What You Can Learn from Hurricane Preparedness Week

Hurricane Preparedness

One of the most dangerous times of the year for the east and Gulf coasts is hurricane season. With haunting reminders of massive storms like Hurricane Sandy and Katrina in the not-so-distant past, most people are well aware of just how unpredictable weather can be, but often still find themselves unprepared for the worst.

With next week being Hurricane Preparedness Week 2013, there is no better time to learn exactly what is necessary to ensure you and your family members are safe. By creating your own plan you can avoid some of the financial and emotional pitfalls that come with a lack of preparation during severe weather.

What is Hurricane Preparedness Week?

Hurricane Preparedness Week is a week of awareness designed by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to ensure people living near coastlines understand their vulnerability to hurricanes and also know what actions to take to reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.

Because hurricanes can come in many forms (also known as hazards) — storm surges, heavy rainfall, high winds, tornadoes, inland flooding and rip currents — it’s critical that residents are prepared to take action in a variety of circumstances.

By learning more about the essence of watches and warnings and taking special safety precautions before and during a weather event, it will be easier to overcome the trauma associated with the massive storm.

How to Create the Ultimate Hurricane Preparedness Plan

Many people don’t realize that there are a number of steps that can be taken to create the ultimate hurricane preparedness plan. But even before taking steps, it’s important to understand weather alerts that can ensure you are ready to take those steps when necessary.

Understanding Weather Watches and Warnings

One of the most important aspects of hurricane preparedness is understanding the difference between watches and warnings so that you know how to take action when you learn about either alert.

A watch is an alert that lets you know that weather conditions are favorable for a hazard to occur. When you learn of a watch, you are encouraged to “be on guard,” according to the NHC. This means it’s time to monitor weather to learn whether conditions are deteriorating or worsening.

A warning, on the other hand, means that hazardous weather is imminent and you need to take immediate action. Once a warning has been issued, you may need to grab your emergency kit, evacuate, take cover in a storm cellar or take other steps to get to safety immediately. While both watches and warnings are important, you want to remember that a warning is the more urgent of the two.

Because hurricanes can produce a number of disasters, it’s important to keep a look out for the following watches and warnings:

  • Tropical storms
  • Hurricanes (hurricane watches are usually issued 48 hours in advance of the onset of tropical-storm-force winds, while warnings are issued 36 hours in advance)
  • Extreme wind (extreme wind warnings are usually issued within an hour of a hurricane reaching an area)

Nowadays, it’s easy to gain access to weather watches and warnings. Not only can you watch your local news stations and tune in to FM and AM radio, but you can download severe weather apps on smartphones and request severe weather text messages for your area.

Also, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios are available that can alert you to the severe weather threats in your area.

Gathering the Right Emergency Information

It’s important that you have access to the right information in case of an emergency. To be safe, it’s a good idea to keep the following contacts near you when severe weather strikes:

  • Local emergency management office
  • County law enforcement
  • County public safety fire/rescue
  • Local hospitals, utilities, TV stations and radio stations
  • Local American Red Cross

It’s also a great idea to make a list in your phone of “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) contacts. To create this list, simply add the phone numbers of your emergency contacts, then label them ICE #1, ICE #2, ICE #3, etc.

If emergency personnel find your phone, they will automatically search for these contacts.

How to Take Action

One thing that Hurricane Preparedness Week is adamant about is the necessity in planning and taking action. This means creating a hurricane preparedness checklist that will keep everything and everyone in order when dangerous weather strikes.

Create a Supply Kit

One of the most important aspects of taking action is creating a supply kit that can keep you and your family safe, if a hurricane or its various hazards hit. A kit can vary from family to family, but typically includes:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio (also NOAA weather radio with tone alert)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Manual can opener
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
  • Medication
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with charger

Emergency Plans and Recovery

It’s also important for your family to create an emergency plan so that you won’t be caught in harm’s way when a hurricane arrives:

  • Develop evacuation plan (have bags packed and develop a plan to ensure the entire family knows how to leave the home and get out of harm’s way if a hurricane is approaching land). Visit FEMA website for its evacuation guidelines.
  • Plan for locations away from home (if you think you may need to evacuate, secure locations that you and the family safely call home in the interim).
  • Make sure schools and daycare centers have school emergency plans.
  • Have plans to care for animals during hazardous weather.
  • Be sure to wait in a recovery area, until your home is declared safe by authorities.

Homeowners Insurance Preparedness

One of the often overlooked but most needed aspects of hurricane preparedness is homeowners insurance and renters insurance protection.

Most homeowners under lending agreements have coverage, but aren’t always aware of the amount of coverage they need to repair or rebuild their homes. And renters very often forgo purchasing coverage at all, if it is not mandatory.

Know Your Coverage Amount and Deductible

Whether you are a homeowner or renter, you not only need to own coverage for your dwelling but ensure you have enough to pay for damage to the property and/or belongings in your home.

As a homeowner, it is important to make sure you have enough coverage to rebuild your property, which includes the demolition and removal of damaged property, as well as landscaping costs. The sum of your home replacement could hike your insurance coverage by 30 percent.

When estimating the cost of coverage, you don’t want to forget about any major upgrades you’ve made since last estimating your policy.

Flood Insurance

Hurricanes are tricky storms when it comes to homeowners insurance because they incorporate water and wind. While all standard homeowners insurance policies cover wind damage, most do not cover damage caused by water. It’s under these circumstances that you need flood insurance.

Flood insurance is funded by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but is offered through private homeowners insurance companies. To learn more about purchasing flood insurance for your home, contact insurers in your area.

Loss of Insured Location Coverage

A provision usually listed in the home insurance policy is one that covers or reimburses you if you’ve lost use of your insured location due to events covered in your policy.

If it is determined that you lost use of your location due to damaging winds caused by a hurricane then you should be able to receive access to funds to help you pay the cost of living in another location for a period of time.

Take Inventory of Your Home

It’s incredibly important that you take inventory of your home, inside and out, so that you have the information regarding what you’ve lost to share with your homeowners insurance provider.

Taking inventory includes taking pictures and videos of your home’s interior and exterior, along with personal belongings you would want to file claims for if destroyed. Also, write out a list of those belongings and locate any receipts that prove you’ve purchased these items.

Protect Your Home

Well before a storm arrives, you want to add storm shutters and take other retrofitting measures that protect the home from strong winds. Making sure the roof, windows and doors are secure and moving objects like patio furniture are also important.

If you’re interested in more information on hurricane preparedness, you can visit the National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Preparedness Week page. There, you can watch videos that further educate on the steps to take to prepare for a hurricane disaster.

(Photo: Spleeness)