Hurricanes are no joke – prepare yourself, family before it’s too late

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings

Hurricane Katrina rescue

Hurricane Katrina rescue

Hurricane season officially begins in little more than a week from now, and runs June 1 through November 30. If history has taught us anything about hurricanes, it’s to never underestimate a storm’s power of destruction – take for instance Katrina (2005), Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012), which incurred a combined total of $168 billion in damages. According to the Wall Street Journal, of the top 10 costliest natural disasters in the U.S., eight of them have been hurricanes.

Now is the time to prepare.

By proclamation of the President of the United States, May 15 to 21, 2016, has been declared National Hurricane Preparedness Week, an annual occurrence since 2004. Throughout the week, the Coast Guard has been working in conjunction with Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Weather Service to raise awareness of the threat posed by hurricanes and share information on how to prepare homes, boats and families to avoid tragedy.

Determine your hurricane risks

Determine your hurricane risks

Determining Yours Risks

Understanding the risks of hurricanes and how they could impact you or your family is paramount. A good course of action would be to find out what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live. Whether you live inland or on the coast, it doesn’t hurt to be hurricane ready. To learn more about your risk factors, visit FEMA’s hurricane guide.

In some coastal areas, Coast Guard small boat stations will post flags warning the community and boaters of the expecting weather conditions.

Develop an evacuation plan

Develop an evacuation plan

Develop an evacuation plan
Once you are aware of the weather related risks in your community, have a plan of action in the event a hurricane is predicted to hit your area. Figure out where you would go and how you would get there if told to evacuate. If you have pets, identify a shelter you can go to that will accommodate your animals.

If you are underway, pay attention to the weather alerts and seek shelter. If you are too far out to find shelter, have all aboard put on life jackets. Call for help immediately if you get into trouble. For more information on how to prepare your boat for hurricane weather or what to do if you are caught in a storm, read more in the Coast Guard Storm Center.

Make sure you are covered
Anywhere it rains, it can flood. Hurricanes can produce flooding from heavy rain and storm surges along the coast. Protect your family and your property by making certain you are adequately covered and understand your insurance policies to lessen the financial impacts in the event of a flood.

Assemble disaster supplies

Assemble disaster supplies

Assemble disaster supplies

Depending on where you are, you might be stuck until flooding recedes and roadways are restored. You will need supplies to get you through the storm and potential unpleasant aftermath. Have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last at least three days. Include a hand-crank or battery powered radio and extra cash in your emergency kit. To find a basic supply list, visit Ready.gov.

Strengthen your home

Strengthen your home

Strengthen your home

Now is the time to ensure your home is in good repair and up to local hurricane building code specifications. However, if local officials tell you to evacuate, listen to them. Whether you stay or evacuate, make sure to include flood-proofing measures such as water sealer, sandbagging, elevating utilities, securing outdoor items and moving furniture to higher ground.

Boats should be removed from the water but if your boat is too large to hoist out of the water, move it to a safe haven. Some extra steps may be to use extra fenders, double up mooring lines, taking down masts, securing hatches and portals and securing loose items from the deck.

Identify sources of information

Identify sources of information

Stay informed

Know where to go for trusted sources of information during a hurricane event. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center are your official sources for hurricane forecasts, watches and warnings. Check with your service provider to ensure your mobile device is Wireless Emergency Alert enabled.

Boaters and coastal residents can get storm and hurricane information from VHF marine radios, commercial radio and television stations and newspapers or NOAA weather radios. Do not ignore the warnings; even a Category 1 hurricane can inflict great amounts of damage.

Take action now to be prepared for hurricane season. As the storm approaches, it is often too late to get ready. Make sure you have family evacuation and communication plans and update your emergency supply kit.

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