Since the 1970’s, the number of big hurricanes has gone up by about 70%. In the last few years, it seems like the U.S. has not gotten a break from these tropical forces. Hurricanes Ike, Katrina, and Rita, to name just a few, have created millions of dollars in damages to our cities not to mention threatened and taken lives. We can’t change what those storms have done, but we can learn from the lessons they taught us.
Lesson 1: Be Prepared
Hurricane Katrina damage was seen for hundreds of miles. It only took two days for this smaller storm to turn into a hurricane that cost many their lives and homes. It only took a total of five days for this storm to become a Category 5 hurricane that had no mercy in the North Central Gulf Coast.
It takes time to prepare for an emergency. The right time to start preparing is not when the news reports a storm is heading your way. Preparations should have been made way before that. Think through your disaster plan with your family or co-workers. Have supplies stored in your basement or garage now so that when news of an impending hurricane starts, you can begin preparing your home right away. You don’t want to be standing in lines at the grocery or hardware stores while a hurricane looms off the coast.
Not being prepared is one of the biggest regrets of those that have gone through a major hurricane.
Lesson 2: Have a Plan
Having an emergency disaster plan can reduce anxiety by taking a lot of scrambling and guess-work out of preparing for a hurricane.
One should have an emergency disaster plan that includes information about a local evacuation site where everyone will meet, a disaster kit with essential items in it, an out-of-state contact person that family members can call to check-in about you, etc. Also consider well ahead of time the following: what to do with family pets, what to do if the children are at school or you are at work, what phone numbers would be handy to have, will anyone need prescription medication, and how to begin recovering after the storm.
Lesson 3: Remember How Unpredictable Hurricanes Can Be
Meteorological tools have greatly advanced in the last ten years, but no one can really tell what a strong storm will do next. Hurricanes have been known to die-out within a matter of hours or get worse really fast.
If a hurricane has been predicted for your area, keep tabs on what several sources are saying about the storm. One news outlet may have more up-to-date information than another.
Lesson 4: Evacuate If Orders Have Been Placed
Don’t try to tough-it-out or stay behind to protect your belongings when an evacuation order has been issued for your area. If you are told to get out – get out. How would you like to have video of you played over and over on the news because a rescue boat or helicopter had to come get you off your roof?
Hurricane Ike damage did not just result from a lot of high winds. Like Hurricane Katrina, Ike flooded many homes and businesses, a situation that can be very deadly. Those that did not heed calls to evacuate were left in dire and sometimes deadly conditions.
Evacuation orders are only given if officials think the conditions are bad enough or will be in the near future. If the weather is bad enough for a city official to want to get out of the area, they are bad enough for you.
Lesson 5: Wait For the Green-Light Before Going Home
It is natural to want to go back home immediately after a storm has passed. You want to see if there is any damage. You are ready to call your insurance agent. Remember, however, that clean-up crews need time to clear roads of debris and power lines that may have fallen.
Sometimes houses are not safe to go in after a storm, especially if there is standing water in it. Flood waters could be contaminated with a number of things that could endanger the health of you and your family.
One of the most important things we can take away from the deadly hurricanes that have made landfall is that we need to be responsible for ourselves and our families. No one else is going to force you to plan for an emergency situation. It is important to be ready—your life depends on it.