In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst storms the United States had ever seen, the importance of having an action plan in place should disaster strike became evident to many families. Because it is difficult to make decisions as important as whether to evacuate or not in the heat of the moment, coming up with a family hurricane plan before the storm hits can save your life.
No matter how severe the storm, the key to getting through it unscathed is to do as much of the preparation as you can before the hurricane hits your area. Secure your home by reinforcing your doors and windows and reduce the threat to your home by removing any dead or diseased trees and other debris from your yard. Take pictures of your home inside and outside to document your possessions and value of your home for insurance purposes. Be sure to check with your insurance carrier and make sure that you have flood insurance – home owner’s insurance will not cover damages due to flooding.
Locate the safest room in your home based on hurricane hazards. Before the storm hits, figure out different escape routes should the front or rear door to your home become blocked or flooded. Also agree on a meeting place beforehand in case you become separated during the evacuation. Agree on a single point of contact - for example, a family member or friend who lives out of the area.
Deciding whether or not to evacuate can be one of the toughest decisions families have to face when a hurricane strikes. As the world saw when residents in New Orleans and Mississippi chose to stay in their homes and wait out the storm during Hurricane Katrina, choosing to ignore an evacuation order or recommendation often has tragic consequences. If an evacuation order has been issued or if authorities are recommending voluntary evacuation, it is advisable to follow their instructions.
Have a disaster kit ready before the storm strikes, regardless of whether you decide to stay in your home or to evacuate. Include important papers and identification, cash, non-perishable foods, a battery powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit, drinking water, extra batteries, personal hygiene items, and a pet survival kit that includes identification, proof of vaccination, food and collars/leashes.
Pay attention to news coverage of the storm. If you lose power, turn to your battery operated radio. If an evacuation order is to be issued, the authorities will use the radio or television coverage to communicate with residents in the area.
Above all else, the key to remaining calm and keeping everyone safe during an emergency is making sure that you are all prepared for the worst when disaster strikes. Take advantage of every moment of advanced warning you have and be sure that everyone in the family is on the same page.