Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hurricane Preparations

Merry meet everyone, I hope this finds you and your loved ones well.

This week, in a slight break from the norm, I thought I'd take advantage of the fact it is National Hurricane Preparedness Week here in the USA and share with you some of the things we as a family are doing to prepare for any bad weather that might come our way this season.

To be honest it's a bit baffling, and just a touch scary, to be facing our first full hurricane season, yet while I'm a firm believer in the idea that if you prepare for the worst it'll probably never happen, or "Sod's Law" as it's often known, I still understand the situation could get serious at short notice so it's best to be prepared.  Now you may be thinking "this doesn't affect me" but many of the precautions are the same wherever there is bad weather or the chance of a natural disaster; when we lived in Surrey, for example, heavy rain meant the mill lake at the top of our road could burst its banks or at the least the rain often proved too much for the Victorian drainage system and flooded the garden to such an extent mum would be keeping an eye on the threshold to make sure the water didn't come in over the doorstep, and while living by the coast in Devon we learnt just how destructive storms could be when combined with high tides and the wind in the right direction.  Don't forget as well that this spring was the coldest since 1962 in the UK, and the heavy snow late in the season caused devastation to many farmers and rural communities.

With all this in mind, what about these hurricanes then?  Firstly, I need to point out that we don't have access to broadcast television out here in the USA.  This is because it is very expensive and most of the channels are 90% rubbish!  This does disadvantage us because we can't keep up with the various weather channels and local weather reports.  Instead, I have the National Hurricane Centre as one of my favourites on my laptop and I have their app on my iPhone, and I will be checking it every day or so to keep up to date.  In addition, my husband is in the military and they naturally keep up to date with any weather developments so they can plan flying schedules, so if a storm brews they'll make sure everyone is aware of it.  Of course you probably do watch television so remember to keep up to date.

So we're keeping an eye on the weather, but what else can we do to prepare?  Our main priority right now is to ensure we have supplies and equipment in case we either lose services while still in the home or we get instructed to evacuate; we call this our "zombie apocalypse" kit, because you never know, it might just happen! Websites such as www.ready.gov are full of valuable information in this respect.  There you will find a list of things you should have in your emergency kit, including water (one gallon per person per day for a minimum of three days), canned food and a manual can opener, essential documents (insurance papers, birth/marriage certificates, wills, passports, cheque book, credit/debit cards, etc.), spare clothing (ideally sturdy clothes like jeans, and sensible shoes), a first aid kit suitable for the number of people in your family, torches and spare batteries, a battery powered radio with spare batteries, moist baby wipes and some bin bags for keeping clean, and an adequate supply of any medications, both prescription and general drugs like paracetamol.  It is also advised to have an emergency supply of cash.  In addition, we need to make sure we have supplies for our dog which not only includes extra water (1/2 gallon a day) and food, but also make sure if we leave we have his lead, at least two months of heartworm and flea medication, and also keep his passport and medical documents in with ours.  For more information check out The Humane Society's website.

Probably the most important thing is to have a plan.  If you are advised to stay indoors, where is the safest place?  Ideally it needs to be on the ground floor (unless you are in danger of flooding) and be in a windowless room.  As soon as you get the alert it is recommended you fill the bath with water for sanitation purposes, and make sure you have an adequate supply of drinking water.  Make sure you board up the windows; our landlord is responsible for this, so tenants ought to check the details of their lease.  Turn the fridge and freezer to their coldest settings and open them only when necessary.  Make sure you know where your fuse box is (have spare fuses of course) and where the stopcocks are.  If there is a fire while you are in your safe room, what will be your escape route?  This is good to consider anyway, and practice evacuating, particularly if you have children.  Make it a game, but make sure they know the drill; in an emergency children will hide wherever they feel safest - where does your child instinctively hide?

If you have to evacuate, make sure you have escape routes planned.  Main roads around here have signs on them identifying them as evacuation routes, but everyone will be using them so do you have a back-up plan?  Be aware that the storm could come from a different angle; you don't want to plan to go to Atlanta if it is also in the storm path, for example.  It is also advised you have a plan for even getting together in the event of a mass evacuation.  In that respect, our plan is simple; we only have one car which my husband uses for work, so if he is sent home he will come straight here, we will grab the zombie apocalypse bag and a couple of changes of clothing, grab the dog and bug out.  We've also been told petrol runs out fast so try to keep the tank topped up and your car fully serviced so it won't let you down.  Pet owners also need to be aware that Red Cross shelters do not accept pets, so you will have to find alternative shelter.

In addition to all this, you ought to make yourselves aware of where your local shelters are, both at home and at work, and pre-programme the emergency weather channels into your car radio and any portable radios you have.  There is also an automated Emergency Alert System (EAS) that sends out warnings so familiarise yourself with the language they use (the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning and how much notice they give you, for example) but don't rely on that as your only method of warning.  I signed up to receive notifications via CodeRED and downloaded their app so that I have up-to-date information at my fingertips and I know that I will receive a warning as soon as it is issued.

So that gives you some idea of how we are preparing for a disaster, be it a hurricane or a zombie apocalypse.  Of course these suggestions aren't exhaustive, and you really ought to check out the websites mentioned above for further information; I have enough to worry about, I am not responsible for you as well!  Go on now, print off a few checklists and see how ready you are.  In fact, if you have any good tips or useful websites I've not come across yet, please share them.

Stay safe, be prepared, and blessed be )0(