How to Survive a Hurricane
The first hurricane I experienced was Hurricane Kate, when I lived in Tallahassee back in 1985. This was long before I had ever worked in emergency disaster restoration, or before I knew anything about the dangers or devastation a person can experience from this type of storm. I remembered thinking that going through a hurricane would be fun! Some wind, a little rain, Jimmy Buffet music, margaritas, and a few friends over for a hurricane party is all it would turn out to be. At least, that’s what I thought. But not long after Kate’s fury began, and large oak trees were lifted up from their roots and tossed aside like paper, I soon realized that this was no party. I remember hearing a huge gust of wind, followed by a loud crash. The back part of our roof, which hung over the porch outside, was completely blown off the house and landed in the neighbor’s yard. Winds howled and threats of tornadoes were all around. It was terrifying.
Flash forward to 2004. I was living in Orlando when Charley hit. This time there was no talks of Jimmy Buffet and margaritas. This time the talks with my family were about taking action and getting prepared. We bought a generator (we got the last one at Home Depot) and a window air conditioner in the event that the power went out. We trimmed our trees, so the wind could easily blow through them, rather than blow them over. We got sandbags and put them around the edges of the house to help avoid water from seeping in, and we lowered the pool water levels to help prevent flooding. We put together our supply kit, got out the battery operated radio, and hunkered down. Luckily, other than being out of power for ten days, we were fine. We survived a major hurricane. And with a generator and window unit air conditioner, not only did we survive, we remained somewhat comfortable in what could have been a very uncomfortable situation. But not everyone in Orlando, nor in Florida, fared as well as we did. You never know with these kinds of storms. Its always better to be safe than sorry.
Once again, its hurricane season in Central Florida. How do YOU survive a hurricane? Let’s assume that you have taken the time to get everything together to prepare for an upcoming tropical storm. You have put together your supply kit, your car is full of gas, you have plenty of bottled water and your pantry is stocked with good, non-perishable food. You have your batteries and battery operated radio and flashlights. You’ve got your emergency evacuation plan together and your list of emergency contacts at arm’s length. You are ready to “hunker down”. You have done your prep work before the storm. But, what next?
As you are watching the news, you will have a general idea of when the hurricane is tentatively going to hit your area. There are still some last minute preparations you must do, that really can’t be done days before the event. Several hours before the hurricane is expected to arrive is when you make these final preparations. Before you do anything else, if you have elderly family members, children, or pets, make sure that they are safe inside of your home, out of harm’s way. Get all of your pets inside the home and make sure litter boxes, food, and water are set in place. If you have any family members who are on medications, make sure you have those medications in a safe, dry place too that is easily accessible. Ensure that you have all of your food and water supplies in a safe place too. Keep your previously prepared family evacuation plan and maps nearby, in the event that you need to evacuate. Wedge your sliding doors with broomsticks or pieces of wood, as well. At this point, if you have not boarded up windows, then it will be crucial to spend your time during the storm in an area in inside of the home such as a bathroom, interior room, or closet – somewhere away from windows. Flying debris during a storm has been known to crash through a window and cause bodily harm. Take the time now to put new batteries into your battery-powered radio. However, always use your electric radios and televisions for news reports while you have electricity. Save your battery-operated flashlights and radios for when its necessary, if you lose power. The reason you have a battery-operated radio is so that in the event that power does goes out, you can still listen to news alerts to know if there are tornados in the area, or if evacuation becomes necessary. You always want to stay alert to what is happening and listen for any emergency notices. If you have not charged your cell phones, now is the time to do it.
Another step to take just a few hours before the storm hits, is to put patio furniture and outside patio items in a safe place. Either bring them inside the home or garage, or place furniture upside down in a swimming pool. Furniture, grills, canopies, and umbrellas become projectiles during severely high winds and gusts. The next step is to clean and rinse out your bathtub thoroughly. Once clean, fill it up with water. This water can be used to flush toilets, and to wash hands and faces, in the event that you lose power.
If danger occurs to your home during the storm, such as a tree falling on your roof, and your home becomes unsafe, then follow your pre-set plan for evacuation. But if the storm is still raging, try to move to another safe spot in your home. If it becomes more dangerous to stay in your home than it is to leave, call your next door neighbor and run to their home – but only if it gets too dangerous in yours, and only when its safe to do so. Its always best to stay put once the storm starts. Use common sense. Only if it becomes absolutely necessary, do you want to leave your home after the storm begins. If you do leave however, please be sure to take your pets with you.
As long as your home remains safe, then make sure that everyone is in a place where they are not exposed to windows or doors. You should have pillows, blankets, and air mattresses nearby if you have to sleep overnight in a room that does not have a bed (like a bathroom or closet). Keep your emergency contact list close by, and cell phones should be on their chargers. Listen to news reports and have your kids help you follow the path of the hurricane on your hurricane tracking map. Take this opportunity to hunker down, play board games and have quality family time with good, old-fashioned conversations. Hurricanes are a forced to be reckoned with and should be taken seriously. But surviving a hurricane can also be a time to help others and reconnect with family and neighbors.