With Florida's prime location, hurricanes are an all-too-common occurrence. This means that every Floridian must be prepared as we move deeper into the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30. While you can't prevent a hurricane, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your property. This post brings you crucial guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and provides some additional local tips.
Preparing for a Hurricane
Preparation is key. A hurricane might come with a warning, but the damage it leaves can be severe and long-lasting. Here are some important steps to follow:
Make a Plan: Before hurricane season begins each year, plan ahead. Write down emergency phone numbers and keep them on your refrigerator or near every phone in your house, and program them into your cell phone. Locate the nearest shelter and the various routes you can take to get there from your home. If you have pets, identify shelters, pet-friendly hotels, or out-of-town friends or relatives where you can take them if you need to evacuate. Local animal shelters may also offer advice on what to do with your pets if you are asked to evacuate your home.
Understand Hurricane Watches and Warnings: Knowledge is power. Understand the difference between a hurricane "watch" and "warning." A hurricane watch means conditions are possible, while a warning means these conditions are expected. If a watch or warning is issued in your area, take steps to prepare.
Have an emergency kit: Make sure your home and car are stocked with necessary supplies. Your emergency supply kit should include food, water, medicine, flashlights (with extra batteries), safety and personal items, important documents, and a fire extinguisher. Teach your family where to find these items and how to use them. Don't forget to also prepare an emergency kit for your car, and always keep your car's gas tank full. Remember special needs items for babies, the elderly, and pets.
How to prepare your home: Preparing your home for a hurricane is crucial to minimize damage. Clear your yard of any items that could blow around during the storm and damage your home. Cover windows and doors with storm shutters or plywood to protect against broken glass. Be ready to switch off your power if you see flooding or downed power lines, or if you need to evacuate. Fill clean water containers with drinking water in case you lose your water supply.
Be ready to evacuate: In case of an evacuation order, don’t ignore it. Prioritize safety over property. It's essential to act quickly and efficiently. Grab your emergency supply kit, and only take what you truly need. Unplug your appliances, and if you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water. Follow the routes that emergency workers recommend, even if there's traffic.
Protect vulnerable members: Special attention must be given to older adults and pets. Make sure you understand the health and safety needs of these vulnerable members.
Print essential documents: Since power outages can prevent online access, print documents like insurance information, medication lists and other medical documents, and emergency phone numbers.
Staying Safe After a Hurricane
Safety doesn’t end when the storm does. Here are tips for navigating the aftermath:
Avoid floodwater: Always heed warnings about flooded areas. If you must be in or near floodwater, wear a life jacket. Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Prevent CO poisoning: Make sure your carbon monoxide detector has working batteries. Generators should be placed at least 20 feet from any door, window, or vent.
Be cautious with electricity: Never use a wet electrical device. If the power is out, use flashlights instead of candles.
Stay safe around damaged buildings: Wait for local authorities to declare a building safe before entering. If you hear unusual noises, leave immediately.
Stay clear of fallen power lines: Report any fallen power lines to the electric company.
Protect yourself from pests: Use insect repellent and stay away from wild or stray animals. Report any dead animals to local officials.
Maintain food and water safety: Throw away any food that may have been in contact with floodwater. Only use safe, clean water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene purposes.
Take care of wounds: Attend to any injuries promptly to prevent infection.
Emotional health matters: It’s natural to experience strong emotions during and after a disaster. Reach out for help when needed.
By following these guidelines, you're taking the first step in keeping you and your family safe during hurricane season. While storms can be unpredictable, your actions don’t have to be. Preparation can significantly impact your experience and recovery from a hurricane. Stay tuned for more updates and tips as we continue to navigate hurricane season here in Florida. Stay safe!
About the Author
This blog post was written by Volcano Consulting, LLC Deputy Public Health Consultant, Liz Ventura. Liz is earning a Master of Public Health from the University of South Florida.