After Hurricane Katrina took over 1,800 lives and left a trail of devastation, you’d think that people would have learned their lesson. But, when Hurricanes Ike, Irene, Eresto, and Sandy struck (amongst the many other hurricanes and tropical storms which have hit the United States in the past decade), the local residents and governments were overwhelmingly unprepared. Take a lesson from history and learn how to survive a hurricane – before it is too late!
Truth: You Aren’t As Prepared As You Think
Many people of coastal towns think that they have done a good job of preparing for a hurricane. But, in reality, they often haven’t done more than stock up some non-perishable foods.
Unless you plan on making a floatation device out of your boxes of Cheerios, this isn’t going to save your life!
Disaster planning requires a multifaceted approach. If you want to really be ready to survive a hurricane, then you need to ask yourself questions like:
- How will my family and I evacuate? Where will we go?
- What will we eat and drink during and after the hurricane?
- How will we go to the bathroom? (the plumbing won’t be working during a flood!)
- How will we treat injuries?
- How will we stay clean?
- How will we pay for cleanup and restoration after the hurricane?
If you can’t answer all of these questions, then you aren’t prepared to survive a hurricane!
Truth: You Don’t Know What to Expect
When hurricane winds of 75+ miles per hour hit, you can expect broken tree branches, downed power lines, and large tidal waves. But, with any disaster, there is a lot that we can’t predict.
For example, 6 unarmed people were shot by the police at Danziger Bridge in New Orleans as they looked for food and supplies. The police said they were protecting the community from looters. But, in the chaos, the police were strained and opened fire on civilians – the very people they were supposed to protect. This is just one example of how disasters can spiral out of control and create other disasters.
Truth: You Are More Vulnerable than You Think
If you live on the coast, then you are probably aware of the risk of hurricanes and have taken some effort to prepare. But it is actually the people who live inland who suffer the most casualties from hurricanes. Yes, that’s right: 60% of hurricane deaths occur inland and away from the ocean!
The deaths occur because of flash flooding, mudslides, and tornadoes which are caused by the heavy rainfall and winds. So don’t think you are safe just because you are away from the coast.
Truth: Most Hurricane Deaths Occur Are Avoidable
Even though hurricane winds are above 74 mph, it isn’t the wind which kills most people. It isn’t even drowning which kills most people.
The majority of deaths from hurricanes occur because people did something careless.
Or they did something downright stupid. Like taking a “walk” to the coast to see how big the waves are.
For example, during Hurricane Sandy, 8% of deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning. This occurred when people used generators in their homes, but without proper venting or a carbon monoxide detector. Use of propane heaters and lamps can also cause carbon monoxide.
Some common “careless” causes of death in the aftermath of hurricanes include:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Electrocution from touching downed power lines
- Drowning in car because attempted to drive through flood water
- Falling off roofs during cleanup
How to Survive a Hurricane: What You Should Do
FEMA has a decent guide on what to do to survive a hurricane. However, here is the more in-depth guide on how to survive a hurricane so you can be ready. Click the links to learn more about the steps.
Preparation Steps before the Hurricane
- Stockpile emergency food and water
- Stockpile emergency supplies
- Gather evacuation documents
- Make an evacuation bag
- Learn how to turn off the gas, electricity and water safely (and teach everyone on the family)
- Create an emergency communication plan with your family
- Create an evacuation plan (plan where you will go and map out routes)
- Get a generator and learn how to use it safely
- Get flood insurance if you can afford it
- Install a flood water pump
- Put equipment higher up in your house (such as moving breakers from the basement to the first floor)
- Reinforce your doors and latches
- Install wooden storm shutters on windows
- Install sturdier shingles on roofs
- Buy an reliable inflatable raft and life jackets
Steps When a Hurricane Watch is in Place
- Bring in all outdoor furniture
- Check your survival supplies. Fill up more water if you need to.
- Listen to the news of the hurricane.
Steps When Hurricane Warning is in Place
- Evacuate! Do NOT wait until it is too late. And do not wait until an evacuation order has been issued. By then, the traffic will be very bad.
- Board up windows and doors with plywood. Tape will not protect windows.
- If you cannot evacuate, then get into a safe room in the house.
- Turn off the electricity and gas at the mains.
- Do not look out windows or go outside
- Do not drive. If you must drive, do not drive through water. Just 6 inches of water can carry away a vehicle.
- Do not use candles or unprotected flames during the hurricane
Steps After the Hurricane Has Passed
- Do not exit until authorities say the threat is over. The sudden calm might just be the eye of the storm.
- Stay out of rooms which could be hit by falling branches
- Do not drink water without sanitizing it first. Sanitation facilities don’t work during power outages. Listen to hear if “boil alerts” are in place. Read how to purify water.
- Use text messages only to contact loved ones. Do not tie up the phone lines as these are needed for emergency calls.
- Do not walk through flood water in your home. Many drowning deaths occur from slip-and-fall accidents.
- Do not walk through flood water outdoors. It is often contaminated with sewage, or may be electrified from downed power lines.
- Do not perform any repairs unless you are 100% you can do it safely.
How prepared are you for a hurricane? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook.
Image credit:Barbara Ambrose NOAA/NODC/NCDDC.