things you should know:
When Food Supplies Are Low:
If activity is reduced, healthy people can survive on half their usual food intake for an extended period and without any food for many days. Food, unlike water, may be rationed safely, except for children and pregnant women.
If your water supply is limited, try to avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and don't stock salty foods, since they will make you thirsty. Try to eat salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.
You don't need to go out and buy unfamiliar foods to prepare an emergency food supply. You can use the canned foods, dry mixes and other staples on your cupboard shelves. In fact, familiar foods are important. They can lift morale and give a feeling of security in time of stress. Also, canned foods won't require cooking, water or special preparation. Following are recommended short-term food storage plans.
As you stock food, take into account your family's unique needs and tastes. Try to include foods that they will enjoy and that are also high in calories and nutrition. Foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking are best.
Individuals with special diets and allergies will need particular attention, as will babies, toddlers and elderly people. Nursing mothers may need liquid formula, in case they are unable to nurse. Canned dietetic foods, juices and soups may be helpful for ill or elderly people.
Make sure you have two (2) manual can openers and disposable utensils. And don't forget non-perishable foods for all your pets.
Shelf-life of Foods for Storage:
Here are some general guidelines for rotating common emergency foods.
- Use within six months:
- Powdered milk (boxed)
- Dried fruit (in metal container)
- Dry, crisp crackers (in metal container)
- Use within one year:
- Canned condensed meat and vegetable soups
- Canned fruits, fruit juices and vegetables
- Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked instant cereals (in metal containers)
- Peanut butter
- Hard candy and canned nuts
- Vitamin C
- May be stored indefinitely (in proper containers and conditions):
- Vegetable oils
- Dried corn
- Baking powder
- Instant coffee, tea and cocoa
- Non-carbonated soft drinks
- White rice
- Bouillon products
- Dry pasta
- Powdered milk (in nitrogen-packed cans)
What to do with food if the electricity goes off:
FIRST, use perishable food and foods from the refrigerator.
THEN, use the foods from the freezer. To minimize the number of times you open the freezer door, post a list of freezer contents on it. In a well-filled, well-insulated freezer, foods will usually still have ice crystals in their centers (meaning
foods are safe to eat) for at least three days.
FINALLY, begin to use non-perishable foods and staples.
How to cook if the power goes out:
For emergency cooking you can use a fireplace. A charcoal grill or camp stove can be used outdoors. NEVER USE CHARCOAL GRILLS INSIDE or use a gas stove for heat as they could give off harmful levels of carbon monoxide. You can also heat food with candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots. Canned food can be eaten right out of the can. If you heat it in the can, be sure to open the can and remove the label first.
Source: FEMA and Various Emergency Management Agencies
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Do it today...!!! Whether you rent or own your home, review ALL your insurance policies with your agent now. Do it today...!!!
Check into flood insurance. You can find out about the National Flood Insurance Program through your local insurance agent or emergency management office.
There is normally a 30-day waiting period before a new policy becomes effective. Homeowners polices do not cover damage from the flooding that accompanies a hurricane.
Check your policy for flood and windstorm coverage:
Do it today...!!! Standard homeowners policies do not cover flood damage caused by rising water. There is a waiting period from the time you purchase the insurance to the time it takes effect. Your policy may have changed recently and may not include windstorm coverage. For information about flood and windstorm coverage, contact your agent now. Do it today...!!!
Make sure you have adequate coverage:
Do it today...!!! Review your insurance policy. You should consider increasing your coverage if your policy doesn't cover the current value of your home and its contents. If you live in a condominium, check to see what coverage you have through your condominium association and know the coverage for which you are separately responsible.
Find out if your policy will pay replacement cost or actual cash value in the event of a loss:
Do it today...!!! Replacement cost is the dollar amount needed to replace or repair your damaged property with materials of similar kind and quality. Actual cash value is the dollar amount needed to replace or repair your damaged property after depreciation. Yearly inflation or renovations increase the replacement cost of your home and its contents, while the actual cash value may decrease over time.
Update your list of personal belongings:
Do it today...!!! Make an itemized inventory of your belongings, including costs, purchase dates and serial numbers. Stand in the center of each room, and photograph or videotape all four walls with room area in front. Dated photographs or current videotapes of your possessions are a good idea. Keep a copy of your important insurance records in a safe deposit box or with a trusted relative or friend
Source: Various Departments of Consumer Affairs and FEMA
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In addition, you can assist people with special needs who may be particularly vulnerable during utility outages by following the suggestions listed below.
Source: Various Emergency Management Agencies
- If someone you know is elderly, dependent on life-sustaining or health-related equipment (i.e. ventilators, respirators, oxygen concentrators, or enhancers), you should help plan to make sure their needs are met by storm power outages by taking the following actions:
- Register them as a special needs customer with their utility company so they will become a priority customer.
- Notify others that could provide help: fire department, police department, neighbors, nearby friends, or relatives.
- Have a list of emergency numbers readily available by the telephone.
- Check on them before the storm and during an outage.
- Have a standby generator or an alternative source of power available. Be aware of the safety rules for its use. Review the Inspect Your Home Section.
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