What You Need to Know Before the Next Hurricane

Hurricane Safety and Preparedness Tips

The Atlantic hurricane season stretches from June 1 to November 30, with the middle of the summer being the peak time for hurricane activity. In 2020, hurricane season is made a bit more complicated because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the pieces of advice or tips you might usually follow might be more challenging to follow.

As you get ready for the next hurricane, here's what you can do to keep your home and family safe, both from the risks of the hurricane and the risks of COVID-19.

Know the Risks of a Hurricane

The first thing to do to prepare for a hurricane is to understand the particular risks of a storm. Some of the hazards often associated with hurricanes or tropical storms include:

● Storm surges and flooding: A storm surge occurs when water levels quickly rise, increasing the risk of flooding and drowning. Flooding can also occur in more inland areas as a result of heavy rains.

● Power outages: Power lines can fall or otherwise be damaged in a hurricane, cutting off electrical power to homes and businesses. Phone, gas, and internet lines can also be affected.

● Tornadoes and wind damage: Strong winds are part of a hurricane, and some can also produce tornadoes, usually on the outer edges. The winds can be strong enough to lift objects up or to damage structures or trees.

● Blocked or damaged roadways: The roadways can be affected by hurricanes. Flooding can wash out certain roads while falling debris can create blockages.

Knowing the hazards that are most likely to affect your home and family during a storm allows you to better prepare. For example, if you anticipate a power outage, you can purchase the supplies needed to get you through until the lights come back on.

What to Prepare in Advance

It's important to have a stockpile of supplies to get yourself through a hurricane, especially if you lose power or need to stay home because of road closures. Because of the pandemic, getting the supplies and equipment you need to prepare for a storm can be more challenging or can take longer, so it's best to do some advanced planning.

Order the items you need weeks before a storm, if possible. You can have the items shipped to your home to minimize the need to go out and interact with others. If home delivery is not an option, consider a limited contact method of getting what you need, such as curbside pickup.

Here's what you need to stock up on before a storm arrives:

● Food and water: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends having at least a three-day supply of food and water on hand4. Ideally, the foods you stock up on won't need refrigeration and can be enjoyed without being heated or cooked. You'll want to have at least one gallon of water per person per day.

● Medicine: Have a supply of any prescription medicines you take available in case of a hurricane, as well as over-the-counter medicines, such as pain relievers and allergy medications. Since some types of medicine need to be stored in cold temperatures, it's a good idea to have a cooler and ice packs ready to keep them at the right temperature, in case your home loses power.

● Power supplies: Keep flashlights and extra batteries handy, as well as backup phone chargers.

● Hygiene items: Especially in the age of COVID-19, it's important to have hand sanitizers and antiseptic wipes or disinfectants in your hurricane supply stash.

As you prepare for a hurricane, divide your supplies into two categories or containers. One should be designated for "at home" use and the other should be in a go-bag or evaluation kit. In addition to the supplies listed above, also include cloth face coverings for each person in your family over the age of two in the go-bag.

Know What to Do if You Need to Evacuate

Heading to an emergency shelter or even staying with family or friends during a hurricane is going to be a slightly different experience during the pandemic than in previous years. Before a storm strikes, double-check that your local public shelter will be open in care of the need to evacuate. If it is, find out what protocols are in place to limit the spread of the virus and to keep people safe.

When you get to a shelter, wear cloth face coverings to protect others around you. It's also a good idea to limit the number of surfaces you touch and to wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Keep your distance from other people at the shelter who aren't in your household.

If you end up going to stay with family or friends, work out a plan with them for safety. The best option might be for members of your household to stay in one room or part of the house together while your friends or extended family remain in another.

Hurricane season might be a little different this year, but with planning and preparation, you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

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1. Hurricanes and COVID-19, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/covid-19/prepare-for-hurricane.html

2. Hurricane Safety, The Red Cross, https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/hurricane.html

3. Preparing for a Hurricane or Another Tropical Storm, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/before.html

4. Food and Water Needs, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/foodwater/prepare.html

5. Going to a Public Disaster Shelter During COVID-19, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/covid-19/public-disaster-shelter-during-covid.html

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