Each year, hurricane season in the Atlantic region spans from June 1 to November 30. For Cape Coral, Florida, an area located in the path of a potential future hurricane, this six month long window may seem like an eternity of uncertainty and fear for its local residents. When tropical storms are forecast, proper knowledge and planning can be the key to preventing a dangerous encounter with the ravaging ill effects of a hurricane.
The first step in preparing for an impending hurricane is to gather information on the storm and learn about its expected path of impact. Find out if your particular area is within the path of the storm or endangered by possible flood, wind, or storm surge damages. If your city or state is confronted with a hurricane, you may be expected to evacuate your home and seek shelter within a designated facility.
Hurricane disasters tend to be most detrimental when residents fail to obtain hurricane awareness and prepare for potential hazardous situations. Since the onset of a tropical storm may come about unexpectedly and catch residents off guard, compiling an effective emergency kit and family communications plan well ahead of time is imperial to ensuring a safe escape. Familiarization with the National Weather Service’s storm watches and warnings and their respective meanings may also be of life-saving importance. A hurricane watch simply implies that given existing weather conditions, a certain storm hazard may be likely to occur. A warning, on the other hand, often requires immediate action and informs that a threat is either imminent or already occurring at a specific location. When a hurricane warning is issued for your area, it is time to take your emergency kit and seek safe shelter.
Your hurricane emergency safety kit is a compilation of basic household items a family may need to survive a looming disaster. The emergency kit should be assembled well ahead of any impending storm and always include sufficient amounts of food, water, and other vital supplies that will improve your chances of surviving at least the first 72 hours following the storm.
Clean drinking water is likely one of the most important components of every proficient emergency kit, as damages brought on by tropical storms may result in a loss of water supply for unforeseeable periods of time. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends storing at least one gallon of water for each family member for every day that storm damages are expected to last. More water may be necessary to sustain proper hygiene and to hydrate more active family members, children, nursing mothers, elderly individuals, or family members who are ill or injured.
Similarly to compiling sufficient water supply, families should plan to store at least three days’ worth of non-perishable food items for all its members. The emergency food supply should mainly include canned, boxed, or bottled items that will not spoil at room temperature or require special preparation. Food assembled should reflect items that family members will enjoy eating and any special dietary needs, since the intake of sufficient calories during a storm crisis may be a critical component of preventing dehydration or starvation.
Ensure that your kit also contains a thorough list of emergency contact information allowing you to contact local hospitals, law enforcement, public safety agencies, local government, emergency management agencies, utilities divisions, television and radio stations, the American Red Cross, and your property insurance agent. In addition, all emergency kits should contain basic tools, such as wrenches and pliers, a first aid kit, a local map, basic eating utensils and can openers, flashlights, spare batteries, a battery-powered radio, plastic sheeting and duct tape for sheltering areas, dust masks, a whistle for signaling for help, basic hygiene items, garbage bags, and a cell phone with charger.
The family communications plan is another important component of successful hurricane preparedness. Since a family may be separated during the time when a hurricane strikes, it is important to have a family plan in place that will direct where family members will get in contact with each other or meet up in times of a tropical storm. Emergency cards with contact information should be completed for each family member, including children, and kept in a safe place, like a wallet or backpack, for easy accessibility if needed. A safe escape plan should also be drawn up and easily accessible within the family home, in case the family happens to be at home during the storm. Each room should be able to provide a minimum of two escape routes in case of emergency. If evacuation may be necessary, learn designated evacuation routes and shelters well in advance and determine a safe way of transportation to the shelter.
If you plan on weathering the storm in your own home, ascertain that it is safe to do so and then secure your home to prevent storm damage. All windows should be covered with either permanent storm shutters or marine plywood boards to prevent broken glass and subsequent injuries. To prevent roof damage, you may need to fasten your roof to the frame with straps or special clips. Prepare the outdoor area for impact with strong winds by keeping all trees and shrubs trimmed, removing all outdoor furniture and other items from the vicinity of the home, and relocating any vehicles typically stored outside. Installing an emergency generator may be another way to circumvent the negative effects brought about by the loss of power during or after a hurricane.
On the day of the hurricane, try to follow public advisories as closely as possible and always keep current with weather forecasts and other storm related information available online, on television, or on the radio. Close attention should be paid to the precise hurricane track, as well as wind field information. The NOAA weather radio provides accurate overviews of the latest developments of tropical storms. Weather services and local communities often also offer text and email alert services for which you may register to receive instant storm updates as they become available.