Of course, no one knows when or where the next hurricane or tropical storm will hit — but wherever you live, it’s a good idea to know whether you’ll need to evacuate, or whether you’ll stay in place.
There are a lot of practical things you can do to increase your chances of weathering whatever storm comes our way.
Here’s a list of pointers — compiled from numerous local and national sources — intended to help you before, during and after a disaster strikes.
BEFORE THE STORM
Know your vulnerabilities
- Know your hurricane zone. Be aware that areas of special concern include coastal areas, areas with known flooding problems, mobile homes and homes not secured to their foundation.
- If you live in a mandatory evacuation zone, prepare an evacuation plan that includes transportation routes and destinations, and one that considers all family members and pets.
- If you will need to evacuate, reach out to family or friends now, to see if you can stay with them. Think in terms of going to a safe place that’s “tens of miles away, not hundreds of miles away.”
- If planning to use a public shelter, know where it is and whether it can accommodate you, if you have special needs.
- Be sure your evacuation plan includes your pets. Create an emergency kit for your pets.
- Whether you are sheltering in place, or evacuating, be sure to share your plans with someone outside of the danger zone.
- For those new to the area, find out the area’s history. Is it prone to flooding? Are you in a mandatory evacuation area?
- Stayed tuned in. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or other radio or TV stations for the latest storm news.
- Follow instructions issued by local officials. If ordered to leave, do so immediately.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full during hurricane season.
- Have a go-bag ready. It should include items such as protective clothing, medications, important documents, food, water, fresh batteries, a flashlight and cash.
- Create an at-home kit: Include 1 gallon of water per person, per day, for up to seven days; nonperishable foods; a non-electric can opener; hygiene items.
- Stock up on paper plates, plastic utensils, plastic cups, a grill, fuel and charcoal.
- Have a phone charger that doesn’t require electricity.
- Have books and games available, to help pass the time.
- Check your emergency equipment: Do you have flashlights with fresh batteries? Does your generator work? Do you have tarps?
PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY
- Take actions to reduce potential damage from hurricanes or tropical storms. Have trees trimmed. If high winds are expected, stow unsecured items, such as lawn or pool furniture, wind chimes, potted plants, garbage cans and other objects that can become projectiles in high winds.
- Review your insurance policies to be sure you have adequate coverage. Do an inventory of your valuables and take photos of your jewelry, electronics and other big-ticket items.
- If you have a boat, be sure to secure it.
- Clear out clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
- Secure your home. Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8-inch exterior grade or marine plywood, built to fit and ready to install. Buy supplies before a hurricane threatens to get the needed supplies and avoid the pre-storm rush.
DURING THE STORM
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level during the storm. Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can. Stay away from windows, skylights, and glass doors.
- Close all interior doors. Secure and brace exterior doors.
- Fill bathtubs or buckets with water to use for cleaning and toilet flushing.
- Don’t be fooled by a lull in the storm. It could be the eye of the storm and the winds could resume.
- Stay informed by listening to a NOAA Weather Radio, local news reports and notifications on emergency apps.
AFTER THE STORM
- If you evacuated, return home only after officials say it is safe. Check the local news and local government emergency apps to find out when it is safe to return to your home.
- Once home, drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects in the road, downed electrical wires, and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks that might collapse.
- Walk carefully around the outside of your home to check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage.
- Stay out of any building if you smell gas, if floodwaters remain around the building, if the structure was damaged by fire or if authorities have declared it unsafe.
- Never use a portable generator inside your house or garage. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms.
- Use battery-powered flashlights. Turn on your flashlight before entering a vacated building. The battery could produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
- Don’t drive into water when you can’t see the bottom of the road. Heed the advice: Turn around, do not drown.
- Don’t walk through flooded areas. Fast-moving water could carry you away. The water also could be contaminated with oil, gasoline, raw sewage and other harmful toxins. Also, it is possible that it’s electrically charged from a downed wire.
- Be careful about the foods you eat. If the power is out for a prolonged period, your food may have spoiled.
- Do not burn charcoal in your house or garage, the fumes can be deadly.
If you’re using a generator, do not plug it into a building’s wiring. This can cause generator back feed, which is extremely dangerous for utility workers and for anyone in the public who comes into contact with a downed electrical wire.
IF YOU HAVE DAMAGE
- Call your insurance agent.
- Take photos of the damage.
- Make emergency repairs to avoid more damage and keep receipts for tarps, lumber and so on.
- Use licensed contractors to make repairs. Be wary of potential scams.
For a considerable amount of regarding emergency preparedness, check out the disaster guides available through Pasco County and Hillsborough County. Also, sign up for their alerts. To access those, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org and https://www.pascocountyfl.net.
Published June 29, 2022