As soon as those names in alphabetical order (Allen, Betty, Charlie… ) start rolling off the lips of meteorologists, residents near coastlines from Boston to South America, all around the Gulf of Mexico, up the coast of Baja, and over to Hawaii know that it’s time to make sure that they’re ready for the hurricane season. Withstanding a hurricane is twofold – saving your life and saving your property. It’s foolish to risk your life to stay with your property. There are many safety precautions you can take.
1. Listen to the weather advisories.
The number one cause of deaths in hurricanes is drowning. The huge tidal surge that often accompanies hurricanes engulfs residents who have stayed in their homes. For those who happen to be out in the streets, their odds of survival are even less. Hurricanes, unlike tornadoes, usually are predicted several days in advance. If you need to get to higher ground, do so. Just because you’ve ridden out earlier storms doesn’t mean you should try to ride out this one. There were thousands of dead in New Orleans who tried to just do that.
2. Make plans.
If you’re elderly or don’t have a car, escaping from a city will be difficult. Hopefully, your relatives in safe areas will contact you, but if they don’t, you need to contact them and ask to come to their house during the storm. Let the police or fire department know if you’re stranded as there are services which will take you to a shelter. Always have an emergency bag packed ready to go. If you have a family, have their things ready to go also.
3. Protect your house.
Board up the windows of your home or business. Stores often run out of plywood when a storm is approaching, so plan ahead and keep a supply on hand. If you have a basement, a generator-operated sump pump can do a lot to prevent minor flooding. If you live in a tidal surge area, move your furniture and valuables to an upper floor. If at all possible, make sure you have flood insurance.
4. If you’re going to stay in your home and may be subject to long electrical outages, have a week’s supply of canned food, bottled water, flashlights, medications, first aid supplies, pet food, a transistor radio, and games to keep your children occupied.
5. If you are driving when a hurricane is fast approaching, go to a safe shelter. If you have an hour’s warning, drive inland. Make sure to have gas in your car before a storm gets close as there will be long lines on the interstates and gas stations may run out of fuel.
6. Have a method of communication. Your house phone line may be knocked out. Unless you’re a ham radio operator, you’ll have to depend on your cell phone. Be sure to have a charger that works in the car in case your house electricity is out. It may be difficult to get calls through due to overloading of the circuits so be patient.
7. Know what danger smells and looks like. If you smell gas in your house, you need to get out and call the gas company or fire department. If there are downed power lines due to trees, don’t go near them. You’re safer to wait it out in your house.
8. Run up a flag. If you’re marooned by flood waters, fly some sort of flag from an upstairs window or from the roof if you have access. Helicopters will be surveying the area.
9. Don’t go back until told it is safe to do so. No matter how concerned you are about your property, your most important property is your safety and that of your loved ones. Everyone else is going to be in the same boat, so just wait it out.
10. Re-evaluate after a hurricane. Perhaps you want to move away or at least away from the shoreline. Perhaps your house needs a heavier roof and better shelter for cars. Ideally, mankind should not live in the paths of storms, but when they do, there are many precautions and building techniques they can use to make that choice safer.
Hurricanes are terrifying and yet many, many people live in their paths and live to tell about it. By following recommended safety tips, good building practices, and by always remembering that your life is more important than your possessions, you can be one of them.