As Hurricane Irene rattles closer to the East Coast, we hope that those of you in the path of the storm are preparing and keeping safe. You can’t stop a storm from coming, but you can be prepared by the time it hits. To get you ready, we are sharing with you important tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, American Red Cross, and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.
Be safe! -oxo Liberette
To make sure everyone knows how to respond in the event of a hurricane, you might want to convene a family meeting or meetings. Topics of discussion should include:
- What to do about power outages.
- How to deal with personal injuries.
- How to turn off the water, gas and electricity at main switches.
- What to do if you have to evacuate.
- Where to meet and whom to contact if you get separated.
In addition, you should:
- Post emergency telephone numbers by the telephones.
- Teach children how and when to call 911 for help.
- Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
- Make arrangements for your pets.
Have at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food on hand. Focus on high-nutrition foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. Your foodstuffs might include:
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables
- Canned juices, milk, soup
- Staples, including sugar, salt, pepper
- High energy foods, including peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix
- Foods for infants, the elderly or people on special diets
- Comfort/stress foods, including cookies, hard candy, instant coffee, tea
Optimally, a two-week supply of nonperishable food is recommended. Though it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supply for that long, such a stockpile can relieve a great deal of inconvenience and uncertainty until services are restored. You don’t need to go out and buy unfamiliar foods to prepare an emergency food supply. You can use the canned foods, dry mixes and other staples on your cupboard shelves.
Keep canned foods in a dry place where the temperature is fairly cool. To protect boxed foods from pests and extend their shelf life, store the boxes in tightly closed cans or metal containers.
Rotate your food supply. Use foods before they go bad, and replace them with fresh supplies, dated with ink or marker. Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in front.
Keep a supply of cooking and eating implements that can be used in the absence of running water or electricity, including:
- Plastic utensils, paper cups and plates
- Manual can and bottle openers
- A heating source, such as a camp stove or canned heat stove, and extra fuel.
Board up windows or attach storm shutters. Taping windows will not prevent breakage, but will help reduce shattering.
Electric power may be off, so have a supply of extra food, especially things that can be eaten without cooking, and a hand-operated can opener.
Thoroughly clean the bathtub, jugs, bottles and cooking utensils, and fill containers with drinking water. Allow a minimum of 3 gallons of water for each person.
Check flashlights and radios. Make sure you have batteries.
Check trees and shrubbery, and remove limbs that could damage your house or utility lines.
Secure anything that might tear loose or blow away, including garbage cans, grills, potted plants, garden tools, toys, signs, porch furniture, awnings.
Do not lower the water level in your swimming pool, or it may pop out of the ground. Remove pumps from underground pits after all valves have been closed and the electricity has been shut off. If the filter pump is exposed, wrap it in a waterproof material and tie it securely. Add extra chlorine to the pool to help prevent contamination (3 gallons of chlorine per 5,000 gallons of water).
Fill your car’s gas tank.
Preparing your boat
Take action early — don’t wait until a hurricane warning is declared. The storm’s fringe activity will make preparations difficult.
If your boat is stack-stored in dry storage and you have a trailer, consider securing the boat at home. If you have a trailer and are in an evacuation zone, consider taking the boat with you.
If your boat will remain in berth, before hurricane season check the strength of primary cleats, winches and chocks. They should have substantial back plates and adequate stainless steel bolts.
Purchase extra mooring lines and chafing gear in advance; they may not be available just before a hurricane.
Protect lines from chafing by covering rub spots with leather or old garden hose. Double all lines, with rig crossing spring lines fore and aft. Attach lines high on piling to allow for tidal rise or surge.
Seal all openings with duct tape to make the boat as watertight as possible.
Charge batteries for automatic bilge pumps.
Reduce dock or piling crash damage by securing old tires along the sides of the boat. Make sure you have the best docking equipment on your boat.
Remove loose gear from the deck. Store it securely inside or at home.
For a boat stored on a trailer, lash the boat and trailer down in a protected area. Let the air out of tires before tying the trailer down. Place blocks between the frame members and the axle inside each wheel. Secure with heavy lines to fixed objects from four different directions, if possible.
If you prefer, remove the boat from the trailer and lash down each separately.
Remove the outboard motor, battery and electronics, and store them.
Small boats can be filled with water to give them added weight after lashing down.
If you like your boat more than you like your car, put the boat in the garage and leave the car outside.
Find out about any special assistance that may be available in your community. Create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss with them your needs and make sure they know how to operate any necessary equipment.
If you live in an apartment building, ask the management to clearly mark accessible exits and to make arrangements to help you evacuate the building.
Keep a supply of extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, food for guide or hearing-ear dogs. Also, keep a list of the type and serial numbers of medical devices.
If you don’t live in a mobile home and your house is structurally sound and in a non-evacuated zone, you should ride out the storm there.
Leaving your home when it isn’t necessary adds to traffic congestion and makes it tougher on those who must evacuate.
During the storm, it is safest to use a battery-powered radio or television to monitor developments. If you lose power, turn off major appliances such as the air conditioner and water heater to reduce damage.
Stay inside and keep away from windows or glass doors. Stay on the leeward, or downwind, side of the house. If the wind direction changes, move to the new downwind side.
If the storm center passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm. The wind and rain may cease, but do not go outside. Remember, at the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane force and will come from the opposite direction.
Wait for official word before you leave your home.
Monitor your radio or TV for the latest weather advisories and other emergency information.
Do not use electrical appliances.
Stay inside and keep away from windows. Stay on the downwind side of the house. If the wind direction changes, move to the new downwind side. Find a safe area in your home — an interior, reinforced room, closet or bathroom on the lower floor.
If the storm center passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm. Do not go outside. At the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane force and will come from the opposite direction.
Wait for official word before you leave your home.