Moving to the Gulf Coast? You may have heard that the gulf is known for its somewhat temperamental hurricane season. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hurricane season starts on June 1st and ends on November 1st.
Newcomers to the Gulf Coast may be tempted to “ride it out” the first time a Category 1 or 2 comes barreling down hurricane alley, but you should always heed the warnings of local and state officials. Here are a few pointers so you and your family can take the first steps towards hurricane preparedness.
If you do nothing else… do this.
- Contact a friend or relative out of town (far enough away so as not to be affected by the same weather) and ask him or her to be your family’s emergency contact.
- Before the storm, be sure that every member of the family has a piece of paper on them that says, for example:
Uncle Joe in OK
- Call Uncle Joe before the wind starts blowing to tell him exactly where you are and what you are planning to do.
- Be sure everyone knows that they should call uncle Joe if they get lost or anything bad happens.
It’s important that your main contact person is out of town, because local calls are more likely to be disrupted after a storm. Both ends of local connections are subject to problems.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security suggests a three-pronged approach to planning for a disaster:
It is important that you have on hand all of the basic supplies you will need to survive. You should have enough of these supplies to be able to sustain yourself for at least three days, since it may be a while before you can evacuate safely or before help can reach you. A sample emergency kit might look like this:
- Water, a gallon per person per day. Also, it is helpful to have some means of filtering/purifying water, in case you run out
- Food, non-perishable (cans, protein bars- whatever won’t go bad)
- Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
- NOAA weather radio with extra batteries
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle and signal mirror to signal for help
- Surgical masks for breathing contaminated air
- Plastic sheeting for building temporary shelters
- Duct tape
- Garbage bags and moist wipes for personal sanitation
- A good multitool with pliers in case you have to turn off utilities like gas
- A can opener
- Local maps
- Cell phone with charger/extra battery. (FYI – this gem from the Red Cross has a NOAA radio, AM/FM radio, LED flashlight, and it will even charge your cell phone- all on hand crank power!)
- An extra supply of any prescription medications you may have
- An analgesic such as Tylenol
- Bedding such as sleeping bags
- An extra change of clothes, including sturdy shoes
- A waterproof means of starting a fire (waterproof matches, storm proof lighter, etc)
Make a Plan
It is very important that your family have a plan before the storm hits. A good first step is to have an out-of-town emergency contact, as mentioned above. Another good step is to contact your local Office of Emergency Management to find out what your local emergency resources are. It could be that there’s a specific rallying point for those who evacuate their homes. Or, as we say in the south…
Get the Heck Out of Dodge!
It’s also important to know for yourself when you should evacuate and when you should stay where you are. Come up with a set of conditions so the decision is much quicker and clearer when disaster hits. Make sure that everyone in your family has a cell phone with Short Message Service (SMS) ability, also known as “text.” SMS can often make it through even when lines are too swamped for phone calls.
Mark your emergency contact as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your contacts. If you are incapacitated, emergency personnel will often look for that listing and call it. Above all, draft a family emergency plan before the storm, and make sure everyone has a copy when the storm hits.
Make sure that you have read up on all emergency procedures before the storm. Always pay attention to local weather and news reports, so that you aren’t caught unawares. News Radio 740 AM is the official storm watch station in Houston, TX and will provide important information for the area during a storm.
Here are some additional resources to brush up with prior to a major storm:
- The NOAA National Hurricane Center is a great place to stay informed about any storms coming your way
- The American Red Cross has a hurricane preparedness guide, plus a store where you can buy all sorts of cool survival/preparedness toys. It’s a good first stop when preparing your emergency kit.
- Some of this information (including our “If you do nothing else” advice) and a lot of other information can be found in: Hurricane Almanac: The Essential Guide to Storms Past, Present and Future by Bryan Norcross. Bryan is a hurricane analyst for CBS News.