Are you Ready for Hurricane Season?
Do you live near the Gulf or Atlantic Coasts? Are you planning to move to or vacation in a city like New Orleans, Orlando, Virginia Beach, Jacksonville, Charleston, or even Atlanta or Washington, DC that may lie in the path of a devastating hurricane this summer?
If so, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center advise you to be prepared for another worse-than-normal hurricane season. For the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.
Hurricane season technically lasts from June 1 to November 30, but forecasters call the period between mid-August and mid-October the “season within the season.” This eight-week stretch is often “the most active and dangerous time for tropical cyclone activity,” according to NOAA.
“Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives,” says Acting FEMA Administrator Robert J. Fenton, Jr.
“Have a family discussion about what you will do, where you will go and how you will communicate with each other when a storm threatens; know your evacuation route; tune into your local news or download the FEMA app to get alerts, and finally – listen to local authorities as a storm approaches.”
Emergency Planning is Critical
When hurricanes strike, residents only have a few hours to prepare. In the event of a hurricane: buildings must be secured, families will need emergency supplies, vehicles must be ready for evacuation, insurance must be in place to cover potential damage and families must know how to communicate with each other when disaster strikes.
Longtime residents of Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast communities know the importance of preparation. If you are moving to the region or planning to vacation to a hurricane-prone region, here are some steps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to prepare yourself and your family for a hurricane.
Know your risk
Assess your risks and know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and the wind. Make sure you understand National Weather Service forecasts and especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings. Usually flooding, not high winds, causes the greatest damage to property from hurricanes. You may be surprised to learn that communities many miles from the coast or farther north than the Gulf Coast or southern Atlantic can suffer damaging floods. Find your flood risk from these NOAA maps.
Check your insurance coverage
There’s typically a 30-day waiting period before your insurance will go into effect, so review your coverage as soon as possible. Private homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood damage, but it should cover any damage caused by hurricane winds. Even so, many homeowner policies have special deductibles for hurricane damage that are separate from the general deductible for other damages. While the general deductible is likely set at a dollar amount, the deductible for hurricane damage is often set as a percentage of the hurricane costs. It’s usually around 3 percent but can run as high as 5 percent of the damage costs.
Any hurricane damage from water, not wind and rain, is covered by flood insurance, which must be purchased separately through the federally run National Flood Insurance Program. To buy flood insurance, find out if you live in a community that participates in the NFIP program.
Know your evacuation zone
Evacuation zones are areas that may be impacted by hurricane flooding. Many communities designate evacuation zones and routes to get citizens to safety. Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation area by contacting your local or state government emergency management office. Most publish maps and information on evacuation zones and evacuation policies on their websites.
Write and distribute a hurricane emergency plan
Make sure every member of your family knows what to do should a hurricane strike. Sit down with your family and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go and what you will do in an emergency. Keep a copy of this plan in your emergency supplies kit or another safe place where you can access it in the event of a disaster. Discuss answers to these questions: How will we receive emergency alerts and warnings? What is our shelter plan? What is our evacuation route? What is the family/household communication plan?
Create a plan that includes:
- An evacuation plan that addresses how you will leave and where you will go if you are advised to evacuate. Include information from your local government’s evacuation plan. Identify several places you could go in an emergency such as a friend’s home in another town or a motel. Choose destinations in different directions so that you have options during an emergency. Be familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area. If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if needed. Make arrangements with family, friends or your local community.
- Your friends and family may not be together when disaster strikes. How will you find each other? A family/household communication and reunification plan can help you maintain contact and reunite if you become separated.
- The steps to take to secure your property including: boarding up or taping windows, moving patio furniture indoors, turning off the gas and electrical service, locking doors and windows, and sandbagging entrances and basement windows.
- Assemble supplies for evacuation, both a “go-bag” you can carry should you evacuate on foot or public transportation and supplies for traveling longer distances if you have a personal vehicle.
- Decide how you will take care of pets. Most public shelters allow only service animals.
- Include in your plan a list of telephone numbers and websites for local law enforcement, public safety, state and local government, local hospitals, utilities, local American Red Cross, local TV and radio stations, and your property insurance agent.
- For more information on creating a plan and preparing for a hurricane, go to Ready.gov.
Be ready to go
Keep a full tank of gas if an evacuation seems likely. Keep a half tank of gas at all times in case of an unexpected need to evacuate. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages. Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay. Make sure you have flash lights and a portable emergency kit in the car. Make sure mobile phones and tablets are charged and that you have car chargers.
Download the FEMA App
The FEMA App contains important information on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane. The App also allows users to receive weather alerts from NOAA’s National Weather Service, includes life-saving safety tips, and provides access to disaster resources should survivors need them.
Every family is different, yours may have special circumstances such as very young or very old members, or disabled or ill members. Also, your home might be isolated from emergency routes or located where it is especially susceptible to flooding or high winds. Don’t wait until the last moment to figure out how you will deal with an emergency. Discuss your needs and responsibilities with neighbors and local emergency services offices. Make sure that all of your family’s needs will be addressed before emergency strikes.