Hurricanes and tropical cyclones are some of the most powerful, dangerous, and destructive storms that many will ever see. Proper planning and preparation is key for those who live in an area prone to these storms. The first step in preparedness is becoming familiar with some of the terms you may hear.
Hurricane Watch—No hurricane yet, but weather conditions could cause one. Experts will announce a hurricane watch 48 hours before they think dangerous winds will start.
Hurricane Warning – It means a hurricane has already started or is just about to start.
FEMA’s “When the Waves Swell” animated video provides information on being aware of and preparing for a storm. https://youtu.be/STiMKEYZ3Q4
On the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Resources page, you can find resources on hurricane safety, information on watches and warmings, how to plan for a hurricane, and also take action and recover from a hurricane. Learn more about hurricane hazard risks, evacuation plans, how to strengthen your home, where to get reliable, up-to-date hurricane information, ensuring your insurance information is updated, as well as a checklist of hurricane supplies at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/hurricane/index.shtml
The Weather Wiz Kids website has great resources to use with children. Learn about hurricanes and how they form, the Atlantic and Pacific storm seasons, safety tips, and how hurricanes are named at www.weatherwizkids.com.
- Review your homeowners policy with your insurance agent to determine whether you have adequate protection. In particular, consider whether you have flood insurance and if your policy will cover current rebuilding costs.
- Secure your home: Repair loose boards, shingles, shutters, down spouts—the kind of things that could become greater problems in high winds or torrential rain.
- Consider making improvements to protect your home, especially if you live on or near the coast. These could include protecting windows and doors with storm shutters.
- Make a home inventory so that you can easily offer a list of damaged possessions to your insurer in the event that you are impacted by the storm. Be as detailed as possible, listing all personal items and including photos and videos where possible. Keep your inventory list in a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box. The Hanover Insurance Group offers a free online home inventory tool available at www.hanover.com.
- Stock emergency supplies, including: a battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, medicines, first aid handbook and kit, and a week’s worth of non-perishable food and water. Other items to have on hand include: tools, blankets and/or sleeping bags, cooking and eating utensils, pet supplies, paper plates and cups, boards, plastic sheeting, tape and toiletries such as soap, bleach (for disinfecting), and diapers.
- Develop an evacuation plan, including how you will notify family and friends and where you will be staying if forced to evacuate. Share everyone’s cell phone numbers and compile a list of key numbers (fire, police, etc.) you might need in the case of an emergency.
- Listen for advisories on the radio or TV. Follow advice from local officials on how to best protect yourself for the upcoming storm.
- Charge your cell phone and tablet batteries.
- Fill the gas tank of your car(s). You’ll need it if you have to evacuate. If there is a power outage, gas pumps may not be functioning. If you have a generator, ensure you have gas for that as well.
- Bring items inside your home that could become dangerous as flying objects, including all toys, and lawn furniture. Make sure that sheds, cabanas and similar detached structures are securely anchored.
- Protect glass windows with boards, shutters or tape. Otherwise they could be broken from wind pressure.
- Move important papers and valuables to the second floor if you expect flooding.
- Turn your refrigerator to the coldest setting so food will last longer if the power goes out.
- Fill your clean bathtub with extra water.
Responding to a Hurricane
Make sure you are listening to the experts. If you need to evacuate, DO SO IMMEDIATELY. Make sure you take your go-kit with you.
If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
During the Storm
- Get inside immediately and stay calm. Don’t panic. Stay tuned to weather updates.
- Check on family members and friends.
- Evacuate motor homes and take shelter in a grounded building.
- Windows and doors should be closed at all times and boarded up with wooden or metal shutters if possible.
- Stay away from windows. Stay in the center of the room, or in an inside room.
- If flooding begins, turn off electricity.
If You Have an Evacuation
- Communicate with all family members so that everyone knows the where to go.
- Turn off utilities, including gas, water and electricity.
- Lock doors and windows.
- Leave a message for authorities notifying them where you will be.
- Take important documents, including your insurance policies.
- Bring emergency supplies, such as battery-powered radio, cell phones, flashlights, extra batteries, prescriptions, first aid kit and non-perishable food and water.
- When advised to leave, go as soon as possible. Follow recommended routes only and keep your radio on for current storm information.
Recovery from the Storms
Return home ONLY when officials indicate it’s safe to do so. Remember that if your home lost power, ensure the food in your refrigerator is safe.
Food Safety: Generally, a refrigerator can keep temperature without power for around 4 hours. A full freezer can hold temperature for approximately 48 hours. These times decrease if the doors are opened. As a general rule, if there is doubt – then throw it out!
Flooding and Water Damage: Following severe weather and flooding, your home or business may be subject to water damage, mold, and other weather-related damage.
To stop the growth of mold, it is recommended that you clean up and dry out your home or business quickly (within 24 and 48 hours). You can do this by opening doors and windows and using fans.
The Child Care Aware of America Emergency Preparedness Team has recently added flooding recovery information to their website. Here you can find information about flood recovery, mold removal, and the health implications for children in your care.
The CDC also has provided guidelines about cleanup and reentering your home after sustaining building and facilities damage. Their Water Sanitation, & Hygiene (WASH)-Related Emergencies & Outbreaks page also highlights resources from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Red Cross.
- Check to be sure all family members are safe.
- Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible if you have experienced damage.
- Wear shoes around debris to avoid injuries. And when beginning the cleanup process, use protective gear such as eyewear or gloves.
- Dispose of any impaired items touched by floodwater such as food, drinks, and medicine.
- Check utilities. Turn them off if you suspect damage, and let the power company handle.
- Create a list of damaged property and if possible take photographs and/or video. Do not dispose of damaged items without prior approval from your insurance claims adjuster.
- Keep an accurate record of any temporary repairs or expenses so that they may be considered in your claim.
- If there was an evacuation, wait for official notice that it is safe to re-enter your home. When returning to your home, be cautious when entering a damaged structure. Stay away from damaged or weakened walls.
As soon as it is safe to do so, it is important to inspect your home and business. Some inspections will be simple, others may need the assistance of a professional, such as a structural engineer.
Conducting this assessment early on is important, as the information obtained can be used to communicate the condition of your facility as well as the status of your program to your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, licensing consultant or supervisor.
Damage assessments are also useful if you are eligible to apply for disaster assistance, which you should do regardless of whether you have insurance In some cases, additional funding may be available to supplement your out-of-pocket costs or provide for expenses not covered by insurance. Here is a sample damage assessment tool for child care.
- Begin documenting your damage claim by taking an inventory of your damaged or destroyed belongings and gathering your insurance policy documents.
- Use a digital camera or the camera on your cell phone to photograph any damage (both interior and exterior of the building as well as contents).
- Once you’ve gathered necessary documents and evidence of your claim, contact your insurance company or agent.
- If you need to purchase supplies or materials, SAVE ALL RECEIPTS.