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Hurricane Sandy: Are You Prepared?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

 

As Hurricane Sandy bears down on New England this weekend, now is the time to prepare for any and all severe weather associated with the "Perfect Storm" conditions that could hit Rhode Island early next week. Use these tips from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to get you, and your family, ready for the storm.

Step 1: Build a Kit / "To-Go Bag"

Get an Emergency Supply Kit (below), which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car in case you are told to evacuate.

Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

 

Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:

  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler's checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov.
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

 

Step 2: Make a Plan

Prepare your family

Make a Family Emergency Plan: Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency. Develop a Family Emergency Communications Plan in case family members are separated from one another during an emergency (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school, camp, or a friend’s house). This plan should also address reunification after the immediate crisis passes.

  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the Family Emergency Communications Plan contact person. During and immediately after a disaster occurs, it is often easier to access a long distance telephone number than a local one. Also, calling outside a disaster area is usually easier than calling into the same area.
  • Make sure everyone knows the name, address and telephone number of the Family Emergency Communications Plan contact person.
  • Designate two meeting areas for family members – one within your community (your primary location), and one outside of your community (your alternate location). Sometimes an emergency can impact your neighborhood or small section of the community, so a second location outside of your community will be more accessible to all family members.
  • A Family Emergency Communications Plan can help reassure everyone’s safety and minimize the stress associated with emergencies.

 

You should also consider:

  • Evacuation plans
  • Utility shut-off and safety
  • Safety skills

 

Plan to Protect Property

Hurricanes cause heavy rains that can cause extensive flood damage in coastal and inland areas.

In addition to flood insurance protection, other ways to protect your property:

  • Cover all of your home's windows with pre-cut ply wood or hurricane shutters to protect your windows from high winds.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Keep all trees and shrubs well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Secure your home by closing shutters, and securing outdoor objects or bringing them inside.
  • Turn off utilities as instructed. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Install a generator for emergencies
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency by visiting www.FoodSafety.gov.

 

Step 3: Stay Informed

Educate yourself and family about emergency plans for your community, place of business, your child’s school or camp. Know what potential risks your community and neighborhood are susceptible to in a hurricane, such as storm surge, flooding, etc. Carefully monitor the media and follow instructions from public safety officials as the hurricane system approaches.

Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a hurricane.

  • A hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible in your area. Be prepared to evacuate. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
  • A hurricane warning is when a hurricane is expected in your area. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.

 

Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Scale Number (Category)

Sustained Winds (MPH)

Damage

1

74-95

Very dangerous winds will produce some damage

  • Minor damage to exterior of homes
  • Toppled tree branches, uprooting of smaller trees
  • Extensive damage to power lines, power outages

2

96-110

Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage

  • Major damage to exterior of homes
  • Uprooting of small trees and many roads blocked
  • Guaranteed power outages for long periods of time – days to weeks

3

111-130

Devastating damage will occur

  • Extensive damage to exterior of homes
  • Many trees uprooted and many roads blocked
  • Extremely limited availability of water and electricity

4

131-155

Catastrophic damage will occur

  • Loss of roof structure and/or some exterior walls
  • Most trees uprooted and most power lines down
  • Isolated residential due to debris pile up
  • Power outages lasting for weeks to months

5

More than 155

Catastrophic damage will occur

  • A high percentage of homes will be destroyed
  • Fallen trees and power lines isolate residential areas
  • Power outages lasting for weeks to months
  • Most areas will be uninhabitable

 

State Resources

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA):

MEMA is the state agency with primary responsibility for ensuring the state's resilience to disasters. MEMA's staff of professional planners, communications specialists, operations managers and support personnel is committed to an all hazards approach to emergency management. By building and sustaining effective partnerships with federal, state and local government agencies, and with the private sector - - individuals, families, non-profits and businesses - - MEMA ensures the Commonwealth's ability to rapidly recover from large and small disasters by assessing and mitigating hazards, enhancing preparedness, ensuring effective response, and building the capacity to recover.

Federal and National Resources

Find additional information on how to plan and prepare for a hurricane by visiting the following resources:

 

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