7 Steps to Preparing for the “Big One”
“It Only Takes One Storm to Change Your Life and Community”. If you live in hurricane prone area, like Florida, you need to be prepared. While hurricanes pose the greatest threat, tropical storms and depressions can also wreak havoc. Here in the St. Pete/Tampa Bay area we are susceptible to all three.
Before you begin to prepare for a big storm, you should know the basics. The major hazards that you should be aware of are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes and high surf/rip currents.
- Storm Surge: the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm’s winds. This is historically the leading cause of hurricane related deaths in the US. Storm surges and large battering waves can result in large loss of life and cause massive destruction along the coast
- Flooding from Heavy Rains: this is the second leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical storms. Widespread torrential rains that are associated with these storms often cause flooding hundreds of miles inland.
- Tornadoes: Tornadoes typically occur in rain bands well away from the center of the storm and often accompany land-falling tropical storms.
- High Surf/ Rip Currents: Dangerous waves produced by a tropical storms winds can pose a major hazard to coastal residents and mariners.
So now that you have the basics, we should move on to how to prepare for this eventuality.
Step One: Determine Your Risk
Even if you don’t live on the coast, hurricanes can impact areas hundreds of miles inland. It’s easy to minimize the catastrophic damage that can be brought to an area, especially if it has been a long time since that area has been affected. It has been more than a decade since the US has been hit by a “major” (Category 3 or higher) hurricane, so don’t fall into that old trap of complacency. The National Weather Service has provided the following links to help you determine your risk:
Step Two: Develop an Evacuation Plan
Do you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone? Do you even know? You need to answer this question and then learn where you would go and how if you are told to evacuate. You should have a location pre-determined and how you would travel there. Also, you need to account for your pets. Lastly put this plan in writing and share it with your entire house hold. Post it on the fridge or some other common area, where everyone can see it often. Below are 2 links that can help you determine whether your area is at risk of storm surges or has evacuation plans.
Step Three: Assemble Disaster Supplies
When you plan to ride out a major storm, you need to account for a substantial amount to sustain each member of the house for at least one week. This needs to include non-perishable food, water and medicine as well as extra cash, battery powered radio and flashlights. (Don’t forget external chargers for cell phones such as a crank or solar powered USB charger). Below are two great links to help you prepare!
Step Four: Check on Your Insurance Coverage
Your insurance will probably be the last thing on your mind if a major hurricane is looming of your horizon. Now is the time to call and make sure you have the proper homeowner’s insurance to repair or even replace your home. Don’t forget your car/boat or recreational items and remember that standard homeowners does not cover flooding! Flooding requires a separate policy and is often a major source of damage during hurricanes. Here are some websites that can help you determine if you have the right insurance and find coverage if you do not.
Step Five: Prepare Your Home
Obviously if you want to ride the storm out at home, you need to reinforce the weak points in your home. Even if you plan to evacuate, it is always best to protect as much as possible from damage. Many of the retrofits that will bring your home up to hurricane code don’t take as long, nor cost as much as you would expect. You will need the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up windows and door and of course the garage. See below for more information.
Step Six: Check on Your Neighbor
You might want to consider talking to your neighbor ahead of time about the chance of hurricanes and how to prepare. Many Americans rely on their neighbors and community for disaster relief, but being proactive may help neighbors PREVENT damage before the disaster strikes! See these links to help you start that conversation.
Step Seven: Complete Your Written Hurricane Plan
Now is the time to prepare, not after the tragedy strikes. Once the storm is on you, the pressure will be great and the time will be short, so use this time to get all of the details straightened out and protect you and your family! Take this time to write out your evacuation plan, to check on insurance and know where you will ride out the storm. Also stock up on supplies now, before the shelves are bare and the lines are horrendous. Don’t let yourself be caught unaware and unprepared!