Basic Steps to Prepare
• Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes and locations of emergency shelters.
• Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them before the hurricane strikes. Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water or a fallen power line, or before you evacuate. Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate. Secure structurally unstable building materials.
• Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure your family knows where to find it and how to use it.
• Locate and secure your important papers, such as insurance policies, wills, licenses, stocks, etc.
• Post emergency phone numbers at every phone.
• Inform local authorities about any special needs, i.e., elderly or bed-ridden individuals or anyone with a disability.
Prepare Disaster Supply Kits
Stock your home, car, and workplace with supplies that may be needed during the emergency period.
Preparing to Evacuate
Expect that you will need to evacuate, and prepare for it. The National Weather Service will issue a hurricane watch when there is a threat that hurricane conditions will develope in coastal areas within 24-36 hours.
When a Hurricane Watch is Issued
Fill your vehicle’s gas tank.
• If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation.
• Fill your containers with clean water.
• Review your emergency plans and supplies, checking to see if any items are missing.
• Stay tuned to radio or television for weather updates.
• Listen for disaster sirens and warning signals.
• Check your car for your emergency kit.
• Secure any outside items that may damage property in a storm, such as bicycles, grills, propane tanks, etc.
• Cover windows and doors with ply-wood or boards, or install hurricane shutters on windows.
• Put livestock in a safe area. Because of food and sanitation requirements, some emergency shelters cannot accept animals.
• Place vehicles under cover, if at all possible.
• Fill cleaned and disinfected sinks and bathtubs with water as an extra supply for washing.
• Store ice in coolers or in the tub of your washing machine (it is insulated and has a built-in drain).
• Adjust the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coolest possible temperature.
Stay away from all windows and exterior doors; seek shelter in an interior room, bathroom, or base- ment. Bathtubs can provide some shelter if you cover yourself with plywood or other materials.
• Prepare to evacuate to a shelter or to a neighbor’s home if your home is damaged or if you are instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
If Ordered to Evacuate
Because of the destructive power of a hurricane, you should never ignore an evacuation order. Authorities will be most likely to direct you to leave if you are in a low-lying area or within the greatest potential path of the storm.
If a hurricane warning is issued for your area, or if you are directed by authorities to evacuate the area, do the following:
• Take only essential items with you.
• If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water.
• Disconnect appliances to reduce the likelihood of electrical shock when power is restored.
• Take a supply of your prescription medications with you.
• Take your disaster supply kit. You don’t know how long you might be away.
• Evacuate as early as possible to avoid congestion on roads and highways.
• Follow the designated evacuation routes – others may be blocked – and expect heavy traffic.
• Notify your family and friends that you are evacuating, where you are going, and how you can be reached.
• If you are told to evacuate and have a pet, the best choice for pets and owners is to stay with pet-friendly friends or relatives in a location outside the evacuation area. If this is not possible, the next choice should be to find a pet-friendly motel or hotel outside the evacuation area. Lastly, try to find a pet-friendly shelter.
Fire is one of the most common disasters and causes more deaths than any other type of disaster. But fire does not have to be deadly if you take precautions and have an escape plan.
Here are some guidelines you can use in preparing your emergency plan.
Make Your Home Fire Safe
• The safest thing to do in case of a fire is to get away from it and call the fire department from another location, away from the fire.
• Smoke detectors save lives. Install smoke detectors outside each sleeping area and on each additional level of your residence.
• Use the test button to check each smoke detector once a month. When necessary, replace batteries immediately. Replace batteries at least once a year.
• It is a good idea to place a fire extinguisher in your home near each place where a fire may start, such as the kitchen, garage, workshop, barbecue area, etc. An extinguisher should only be used on a very small fire that can be put out quickly.
• Get a fire extinguisher that is rated ABC, which is designed for fires that most often occur at home. For more information on the type and size of fire extinguisher you need for specific locations in your home, contact your local fire department.
• Get training from your local fire department in how to use the fire extinguisher you get. Not all fire extinguishers work in the same way, so it’s important that you get training and practice with the same type of fire extinguisher you may actually use.
•Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacing or recharging fire extinguishers.
• If you try to use a fire extinguisher on a fire and the fire is not out in within 30 seconds, drop the extinguisher and get out.
• Use the gauge or test button to check proper pressure on your fire extinguisher. If the unit is low on pressure, damaged or corroded, replace it or have it professionally serviced.
• Keep blankets, clothing, curtains, furniture and anything that could get hot and catch fire away from portable heaters.
• Plug heaters directly into the wall socket, not into extension cords, and always unplug them when they are not in use.
• Keep items that could catch fire away from a stove.
• Use safety plugs in electrical outlets, especially if you have small children.
• Avoid overloading electrical outlets and running cords under carpet and furniture.
Plan Your Escape Routes
• Draw a floor plan of your home. Determine at least two ways to escape from every room of your home.
• If you must use an escape ladder, be sure everyone knows how to use it.
• Have a plan to escape if bars cover windows.
• Select a location outside your home where everyone would meet after escaping.
• Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
• Once you are out, stay out!
• Know how to call for emergency assistance.
• If you see smoke in your first escape route, use your second way out. If you must exit through smoke, crawl low under the smoke to escape.
• If you are escaping through a closed door, feel the door before opening it. If it is hot, use your second way out.
• If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with the door closed. Signal for help using a bright colored cloth at the window. If there is a telephone in the room, call the fire department and tell them where you are.
You can help protect yourself and your family from the dangers of fire by planning NOW for an emergency. Be smart – be safe.
Lightning & Severe Thunderstorms
Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms. It averages 93 deaths and 300 injuries each year. It also causes several hundred million dollars in damage to property and forests annually. You should be aware of the dangers of lightning and how to protect yourself and your family from injuries.
Before the Storm
• Check weather forecasts before leaving for extended periods outdoors.
• Watch for signs of approaching storms.
• Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. This is your best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
If You Are Near a House or Other Building
• Make sure that all children are accounted for.
• Secure outdoor furniture.
• Go indoors. If the storm is severe, with frequent and close lightning bursts, head for a room in the middle of a house or other building.
• Keep away from objects that might conduct electricity (such as radiators, pipes, and metal door frames).
• Stay away from windows.
• Do not take a bath or shower during a storm. Water helps to conduct electricity, and walls don’t always protect from the high energy of a lightning bolt.
• Do not get close to electrical appliances such as plug-in radios and TVs. Use battery-operated radios.
• Restrict all calls to cell phones.
If Caught Outdoors and No Shelter Is Nearby
• Find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles – especially metal fences and poles.
• Get to higher ground if flooding is possible. Abandon cars and climb to higher ground. Note: Most flash flood deaths occur in automobiles.
• If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
• Move to a sturdy building or car.
Do Not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles.
• If you feel your hair start to stand on end or your skin tingle, or if you hear crackling sounds, lightning may be about to strike you. Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie flat.
In the City
Do not stand on an apartment-house roof during a thunderstorm.
If You Are On or In Water
• Get out of boats and stay away from water.
• If swimming, get out of the pool, lake, or ocean at the first sign of lightning or thunder. Find indoor shelter or get into a car.
• Stay out of the water for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last thunderclap.
Terms to Know
Conditions are favorable for severe weather.
Severe weather is occurring or has been detected by radar.
Hail can cause significant damage to your vehicle, break windows, and damage roofs of homes and businesses.
Hail can cause significant bodily injuries such as broken bones and even blindness if it is wind-blown.
Hailstones the size of softballs can fall at speeds faster than 100 mph.
Know Your Flood Insurance Options
The National Flood Insurance Program makes federally backed flood insurance available to residents and business owners. Even if you do not live near water, your home still has a chance of being flooded. In fact, 25 to 30 percent of flood insurance claims are paid in low-risk areas.
Flood losses generally aren’t covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Floodwaters have the power to damage not only your home and sense of security, but also your financial future.
Hope you’ll receive federal disaster relief if a flood hits.
Many people wrongly believe that the U.S. government will take care of all their financial needs if they suffer damage due to flooding. The truth is that federal disaster assistance is only available if the president formally declares a disaster.
Even if you do get disaster assistance, it is often a loan you have to repay with interest, in addition to your mortgage loan that you still owe on the damaged property. Most importantly, you must consider the fact that if your home is flooded and disaster assistance isn’t offered, you’ll have to shoulder the massive damage costs alone.
Buy flood insurance and stay protected no matter what.
When disaster strikes, flood insurance policyholder claims are paid even if a disaster is not federally declared. Flood insurance means you’ll be reimbursed for all your covered losses. Unlike federal aid, it never has to be repaid.
Unlike a standard homeowners policy, flood insurance covers losses to your property caused by flooding. Some of the things a standard flood policy will cover include structural damage, furnace, water heater and air conditioner, flood debris clean up, and floor surfaces such as carpeting and tile. You can also buy a flood insurance policy to cover the contents of your home, such as furniture, collectibles, clothing, jewelry, and artwork.
As a homeowner, you can insure your home up to $250,000 and its contents up to $100,000. If you’re a renter, you can cover your belongings up to $100,000. If you are a non-residential property owner, you can insure your building and its contents up to $500,000. Policies are available in three forms: Dwelling (most homes), General Property (apartments and businesses), and Residential Condominium Building Association (condominiums). In general, a policy does not take effect until 30 days after you purchase flood insurance.
With the Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) coverage, people in low to moderate risk areas can get lower premiums on the full range of flood insurance coverage available for residential and business structures and contents.
It is important to know that if you have a federally backed mortgage on a home located in a high-risk area, federal law requires you to purchase flood insurance. Also, if you’ve received a federal grant for previous flood losses, you must have a flood policy to qualify for future aid.
Re-entering Your Flooded Home
When returning to a home that’s been flooded after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, be aware that your house may be contaminated with mold or sewage, which can cause health risks for your family.
When You First Re-enter Your Home:
• If you have standing water in your home and can turn off the main power from a dry location, do so, even if it delays cleaning. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, call an electrician to turn it off. Never turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
• Have an electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning the power on again.
• If flood or storm water has entered your home, dry it out as soon as possible. It may be contaminated with mold and sewage.
• If you have electricity and an electrician has determined that it’s safe to turn it on use a “wet-dry” shop vacuum or an electric powered water transfer pump to remove standing water. Be sure to wear rubber boots.
• If you do not have electricity, or it is not safe to turn it on, you can use a portable generator to power equipment to remove standing water. Never operate a gasoline engine inside a home. Such improper use can create dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
• If weather permits, open windows and doors of the house to aid in the drying out process.
• Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture. Fans should be placed to blow the air outwards rather than inwards, so not to spread the mold.
• Have your home heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system checked and cleaned by a maintenance or service professional.
• Prevent water outdoors from re-entering your home.
• Ensure that crawl spaces have proper drainage to limit water seepage.
Disaster Safety Tips
Keeping Safe After a Disaster: What to Do
Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water. Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened, or damaged. Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. Throw away perishable foods that have been above 40 degrees F for two hours or more. Thawed food that contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees F or below can be refrozen or cooked. If cans have come in contact with floodwater or storm water, remove the labels, wash the cans and dip them in a solution of one cup of bleach in five gallons of water. Using a marker, re-label the cans.
While the power is out, avoid opening refrigerator and freezer doors. Add block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off longer than four hours. Wear heavy gloves when handling ice.
Local authorities will tell you if tap water is safe to drink or to use for cooking or bathing. If the water is not safe to use, follow local instructions to use bottled water or to boil or disinfect water for cooking, cleaning, brushing teeth, or bathing.
Boil Water Advisory
Create a supply of water that is safe for cooking, drinking, and brushing teeth by bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute. You should begin timing it when the water starts to bubble. Cool the water, then place it in clean containers for use or refrigerate.
If you can’t boil water, add 1/8 tea- spoon of newly purchased, unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of water. Stir the water well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. You can use water-purifying tablets instead of boiling water or using bleach. Laundry and showering water does not need to be treated, unless specifically listed.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
During a power outage, running power generators or other devices can lead to deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that kills more than 500 Americans each year. Never use generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, charcoal, or propane burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, or carport, or near open windows, doors, or vents outside your home.
During hurricanes, power outages and flooding often cause electrical hazards. Never touch a downed power line or anything in contact with a downed power line. Contact the utility company before performing work near a downed power line.
If a power line falls on your vehicle while you are in it, remain in your car unless the vehicle catches fire or authorities tell you it is safe to vacate it. Do not touch a person who appears to have been electrocuted without checking to see whether the person is still in contact with the electrical source.
Utility Shut-off and Safety
In the event of a disaster, you may be instructed to shut off the utility service at your home. Before a disaster, contact your local utility companies to learn how to safely cut off your natural gas, water, and electricity. Do not turn the power back on until a qualified professional has inspected all equipment.
Buildings may no longer be safe following a hurricane or flood. There are a number of dangers that you need to be aware of as you return and begin cleaning up your home or other building. In general, return to buildings during the daytime so you don’t have to use lights, and be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards.
Use battery-powered lanterns and flashlights, if possible, instead of candles.
If you must use candles, make sure you put them in safe holders, away from curtains, paper, wood, or any other flammable items.
Rain or floodwaters that get into build- ings can create conditions that enable mold to grow; however, you can take steps to prevent mold growth. The most important step is to ensure that water is no longer entering the house by making all necessary repairs.
Following that, clean and dry all wet items within 48 to 72 hours, keep wet areas well ventilated, and discard materials that retain water and can’t be repaired. If you see or smell mold, clean it with a solution of one cup of household liquid bleach per one gallon of water.
Take out and throw away items that have soaked up water and that cannot be cleaned and dried. Fix water leaks. Use fans and dehumidifiers, and open doors and windows to remove mois- ture. To remove mold, mix one cup of bleach in one gallon of water, wash the item with the bleach mixture, scrub rough surfaces with a stiff brush, rinse the item with clean water, then dry it or leave it to dry.
Check and clean heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems before use. To clean hard surfaces (walls, floors, and counter surfaces) that do not soak up water and that may have been in contact with floodwater, first wash with soap and clean water. Next disinfect with a mixture of one cup of bleach in five gallons of water. Then allow to air dry. Wash all clothes and linens in hot water. Steam clean carpets. Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles when cleaning with bleach. Open windows and doors to get fresh air. Never mix bleach and ammonia – the fumes from the mixture could kill you.
Pace yourself and get support. Be alert to physical and emotional exhaustion or strain. Set priorities for cleanup tasks, and pace the work. Try not to work alone. Don’t get exhausted. Ask your family members, friends, or professionals for support. If needed, seek professional help.
Stay Cool. When it’s hot, stay in air- conditioned buildings; take breaks in shaded areas or in cool rooms; drink water and nonalcoholic fluids often; wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; and do outdoor activities during cooler hours.
Treat Wounds. Clean out all open wounds and cuts with soap and clean
Water. Apply an antibiotic ointment. Contact a doctor to find out whether more treatment is needed (such as a tetanus shot). If a wound gets red, swells or drains, seek immediate medical attention.
Wash your hands. Use soap and water to wash your hands. If water isn’t available, you can use alcohol-based products made for washing hands.
Wear protective gear for cleanup work. Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toes and insoles (not just steel shank). Wear earplugs or protective headphones to reduce risk from equipment noise.
Animals and Mosquitoes
Wild or stray animals may be disoriented and dangerous after a hurricane, flood, or other disaster, so be cautious. It is imperative to beware of snakes and other wild animals that may have been brought into the area by floodwaters. If a snake bites you, try to identify it so that, if it is poisonous, you can be given the correct anti-venom. Do not cut the wound or attempt to suck the venom out; seek medical attention immediately.
Secure all food sources and remove any animal carcasses from your property to avoid attracting other animals, such as rats. Wear insect repellant when outdoors, as flooding can lead to more mosquitoes, which may carry disease.