Hurricane preparedness is all we can control, as nature is in charge of the weather. We even have trouble predicting exactly what's going to happen and freak storms are now becoming normal. Last year the east coast got hit with a snow storm in October, and this year we're getting our early hurricane warnings that Hurricane Sandy is expected to make landfall in southern New Jersey on Monday night.
Unless you live where hurricanes are common, you probably haven't made emergency preparedness a priority. As we seem to be having more and more unusual weather, it seems like this hurricane is a good reminder to put our emergency preparedness checklist together to weather this hurricane and future storms, in relatively safety.
Hurricanes: What Kind of Damage Can Happen
While we don't know exactly when a hurricane will start to affect our home and community, it is the one type of emergency where today we get lots of warning. This is very different from the most deadly hurricane to strike the US, that made landfall in Galveston, Texas in September 1900 and claimed more than 8,000 lives.
The Red Cross defines hurricane conditions as a threat within 48 hours, which can be raised to a hurricane warning for storms expected within 36 hours and it's time to finish your storm preparations and prepare to leave the area if directed by authorities.
- New Florida building codes have been written to improve hurricane protection, i.e. to withstand high winds that can rip a roof off or blow out windows.
- It's common to board up windows to minimize damage from falling trees and flying debris.
- Flooding is often the most significant hurricane damage as we learned with Hurricane Katrina, although other storms have had much higher winds (find more hurricane information on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric webite).
- Extended power outages are another problem arising from hurricanes and other storms. Where homeowners don't have a generator, drinking water is unavailable and you'll lose much of the food in the refrigerator.
Hurricane Preparedness Checklist
With any emergency, it's best to have a plan in place ahead of time so here's our checklist to help you get prepared for this latest hurricane (and send us your ideas for making it better).
Preparing your family for emergencies
Family safety should be your top priority so make sure you discuss your plans periodically with all family members so they know what to do if you need to prepare your home for hurricanes or evacuate.
- Check your emergency kit and make sure it's packed, ready to go. Make sure you have fresh batteries and a battery powered radio. Here's one we like at 72hours.org.
- Prepare an evacuation kit with important papers, insurance documents, medications and other things you might need if you have to leave your home for several days.
- Store enough water to last your family for 3 days, which requires 3 gallons per person, per day.
- Move furniture for safety – beds away from windows; secure or move mirrors and heavy pictures away from places where people sit; heavy items on lower shelves in case they fall; check safety bars for emergency releases; flashlights under every family members bed.
Ways to prepare your home for emergencies
The National Institute of Building Sciences says that every $1 spent on preparing for disasters, saves our country roughly $4. The question is what can you do to minimize damage from any type of storm with high winds and wind-driven rain?
- Seal gaps in your homes envelope with caulking. Start with doors (entry, sliding glass and garage) and windows, then holes and gaps around pipes and wires going into your home. Shutters or plywood will also help protect windows.
- Clear gutters, downspouts and drains to help rain water quickly move away from your home.
- Your roof must be in good repair, including flashing and caulking around anything penetrating the roof. If you live in a location prone to hurricanes, use a high-wind product when replacing your roof.
- Make sure exterior features like gutters, fascia, soffits, gable vents, decks, porches and house trim are securely attached.
- Trim any tree limbs at risk of breaking in high winds.
- Put away any loose items normally stored outside like garbage cans and lawn furniture.
- Move furniture, appliances and electronics off the basement or first floor, to prevent water damage if there's flooding. Roll up area rugs and carpeting where possible.
- Check sump pumps and generators to make sure they'll operate when needed. Make sure you've got extra gas and batteries if needed.
- Shut off electrical service at the main breaker before you leave your home, in case the electrical system or outlets will be under water.
- Locate and shut off the gas (main coming into house, tank, etc) and make sure everyone knows how to turn them off.