For those who live along our east and Gulf coasts the 2009 hurricane season begins on June 1 and ends on November 30. The key to getting through the season is preparation.
If you live very near the coast, near a large body of water such as a river or bayou, or in dwellings like trailers or wood-frame houses, the first thing you should prepare is your evacuation plan. The storm surges that accompany most hurricanes pose a significant threat to flimsy dwellings, especially those near bodies of water.
Most major cities in hurricane-prone areas have designated hurricane routes. Know them, and know how to get to them from your residence. Make sure you are able to get to a safe area. This means ensuring that your vehicle has adequate fuel and is in good mechanical condition. During the summer months, this means making sure you have adequate coolant, and if you have anyone in your family who suffers from the heat or has trouble breathing, your vehicle air conditioner is working. Have extra fuel in an approved and safe container for emergencies.
Have available near your vehicle an evacuation kit, packed and ready to go. This would include sufficient water, dry food items, medicines, first aid supplies, and something to occupy any children who will be evacuating with you. Flashlights and a supply of batteries are also a good idea. Before the first hurricane, you should have briefed everyone in the family on the evacuation procedures.
When the first hurricane of the season is reported, there is often a run on local grocery and hardware stores for food and water and building supplies used to shore up residences. It is a good idea to beat the rush and have supplies available before the season starts. Dry foods and canned goods that store well, along with a good supplie of water is a must. Ensure you have a sufficient supply of any prescription medicines on hand. Flashlights and batteries are recommended, especially if you are hunkering down and riding out the storm. Be prepared for power outages of several days.
A battery-powered radio tuned to your local emergency broadcast station is an essential item. Often, landline telephones will be disrupted by the winds, and mobile phone networks can quickly be overwhelmed. The radio (and if the power goes out, battery-power is your only recourse) might be your only contact with the outside world. Unless you are the prudent type who evacuates at the first report of a storm (and there is absolutely no shame in this), follow local officials' instructions carefully. At the first report of a storm board up your residence, covering windows with plywood to prevent flying glass. If you have a multi-story residence, move valuable items to upper floors, and put small items up high. This will minimize the amount of clean-up required after the storm.
If you have more than one car, and will only be using one to evacuate, park the unused vehicle in a safe place and take the keys with you when you evacuate. If it has to be parked outside, ensure all valuables have been removed, the windows are up and the doors are locked.
One note: If you have small pets, ensure your evacuation kit includes accomodations for them. If you have large animals, like horses, make other arrangements to ensure they are not trapped by rising waters and can have access to food during your evacuation.
A few common sense procedures, well before the A hurricane hits the Gulf or the Atlantic can assure you and your family come through it okay and, whether you evacuate or hang tough and stay home, should give you some interesting stories to tell after November.