Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other extreme weather events can be disasters and catastrophes for our communities. These events can destroy our property and lives in a manner of seconds. As a homeowner, it is important to prepare for these catastrophe events and do your best to reduce your potential losses and damage. Almost all of Florida is a coastal area. Hurricanes and severe storms are the most frequent and dangerous natural weather events in Florida. Here are some tips on how to prepare for hurricanes and storms.
1. Follow community disaster instructions. If hurricanes and storms are coming, the national weather service and State and local governments will closely monitor the strength and movement of hurricanes and storms and send out alerts and instructions to the public. Oftentimes, they prepare evacuation stations for people who are not able to stay safe in their homes. If you feel it is not safe to stay in your home, it is highly recommended to stay in these storm evacuation stations.
2. Secure the exterior of your home. Trim off the tree branches hanging over the roof of your home or the home of your neighbor. Trim bushes that block the flow of drainage. Install storm shutters for your windows, doors, or skylights. You can nail pieces of plywood to cover windows and door frames or tape your window or door glass to reduce the chance of it shattering from the force of wind or objects. Cover your roof with some plastic sheets or cloth.
3. Remove all the hanging plants on your patio. Be sure to secure all your outdoor patio furniture, potted plants, and trash cans. If necessary, cover your outdoor sculptures with burlap or blankets tied with ropes. Take down and store all other hanging objects and store or fasten down any loose objects that can become projectiles in heavy winds.
4. Secure your vehicles. Move your vehicles to higher ground or park them in the garage. Avoid parking your cars under trees and power lines or in any drainage or low-lying areas.
5. Prepare power equipment. If it is possible, get generators to provide temporary power and make sure that you comply with all operating instructions and safety warnings. Fill your vehicle gas tanks and secure fuel for any gas-powered equipment that you may need to operate. Prepare extra portable phone chargers and make sure all your electronic devices are fully charged before a storm.
6. Secure your important documents and jewelry. Keep your important documents, such as legal papers, birth certificates, marriage license, financial papers, and insurance policy documents as well as valuable jewelry or antiques in a safety deposit box or in a bolted safe in the interior of your home.
7. Prepare emergency kits. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that every household secure the following list of basic items to meet emergency needs.
· Water: Prepare enough drinking water. FEMA recommends one gallon per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation.
· Food: Prepare food that does not need refrigeration. FEMA suggests that you store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
· Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with emergency tone alert
· First aid kit
· Extra Batteries
· Whistle and flags to signal for help
· Dust Masks
· Plastic sheeting and duct tape
· Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties or containers for personal sanitation
· Wrench or pliers: Consult your water and gas utility companies to learn how and when to turn off utilities.
· Manual can opener for food
· Local paper maps in case you cannot access the internet
· Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
· Fire extinguisher
· Change of clothing for each person
· Sleeping bags or blankets for each person
· Fire ignitor or matches in a waterproof container
· Paper plates, cups, paper towels, and plastic utensils
· Paper, pen, and pencil
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends preparation of common household medicine supply kits placed in airtight plastic bags or a portable container like a plastic bin, duffle bag, backpack or carry-on luggage.
· Prescription and non-prescription medications
· Prescription eyeglasses
· Feminine hygiene items
· Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream
· Extra pet food and water
· Hand sanitizer
· Disinfecting wipes
8. Learn basic hurricane categories and terminology: Tropical Depressions are cyclones with wind up to 38 mph. Tropical Storms vary in wind speed from 39-73 mph. Hurricanes have winds 74 mph and greater. The higher the wind speed, the greater the potential for destruction. The extreme wind warning advisory means that the sustained winds speed is 115 mph or greater and are expected to begin within an hour.
· Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical storm conditions are possible in the area.
· Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in the area
Watches are issued 48 houses before the anticipated arrival of the tropical storm or hurricane.
· Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected in the area.
· Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the area.
Warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated arrival of tropical storm force or hurricane force winds.
· Eye: Clear, sometimes well-defined center of the storm with calmer conditions.
· Eye Wall: Surrounding the eye, contains some of the most severe weather of the storm with the highest wind speed and most precipitation.
· Rain Bands: Bands coming in cycle as the hurricane or storm rotates that produce severe weather conditions, such as heavy rain, wind, and tornadoes
· Storm Surge: An often underestimated and deadly result when the ocean swells and washes over its normal banks as a result of the landfall of a storm and quickly floods coastal areas and sometimes areas further inland
9. Find a safe place within your home or go to a storm shelter. During the watch, prepare your home and follow the local evacuation instructions and notices. During a warning, carefully follow the direction of local officials and immediately leave the area as they advise. When you receive the alert that extreme winds and storms are coming, you should immediately take action to secure the safety of your household and home or evacuate to local shelters as directed by the government emergency agencies.
Although there are often many warnings of coming storms and hurricanes, people are often unprepared when they come. It is best to prepare in advance and have all these items ready in the event a hurricane or severe storm comes. Many of the government agencies and authorities have websites with further recommendations and detailed instructions on how to best prepare for these events.