It’s that time of the year again – Hurricane season. The season generally starts from June and runs through November. Texans have been hit by these storms so many times that most people know what to expect every summer. However, with the unexpected Texas freeze storm in February this year, you can never know for sure what’s hitting us next.
This year, the experts are predicting active hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects a range of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those, six to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including three to five major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with 70% confidence.
Remember, we are also living with an ongoing pandemic. The supply chain for our everyday needs is still affected by limited availability. While that is a concern on one end, running storm-related errands – fully vaccinated or not, is an area of concern as well. Follow state guidelines and take extra precautions while going out – wear masks, maintain social distance and regularly wash and sanitize your hands.
We know from experience, planning and preparing in advance for hurricanes can safeguard us from the worst.
Make an Emergency Plan
The first obvious step to prepare for any disaster is to make a full-proof plan. Next, prepare a list of hypothetical situations and how you will consider solving them in case of a crisis. For example, how will you contact your family if gadgets like phones and computers become unreliable, places to seek shelter in your home during a disaster, or how does COVID-19 affect your evacuation plan, safety plan for your pets, etc.
For people staying in Houston who are physically challenged, have limited mobility, or require extra assistance in evacuation, register with the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR) for help. Their emergency management officials will work with you for a safe evacuation or provide appropriate life-sustaining support the residents may need.
Stock Up Emergency Supplies Kit
Make a list of all the supplies you will need at home in an emergency. The list should include:
- First-aid kit
- Food items especially non-perishable, lasting at least a week
- Gallons of water, calculating how much you generally use per day
- Battery operated radio for updates on the hurricane (stock up several batteries too)
- Flashlight, for every person in the family
- Fire extinguisher
- Disposable plates, cups, spoons, etc
- Prescription medicines, if any – stock the supply for at least two weeks
- Prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, and contact lens solution, if needed
- If there are children at home, keep infant supplies, including formula, diapers, wipes, and bottles
- Pet supplies, including water, food, litter, and waste bags
- Sleeping bag for each person in your household
- Personal hygiene items, including paper towels, toilet paper, moist towelettes, tampons
- COVID-19 supplies such as disposable masks, soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc
- Toolbox and other items like tarps, duct tape etc. in case you need to fix something at home or build a temporary shelter
- Some amount of cash
Stay Alert and Informed
Hurricanes change their direction and intensity suddenly. Be aware of the proper channels and authorities to turn out for accurate information during the storm. Keep a portable battery-run radio or television handy. Tune to the NOAA Weather Radio for continuous communication and instruction from the officials.The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) also delivers important information via text message, radio, TV, digital road signs, and sirens.
Download alert apps on your phones, such as the FEMA, American Red Cross, or the Weather Channel app.
Take Care of Your Pets
Your pets can get overlooked in a hurry to plan and safeguard everyone else in the family. Don’t make that mistake. Make a plan for them too. Keep the immunization records, medication (if any), their recent picture, food supplies, etc., handy if you need to evacuate.
Prepare Your Home
Staying at home or not during the hurricane – it’s critical to prepare your home beforehand. Some of the things include:
- Temporarily sealing your windows or loose outlets to prevent them from breaking during a storm
- Safeguarding important papers, documents, and valuable belongings. Create digital copies
- Unplug electronic gadgets
- Shutting off the gas supply, electricity, water etc. if instructed by the local officials
- Trimming down any large tree in and around your house that can be potentially dangerous during the storm.
- Keep a generator for a power backup
If the situation arises to take shelter outside your home, you will need an evacuation plan. It’s essential to know your evacuation routes. Keep the gas tank or your car full and also have the essentials for a long drive.
This reminder for hurricane preparation is a guideline. Your family should prepare a plan to address your particular special needs. Stay safe and know where your nearest emergency hospital is. Preparation, staging and being informed are the best alternatives to potential disaster.