How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Héctor Olmos

The National Hurricane Center predicted that Gordon would make landfall as a hurricane Tuesday night. Hurricanes Harvey (which inundated Houston in August 2017) and Maria (which devastated Puerto Rico last September) illustrated the destruction and disruption that storms can cause. Some of the damage is immediate, and some lingers for months and years. While storms can’t be controlled, taking precautions can help reduce risks and avoid injuries.

A rich array of resources is available to help navigate hurricane preparedness before a storm hits and to deal with the aftermath if your location is affected.

Here are some tips:

Develop a Disaster Plan

For families/individuals: Keep emergency numbers written down where you can find them, as well as programmed in your cell phone. Designate a central meeting place in case family members get separated. Have an evacuation destination and know your routes for getting there. Investigate transportation options in case you can’t drive out. Know where local shelters are. Make plans for keeping your pets safe, especially if you expect to stay somewhere that doesn’t allow pets. Familiarize all family members with the plan.

For businesses: Plans should ensure that workers can evacuate safely and should provide clear guidance on how the company’s operations will be handled. Provide for these aspects, among others: what factors trigger the plan; who’s in the chain of command; who will handle which emergency operations; how will displaced employees be contacted and accounted for; how will the company communicate with clients; and how will workers access equipment to continue doing their jobs. Inform employees so they understand the plan and their role.

Prepare Supplies

Put together a supply of clean water and nonperishable food (including baby formula and pet food, if necessary), along with flashlights, batteries, clothes and personal hygiene items. Pack copies of important documents in a waterproof bag. Keep your car filled with gas, and have emergency supplies in it, including jumper cables, a first-aid kit and blankets. Make sure you can gather prescription medicines and other essentials quickly. 

Stay Informed

Check for weather updates on TV, radio or online. Know the difference between a hurricane “watch” (conditions are forming for dangerous winds) and a “warning” (a hurricane is approaching and you might need to act quickly). Keep up with whether residents of your area have been ordered to evacuate or take cover in place — and follow instructions. Listen for warning sirens. Know your company’s emergency plan.

Secure Your Home/Business

Board up windows or glass doors to prevent injuries from broken glass and damage from water entering the premises. Clear your yard of items, such as chairs, toys, bicycles, flower pots and grills, that could get blown around in a storm. Unplug appliances. Turn off your utilities if you evacuate or see downed power lines. At an outdoor worksite, secure equipment as much as possible to prevent it receiving or causing damage.

After The Storm 

Avoid flooded areas until they’ve been designated safe. Use only clean water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth and washing dishes. Beware of hazards associated with storm cleanup, including the potential for infectious diseases, mold contamination, chemical spills and live electrical lines. Use generators only outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

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