Hurricane Preparedness: Frankenstorm: How to Batten the Hatches and Be Ready!!

Hurricanes offer many challenges in planning. As both the actual hurricane events and the post storm consequences can be lengthy periods, it’s important to make a three-fold plan, consisting of before, during and after procedures. Those in the path of these powerful forces of nature must be well-prepared.  Get ready NOW if you’re in the route of Monstergeddon/Frankenstorm/ Hurricane Sandy and double check your contingency plan with this info to be sure you’ve covered critical issues.  There are NO models that do not show this storm hitting coastal US areas.

Those at most risk from Frankenstorm currently are individuals on the East Coast, from the Carolinas up to Maine. This storm is shocking in size and potential, perhaps rivaling or supassing the Perfect Storm of 1991. Based upon projections, the storm could cause signifcant inland effects, all the way into the Ohio Valley. Areas such as West Virginia, could experience blizzard like conditions, while other inland regions may experience high winds, flooding, destructive freezing rain and subsequent power outages. Coastal areas, meanwhile, will experience deadly storm surge, high waves, intense rain and strong, sustained winds. Lengthy disruption in utlities, transportation and communications are likely with a storm of this magnitude.

Hurricane Sandy as the “Bride of Frankenstorm.” Photo date: October 26, 2012
Photo Credit: NASA GOES Project. Source: Space.com

What to do Before a Hurricane:

Personal/Family Plan: You’ll hear every expert out there repeating this mantra, “Make a plan” and indeed, a hurricane/disaster plan is absolutely vital to your safety. But what exactly is a “plan”?

A disaster plan for hurricanes (or other long-term events) is a lot more making a grocery list and hammering a few boards on windows. To effectively (and safely) ride out the storm, you’ll need to consider several vital areas including:

Property Factors: Understand the unique hazards of your home.  Is your home inland and sufficiently above sea level or on a steep coastal slope that may offer some protection to storm surge waves of 16 feet or more? Is flooding a known risk?  Can high winds cause damage due to specific structural issues? Even if your immediate neighborhood is not in an evacuation zone, the particular lot or structure of your home might require you to move elsewhere for safety.  Examine and unplug storm drains well in advance surrounding your property, as these MUST be open to prevent flooding.

Note:  Continually monitor local authorities’ updates regarding evacuation and precautionary measures and HEED these officials. To find out if your home is in a known flood zone, enter your address here on this site and you’ll find explanation of flood zones here.

Shelter in Place: If you are sheltering in your home, you’ll need to select an interior room (but not necessarily the lowest floor, if the area is vulnerable to flooding) to stay in during the storm. The room(s) should have adequate space for everyone to be able to sit in. Avoid overcrowding by selecting several rooms if necessary. Large storage closets, utility rooms or bathrooms without exterior windows or doors will also work well. Don’t go out in the brief calm during passage of the eye of the storm. The lull sometimes ends abruptly and winds can increase in seconds to 75 mph or more, as the storm moves ahead. Those who live in mobile homes MUST evacuate, as these structures will not withstand the sustained, forceful winds of a hurricane.

If you are sheltering in a high rise building, the safest place is the tenth floor and below, as wind impacts increase for elevated heights. According to WABC- New York, “The higher up in the building, the stronger the winds. On the 10th floor, the winds will be 60mph. On the 20th floor the winds will be 112mph. The higher the floor, the more intense the winds. Recent research on high wind velocity at the tenth floor level and above increase the possibility that windows can be blown out. When deciding where to take shelter, also be sure not to stay in low floors, if they are prone to flooding.”

For information on how to secure your property to help withstand hurricanes, check here. Remember, shuttering or boarding windows and sandbagging are critical in most successful hurricane survival events.

Know Evacuation Routes: Even if you are planning on sheltering in place, your local officials may order an emergency evacuation of your area due to projected shifts in the storm or special regional features that pose additional risk. Therefore, every individual should know evacuation routes within your community. If possible and time allows, drive the route prior to an emergency to become familiar with the terrain. Do not delay if an evacuation has been ordered. Roads become increasingly dangerous or impassible the closer a hurricane looms. You may be cut off from evacuating if you delay, or worse, trapped in a flooded vehicle or home. Deaths often occur when people delay evacuating or choose routes that aren’t designated evacuation routes.  Plan the exit, selecting designated routes that are less likely to pose hazards, such as highways that aren’t coastal roads and avoid low lying flood plains.  

Know Your Shelter Destination:  If you are evacuating, know your destination in advance. Include planning for pet care during an evacuation, as most do not allow pets. Check in your community (use local news websites or community broadcasts) or consult the American Red Cross for shelters.Establish meeting places for other local family members and friends. If a motel is your designated shelter, make reservations well before you depart if time allows. If you cannot locate a hotel or are traveling and unfamiliar with the region, use the designated evacuation routes and keep driving inland away from the storm, until you come to a police station, hospital or other public building to seek shelter. Some hurricanes, including last year’s damaging Irene and this event, are large and cover many miles inland. Do not attempt to drive to a shelter or hotel anywhere in the approaching path of the hurricane. 

Develop contact numbers: Include an out of state contact, in case your family becomes separated. Keep emergency numbers posted throughout your home. Instruct children in 911 situations. Make everyone in your family aware of the American Red Cross programs that post names of survivors of storms or disasters after the events, so family members know where to check and how to find each other in the event phone lines aren’t accessible.

Boat Safety: If you own a boat, consider how this will be stored or secured. Do not depend on boat lifts for storage during a hurricane!  For info on boat security, check out this info from the US Hurricane Preparation site.

Water and Food: Keep at least 3-7 days of non-perishable food and drinking water on hand at all times. Allow at least one gallon of water per person for each day. Include pet and/or infant supplies if applicable. Freeze water in zippered bags (leave a one inch space at the top) to allow for cold drinking water during power outages. Get a fresh, unopened bottle of household bleach for sterilizing drinking water and cleaning flood contaminated items post storm. (More on drinking water sterilization).

Plan for Poop:Yeah, it’s a gross thought but it’s true. Often sewer systems are flooded or inoperable after a hurricane. You may need to make an emergency toilet, so it’s best to be prepared for this arena. Line the inside of a toilet bowl, 5 gallon pail, or another appropriately sized waste container with two heavy-duty plastic garbage bags and place kitty litter or sawdust in the bottom. You can then bag this up and dispose of daily. Follow your city’s regulations, as some areas during a declared emergency, will allow you to dispose of human waste with regular garbage. Additional info on sanitation during emergencies is available from the National Terror Alert Response Center.

Create a disaster survival kit:  Include flashlights and spare batteries, battery operated weather radio, blankets, tool kits, a quality first aid kit, lighter or matches, candles, prescription medicines and copies of the scripts, non-electric can opener, extra sets of car keys, toilet paper, changes of clothes and toiletries. Pack clothing and blankets in large zipper lock bags or double wrap in trash bags. Charge and keep a single vehicle battery jumper unit and tire inflation products in your car. Have protein bars, fruit, rain gear, hand sanitzer and insect spray on hand. It’s always good to have duct tape, a good sized pocket knife and heavy black trash bags for your kit. Sterno cans can be used to heat canned food or boil water.   You’ll find lots of great info on building an appropriate disaster kit from the fine folks at FEMA.

Communication: Keep a spare cell phone charger in your car at all times. Before the storm, charge your phone, laptops, iPads and any spare batteries for cell phones.  You may need these devices for communication in the event of an emergency, so keep the social chatter down and talk only if it’s necessary. Text messages use less battery and often will go through when calls can’t.

Documents: Make a packet containing important documents such as insurance papers, birth certificates, copies of drivers’ licenses, etc. Keep this in a waterproof container.

Insurance: In the event you have ample time, purchase flood insurance and review all other insurance policies. Flood insurance is additional and not typically covered in traditional home owners policies. If you are at flood risk, consider obtaining flood protection.

Money: Have cash in small bills on hand at all times. After a hurricane, ATM’s are often inoperable for days.

Vehicles: Maintain a full tank of fuel in at least one vehicle at all times. Fill an extra (preferably metal with safety closure) portable gas can. (Metal cans offer safety in transport and resist static electricity, unlike plastic cans). After a disaster, it can be many days before gas stations are open or have new supplies.

Think Post Storm: Travel and transportation are often disrupted for days after a major event, so you’ll need to think beyond the moment. Pick up additional cleaning supplies, paper towels, rags, bleach, or any other items that you might need to clean up ( such as chain saws or rakes) before the storm. Dust masks and disposable gloves can be beneficial to keep risk of mold contamination down post hurricane flooding. Depending on your risk of flooding, you’ll want to have these on hand prior to the storm. Gather extra potable water and food stuff for at least a few days post storm.  Fill prescriptions for regular medications ahead of the storm.

If you have to evacuate– take your kit with you!!

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