I once heard a comedian say that when a hurricane was headed his way, the first thing he did was evacuate. Then he left his house.
Since we South Floridians at Rocket Matter have gone through a half-dozen hurricanes over the past decade, we wanted to reach out and let you know a little what to expect and what to do.
First, do not panic, do not let the people on the news freak you out, and limit your exposure to mass media to occasional updates with what’s up with the storm. However, DO take the advisories seriously, DO prepare, and DO listen to your local authorities.
With some tragic exceptions, the vast majority of people go through a category 1 or 2 hurricane completely unscathed. More people get injured before and after than during the storms. Falling from ladders and injuries from hurricane shutters and the tools needed to put them up are more likely to hurt people. Electrocutions from downed powerlines and traffic accidents from nonfunctional traffic lights or blown-down stop signs are a post-hurricane risk as well.
The key is being well prepared. Investing a little time in advance can pay huge dividends later in terms of both your comfort and your safety.
In terms of evacuation, listen to your local authorities as to whether or not to leave your home and follow their advice. If you’re going to evacuate, make sure you leave enough time to get to your destination safely. The last place you want to be during a hurricane is in your car, stuck in traffic.
During the storm, stay away from windows and any part of the house vulnerable to trees falling. Make sure you know a safe area in your house that’s away from windows.
What you should make sure you’re ready for is the aftermath. You may very well be without power for days or even weeks. Access to good fresh water and ice can be limited. Water pressure in cities like New York might be depleted.
We recommend filling your bathtub with water, and have at least a gallon of water a day available for each person in your house for drinking, cooking, and hygiene needs. Make sure you have a supply of any prescription medication you may need, and don’t forget your pets need supplies too. Flashlights and battery powered lanterns come in key. Small radios requiring little power will supply you with news.
Have high calorie, non-perishable food like bread, peanut butter, nuts, and granola (i.e. pretend you’re camping). Make sure you top off your gas tank so that you can get out of town to air conditioning in the aftermath, assuming it’s safe to drive. Without power, gas pumps won’t work; that has been a big problem for us in the past.
You might want to get a corded phone without an answering machine. Your phone service might work if the power doesn’t, as it did in my case, and those old-school phones don’t need to be plugged in. Even if your cell phone is charged, you might not be able to make calls if cell towers lack power, are overloaded, or have been damaged.
Your freezer and refrigerator are well insulated and will keep stuff cool for a while. Open the door and shut it quickly, and as little as possible, to preserve the cool air. Have a cooler with some ice and other necessities.
Be very careful going outside after the storm. Electrical wires can fall and combined with rain water, this combo can be deadly. Trees will be down and traffic lights will be out. Emergency crews are going to need the roads, so stay off as best you can and let them do their work.
Good luck, and stay safe.