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Hurricane Preparedness: Should You Evacuate or Stay?

During hurricane season, the decision to evacuate is often a personal one. But there are times when the decision to evacuate is mandatory, and also, when it is the only safe option for you and your family.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not you should evacuate. These questions are not the only questions that you should ask yourself when making your decision to evacuate, but they might give you some guidance. Also, never leave your pets behind when evacuating your residence.

1) Do you live in an evacuation area?

There are certain areas – usually within close proximity to the beach – that the county designates as evacuation areas. If there is a storm coming your way, then the county officials will likely begin ordering evacuations. Usually, the evacuations are voluntary in the beginning, but when it is almost certain that the storm will be coming to your area, the evacuation orders will become mandatory. It is important that you heed mandatory evacuation orders. The areas that have been designated evacuation areas have been chosen for a reason – they are not safe during a storm, so you must leave. Otherwise, you could be in harm’s way with no one who can get to you during and after the storm if bridges are washed out, etc.

2) Are you unable to take care of yourself or your family in the event that your home is damaged and/or you have no power for an extended period of time?

If you are aware that you cannot take care of yourself or your loved ones, then it is probably a good idea to evacuate to a safe place well before the storm comes ashore. An example of someone who should probably go elsewhere would be someone who has a medical condition and a lack of power could cause the condition to worsen.

3) Is your home unsafe?

A few years back, South Florida was hit by two storms back to back. The majority of the people who went through the first storm weren’t even able to clean up before the second storm hit. Many of us had homes that were still compromised from the first storm. The roof at my place was damaged during the first storm and during the second, the entire ceiling caved in under the weight of the water. Good thing I decided to evacuate during the second storm. So if your home is not safe because you have some type of structural damage (for whatever reason), then it is probably a good idea to find someplace else to go.

4) Are you required to evacuate because of the type of home you live in?

There are certain types of homes that people are required to evacuate from if the live in them. The most popular home of this type is the mobile home. Mobile home residents are always supposed to leave their residences during a hurricane because mobile homes are not strong enough to withstand the winds of hurricanes. If you think that your mobile home will survive, just take a look at the pictures of hurricanes past. There are always pictures of mobile home parks that have been completely destroyed. And remember, during a hurricane, the police and fire department cannot help you if your home collapses and you are trapped. They have to wait until the winds die down to rescue people. So if you live in a mobile home, get out!

5) Do you live in a low-lying area?

If you know from experience that the area you live in is prone to flooding, then you might consider evacuating. I lived in an area a few years back that was practically under water after a tropical storm dumped 21 inches of rain on us. We were flooded in for days. If you would rather be somewhere that is not prone to flooding, then you might want to stay elsewhere during the storm.

Again, you should not base your decision to evacuate your home solely on these questions. Even if you answer no to all of these questions, it is entirely okay if you want to evacuate. The important thing is that you feel safe and that you are safe.

Emergency Supplies for Flood Preparedness

A flood is often swift and unpredictable. Advance flood preparedness saves many lives. Are your emergency supplies in order? Do you know what emergency supplies are required for proper flood preparedness? Here is a list of emergency supplies you may want on hand in case of a flood.

Water

Yes, there’s plenty of water in a flood. Unfortunately, flood water may be contaminated with chemicals and bacteria. Be sure to have emergency supplies of water on hand. Flood preparedness should include a gallon of water per day per person.

Non-perishable foods

It may be impossible to get to a store in a flood. The refrigerator and stove may not be working either. Flood preparedness means keeping plenty of edible emergency supplies on hand. This should be the type of food that can be eaten without cooking and will keep without refrigeration, good example is military grade 1300XT XMRE.

First Aid Kit / Medicines

Keep emergency first aid supplies on hand at all times as flood preparedness and for daily use. Bandages, disinfectant, cold packs and pain relievers are essential. Proper flood preparedness includes seeing that an adequate supply of prescription medicines is available as well.

Toiletries and fresh clothes

Keep necessary toiletries and feminine products packed as emergency supplies in case of flooding. Cleanliness may be the last thing on your mind in a flood. Pack a change of clothes so one may be worn while the other is washed.

Wading boots

People living in a flood zone may wish to keep a pair of wading boots per person as emergency supplies. Walking in flood waters without protection is hazardous. Flood waters are often filled with bacteria, chemicals, snakes and other reptiles.

Documents in waterproof box

Vital documents and a photo log of all valuables should be kept in a watertight box inside a fireproof box. These flood preparedness emergency supplies are something you should never be without. Documentation is vital since 911 and not easy to replace.

Flashlight and/or Candles

A flashlight or candles are supplies for any emergency and a flood is no exception. Emergency flood preparedness includes being prepared for power outages. Being left in the dark during a flood is both inconvenient and dangerous.

Crank radio

Battery-powered radios are great emergency supplies unless you forget to replace the battery. Flood preparedness is better served with a crank radio. These require no power source and are readily available at camping supply stores.

Written emergency plan

This is an important part of flood preparedness. The entire family should know where to go and what to do in case of a flood or other emergency. Each family member should be clear on their emergency responsibilities.

Stocked and maintained vehicle

It may be possible to escape in a vehicle prior to a flood. As a precaution, your vehicle should be well maintained and stocked with emergency supplies, spare tire and gas can. Never try to escape a flood in a vehicle once the flood waters have begun to rise.

Life raft and vests

This is no joke. If you disagree that a life raft and life vests for all family members should be a flood preparedness supply just remember Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of people were stranded on rooftops with no hope for rescue. Many more were taken by flood waters.

Blankets

Hypothermia is something to consider in flood preparedness. Emergency supplies of warm blankets are a necessity in a flood or other emergency. Warm, dry clothing and blankets should be stored in waterproof bags or totes.

Knowledge of gas, power, and water shut off methods

Flood preparedness includes knowing how to shut off these services to your home or apartment. Power and gas can be more hazardous than helpful in a flood or other emergency. Shutting off water keeps supply lines free of contamination.

A flood may occur during Hurricane season as well, you may want to check our Hurricane Preparedness Checklist.

Hurricane Preparedness in Hawaii

Hurricanes are like drive-by shootings. If you live in a crime-riddled neighborhood, you never know when a stray bullet will pierce one of your walls or come flying through an open window. The more these shootings happen, the more on an edge you are.

Well, drive-by shootings aren’t a big problem here in Hawaii where I live, but drive-by hurricanes are. It seems like Pacific hurricanes have been doing their drive-by routines with increasing preponderance in recent years. The last big ones to hit us were Iwa in 1982 and Iniki in 1992.

However, there have been a bunch of close calls.

One, in fact, is in the works right now. Tropical Storm, which has the potential to turn into Hurricane, is currently on track to pass south of the Hawaiian Islands this Tuesday, says the Honolulu Advertiser News Services. And as Hawaii residents learned from Iniki, hurricanes can and do make erratic unpredictable swings that put our islands directly in their paths.

Just like those people in towns with nightly drive-by shootings, we are hunkering down, hoping not to suffer a direct hit.

Local leaders and the American Red Cross officials have counseled us to adhere to the Boy Scout motto and be prepared.

Among their suggestions are as follows. A gallon of water per person for at least a week, so for a family of four, this means 4×7=28 gallons. A 7-day food supply for each person such as MREs. A week’s worth of medication. Flashlights. Replacement batteries. Battery operated radio. Clothing. Personal hygiene supplies, most notably toilet paper. Sleeping bags. Plates and cutlery. Essential family documents should be carried too.

As storms approach, we are urged to protect our homes, many of which are single-wall dwellings made of lumber. One suggested measure is using masking tape on windows to prevent shattered glass from flying amuck. Better yet, we have been told to board up our windows, a costlier yet more effective measure. My neighbor, a master of preparedness, has premeasured and pre-cut wooden covers for each window of his home. When Iniki made its pass-by many years ago, he had his windows boarded up in less than an hour. I should follow his lead.

No matter what measures we take to protect our property, if a Cat 5 hurricane were to hit us in Hawaii like Andrew slammed into Florida in 1992, our homes would resemble a scattered deck of cards. We are praying and hoping to be spared once again.

Get Ready for Hurricane Season: A Hurricane Preparedness Checklist

For some reason, many of us fantasize about what we would take with us in the event of a fire or storm that would require us to evacuate our homes. I have a quilt that I made with my children when they were younger and because of the memories that it holds, I always say that it is either the first thing I would take with me or the one item that I would run back into the house for. As much thought as I have put into this idea, I am surprised that I have never created an actual emergency preparedness list. For a girl who grew up on the Gulf coast of Texas, I should know that a hurricane preparedness list is something that every home should have ready by the start of hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 1.

Every summer of my childhood, the local newspaper would publish a hurricane tracking map. Invariably, we would hear on the evening news that a new storm had formed in the Gulf and was headed our way. Often, one of the major television networks would send one of its reporters to cover the looming storm. With all the commotion and attention paid to this force of nature, my parents usually remained nonplussed. They never took the recommended precautions such as boarding up windows or preparing survival kits. In 1970 however, Hurricane Celia took its toll on our city and our house. From then on, my parents took the warnings seriously and I’d like to think that they prepared a similar checklist to the one below.

Important Papers and Documents:

  • Driver’s license
  • Credit cards
  • Medical records
  • Bank account numbers
  • Household inventory
  • Copy of wills
  • Property titles
  • Family records (birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records)
  • Passports
  • List of phone numbers of family and friends

Food and Water:

  • Non-perishable foods (canned soups, vegetables, crackers, peanut butter, mre meals or meals ready to eat)
  • Three gallons of water per person
  • Manual can opener
  • Utility knife
  • Plastic or paper dishes and utensils
  • Ice chest
  • Pet food
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Baby food, diapers, formula and wipes

Small extras: 

  • Toilet paper, paper towels feminine and personal hygiene supplies
  • First aid kit, prescription medications and copies of prescriptions
  • Household liquid bleach for disinfecting
  • Bedding, blankets, pillows or sleeping bags
  • One change of clothing per person
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries
  • Games and books

Get Ready for Hurricane Season

In the US we can have Hurricanes hit in the west in Hawaii, in the south and southeast and up along the east coast. During a storm watch, you really don’t know exactly when, where or if it will hit your home.

Here are reminders that will help you take care of some of the things that you can do now to be ready if you live in a Hurricane belt.

Finding supplies once a Hurricane warning has been announced can be very difficult. There are always people who are caught off guard or wait until the last moment to get what they need and then the items fly off the shelves in the stores and disappear faster than they can be replaced. This is especially true in remote areas where goods need to be shipped or freighted in from long distances. Large cities may also experience this just because the population is larger than the capacity of the store shelves.

Take a little time to map out your neighborhood and the roads in and out of it. Set up a tentative evacuation plan with more than one exit route. Timing of an evacuation is critical, don’t wait too long and get caught in a traffic jam. Set up accommodations with friends and family who live outside the danger areas. Do this in advance at the beginning of Hurricane season and plan to prepare and leave your house earlier instead of later. Keep your cars full of gas during Hurricane watches. Gas stations may have long lines or run out of gas if you wait too long.

Drinking water is one of the most important things to have on hand in any emergency. The power may go off, the city water may be turned off or be contaminated, roads may be blocked or it may just be too dangerous to go outside for a period of time. It is recommended that you have a 3 day supply of water, 1 gallon per person. This gives you at least ½ gal per person per day for drinking and ½ gal for personal hygiene. If you have a family of 4 that means you need to have 12 gallons of bottled water on hand at all times. Using purchased bottled water that has not been open is best and can be rotated with your current water use to keep it fresh.

Food that is not perishable and can be quickly transported should be purchased and put aside in a cool dark place. Canned foods such as tuna, beans, fruits, and vegetables can be eaten from the can without cooking and provide fluids too. MRE meals are lightweight and are good for a short period of time or for a hasty retreat but remember that they should be eaten warm as these type of food taste much better when warm-up. You can try XMRE, Blue Line products are designed for the disaster situation.

XMRE Blue Line from XMRE on Vimeo.

First Aid Kits are available at most stores which are already made up for homes or cars. Get one of the larger kits if you are in a Hurricane area. You should be able to get a First Aid Manual from your local red cross. Emergency preparedness manuals are available from the FEMA site.

Have copies of important documents stored with trusted family members or safe deposit boxes. Repack your storage items in good waterproof containers instead of cardboard boxes. Pack up treasured items to keep them safe.

Duct tape, tarps and plywood are useful items to have on hand to protect your glass windows. Purchase and prepare all the supplies that are needed to secure your home if you have to evacuate and to protect it from high winds and water.

Have large trees trimmed properly around your house before Hurricane season. Outdoor furniture, BBQ grills and garden equipment will all need a safe storage space or a way to tie them down during high winds so think about where you will put them.

A good handy supply of candles, matches, lanterns, flashlights and batteries is essential during any storm that might lead to power outages. Now days so many people have quit smoking that sometimes we don’t even think about the need for matches.

If you own pets have good pet carriers to keep them in during the storm and to transport them quickly, if needed. Look into and set up places for boarding of large animals out of danger and plan to take them early to these places just to be on the safe side.

Ten Essential Supplies for Hurricane Preparedness

Those of us who have resided in Virginia for some time will undoubtedly remember Hurricane Isabel and the damage it instilled on us in 2003. People were without electricity for weeks, roofs were crushed and streets were impassable. As the weather reports became more severe and warnings were issued around Richmond, hurricane supplies quickly disappeared from the shelves at local stores. Here is a list of ten essential supplies that everyone should have on hand in case of a hurricane.

Water

Bottled water is the number one most important thing you should have on hand in case of a hurricane. Even if your water runs after the hurricane, it could be contaminated. Do not drink it until you receive official word that the water is safe. Purchase a large water cooler refill container at your local home store or purchase several cases of water to ensure you have enough on hand. Plan on having one gallon per person per day on hand and make sure you have at least a three-day supply. Remember to have enough water for any pets you might have as well.

Ice

Buy large bags of ice to have on hand in the event of a hurricane. You may need it to keep food cold if you lose power or also for first aid measures if someone is injured as a result of the storm or the ensuing clean-up. Have two separate coolers for the ice – one to keep both ice and food in and one to keep ice alone.

Battery Operated Radio

Battery operated radios will allow you to listen to storm updates in case of a power outage. It will be important to have access to evacuation measures that might be going on around you, find out where shelters are located in your area or just to receive general updates on the storm itself. Make sure the batteries in the radio are new or fully charged and also have plenty of extra batteries on hand.

Rechargeable Lanterns

Rechargeable lanterns are very helpful during a hurricane as the charge lasts for hours so you can read or play games if you lose power at night. Rechargeable lanterns are safer than having a bunch of candles around which can be fire hazards. Make sure you start charging your lantern batteries as soon as you begin receiving warnings that a hurricane is approaching.

Flashlights

Flashlights are a must if you’re trying to find your way around your property in the dark. Have a flashlight for each member of your family and also have a spare one in the house. Make sure all batteries are fully charged and have spare batteries on hand as well.

Nonperishable Food

Have several days supply of canned and MRE food on hand to make sure you stay nourished. Foods like canned tuna or salmon, canned spaghetti or macaroni are good choices that will be safe to eat if you’re unable to heat them. Have a good selection of MREs, in case you can’t set the fire, you will appreciate a warm meal that will boost your morals. You can check XMRE, Eversafe or MRE Star manufactures of MREs and get these meals at a bulk price. Have plenty of snacks on hand especially if you have children. If you have babies, make sure you have adequate food depending on the type of nutrition they are receiving. If you have pets, make sure you have adequate food on hand for them as well.

Manual Can Opener

Purchase a manual can opener at any grocery store so you can open cans during a hurricane.

First Aid Kit

Having a first aid kit is essential in case someone is injured during the storm or during storm clean up. Have an assortment of bandages and antiseptic, cold packs, pain relievers, tweezers, scissors, and antacids. If you or someone in your family takes prescription medication, plan on obtaining a refill before the storm. You won’t want to run out of medication when pharmacies are closed.

Battery operated portable clock

Having a battery operated portable clock will be a big help especially if it has an alarm. You can move it from room to room with you and set it if you need to wake up at a certain time.

Waterproof Tarp and Duct Tape

If you experience a broken window during the storm, you will need to cover the window quickly. Having tarp on hand will allow you to cover the window and protect the interior of the house from the weather. Use duct tape to hold the tarp in place.