“It’s going to be a busy hurricane season!” I feel like I have heard this for the past few years.
While it is September and we are currently in the middle of hurricane season (for both the Atlantic and Pacific), it is never too late to make sure that you and your family are prepared for a hurricane or tropical storm. Hurricane season in the Atlantic officially runs from June 1 to November 30, while the season runs from May 15 to November 30 in the Eastern Pacific. And from what we have seen thus far, experts predict 2020 will be an “above-normal” season.
It is important that every adult in the house knows how to prepare and what to do in the event of a hurricane. In the submarine community, spouses might be left to prepare on their own, either due to a scheduled underway or due to the Navy’s tendency to sortie subs in preparation for a hurricane. Pearl Harbor sortied their subs this year due to Hurricane Douglas. Sending subs out to sea protects them, but often leaves spouses and families preparing for a hurricane (or riding out a hurricane) on their own.
Here are some common questions and tips for preparing for a hurricane:
How Do I Sign Up For Alerts?
It is important that you sign up for emergency alerts during hurricane season. This is one of the many ways that you can receive important, up to date information. Often, during evacuations, information is sent over emergency push notifications. For example, during Hurricane Isaias, I received emergency alerts from both the county where I live and the county where my spouse is stationed—because I signed up for the alerts! I like to receive alerts via text and email. You can decide how you want to receive notifications, but generally you can sign up on your county’s emergency preparedness website. While on your county’s website, look up your evacuation zone. If an evacuation is called, it tends to be by zone. People on the same street or housing development can be in different zones, so it is important to figure out which zone you are in!
There are also Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) that can be pushed to devices in a designated area by the National Weather Service. Information on the WEA can be found here.
What is The Difference Between a “Watch” and a “Warning?”
According to NOAA, a warning means that hurricane conditions are expected in the area. Warnings tend to be issued about 36 hours in advance. Hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible in a given area. They tend to be issued about 48 hours in advance of the expected arrival of hurricane force winds. During a warning, be prepared to leave immediately if directed to do so. During a watch, continue to prepare and plan for evacuation.
What Should Be in My Hurricane Kit?
There are some pre-made hurricane kits out there. However, it is easy to make your own, and you might even have most of the items around your home. FEMA has a website with many printable check lists for a hurricane kit.
We recently moved in May, and I found myself preparing for Hurricane Isaias while my spouse was out to sea. I normally have a hurricane kit that hangs out in the guest room, but had not found it when I first realized that we might get hit by a hurricane. I spent a day with the FEMA checklist and found almost all of the items around my house. I have two “kits,” one that has food and water (which I refresh every season) and another with the emergency supplies. I like to keep my kit in a waterproof, easy to carry container, so that I can just pick up and go if necessary.
I want to point out an item that is important, but that many people may overlook–a battery-powered/hand crank radio. This is easy to overlook, because we have cell phones. It is important not to rely on cell phones and electricity during a hurricane or in the aftermath of a hurricane. Once you get one of these radios, mark off the emergency weather frequency so that you can quickly switch to the station. The NOAA weather broadcast band is from 162.40 to 162.55 MHz. I have a small backpacking weather radio, that can be used with batteries, hand crank, or solar powered (bonus that it can be used as a charging station).
How Do I Get My House Ready?
High winds and floodwaters are major concerns with hurricanes. To prepare for the high wind and debris from the wind, minimize items in your yard that could become wind-borne. Move things such as patio furniture and potted plants into your house. However, do not bring propane tanks into your house! If you have a propane grill, secure the tank outside, away from structures. If you have something that is too big to bring inside, but could cause damage if left outside (i.e. a trampoline) try to find a way to secure it outside (i.e. trampoline hurricane stakes) or break it down to fit it into your house or garage. If you have time, reinforce your windows, doors and roof.
FEMA has tips for preparing your home for a hurricane here.
What About My Recreational Vehicle (RV)?
During the prep for Hurricane Isaias, for me this question was “What about my camper?” For some, it might be a boat, or an RV, or any number of recreational vehicles. It doesn’t take much wind to overturn an RV or a boat. For Hurricane Isaias, this was the first time I had to prep my camper by myself. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with the camper, and I ended up finding an indoor storage location and moving it from my property to indoor storage. There are lots of guides online of how to prepare RVs and boats.
Where Should I Go?
“When in doubt, get out.” This is what my dad told me when I was younger and we hunkered down during a hurricane. The problem is that with hurricanes, there is a window of time during which it is safe to evacuate. If you are outside of that window, the best you can do is hunker down and ride out the storm. If you decide to leave before an evacuation is called, plan your route so that you are not traveling in the storm’s predicted path. Make sure you have a route planned and mark down emergency shelters, should you need them. If you decide to evacuate, wait until it is safe to return. Every year, people are killed trying to get back to their property and/or assessing damage before officials reported it was safe to return.
I Didn’t Leave, Now What?
If you missed the window to evacuate, or if you decided to hunker down and ride out the storm, be prepared for power outages and make a plan for what to do if there is a flood. Set your freezer and fridge to the lowest setting to prepare for power outages, keep your phones charged and keep flashlights close. Fill bathtubs with water to be used for flushing toilets or cleaning. Pick an area of your home that is away from doors and windows, but which you can leave safely, if necessary. Tune in to the weather station to keep up with the storm’s progress and hear emergency alerts. If there is flooding, get to the highest point in your house from which you can still evacuate (not an attic or an enclosed space without an exit). Do not try to leave your home in the middle of a storm, roads could be washed out or impassible due to debris.
Once the storm is over, do not begin clean up until officials say it is safe to do so. Be aware that there are a number of hazards that can take place, such as downed power lines, flooded roads, structural damage, and gas leaks. Be aware of home repair scams, contact your insurance agent to discuss any necessary repairs.
Here is a FEMA guide with more detailed information on hurricane preparations and readiness. Once you have a hurricane kit, check it every year and replace items that need to be replaced. Whether you evacuate or ride out a storm, the best thing you can do is prepare and have a plan.
How do you prepare for hurricane season? Leave some tips and tricks for others.