In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we saw a lot of video clips from people who, while we won’t call them idiots, were certainly doing a lot of stupid things.
Like the guy who went kitesurfing in the hurricane …
The men riding bikes in 100mph winds…
The guy who got knocked over by a wave while taking a photo…
Or any of the other Darwin awards for idiotic hurricane behavior.
But I don’t want to talk about these types of stupid hurricane mistakes. Hopefully I don’t have to tell you that you that hurricanes aren’t the best time to go for a bike ride!
Even the well-educated among us can make a lot of mistakes when it comes to hurricane preparation.
Hurricane Mistakes before It Hits
1. Not Evacuating in Time
Wishful thinking won’t help your chances of survival. When the officials tell you to evacuate, you need to get out of dodge NOW.
2. Not Having a Bug Out Bag Packed
The faster you leave, the less likely you are to encounter traffic jams and make it to safety quickly. Make sure you have a Bug Out Bag packed. Don’t forget about emergency documents either. You’ll need these later to return to your home, get medical help, or apply for assistance.
3. Not Having a Plan for Pets
Your pets are part of your family, so you need to prepare for them as well. Read about how to make a disaster plan for your pets
4. Not Making Medical Preparations
After a natural disaster, hospitals and clinics are often filled to the capacity with victims. There is little time or resources for patients who require regular medical care – such as if you are on dialysis or need prescriptions renewed.
Make plans for any special medical conditions you have.
- Stockpile extra medications
- Have a backup battery ready for wheelchairs, breathing machines, and other powered medical equipment
- Talk to your doctor about what steps to take during emergencies
5. Not Preparing for Power Outages
A lot of people will take steps to protect their home from physical damage. Yet, it is the power outage that gets to more people.
During Hurricane Sandy, 60-70% of their clients didn’t have any structural damage to their homes but did have power outages. This includes banks and stores.
Make sure you are ready to handle a power outage. Read these First 12 Steps to Take After a Power Outage.
6. Taping Windows
There is a common myth that you should tape your windows before a storm to prevent them from shattering. But, according to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, taping windows is a terrible idea.
When you tape your windows, the window will still break – it will just break into huge pieces. Those pieces of glass can fly around and result in deadly cuts. It is better to have the windows shatter into small pieces than be pummeled by large pieces of glass!
7. Not Securing Home
Want to be responsible for accidentally killing your neighbors when your patio furniture flies through their window and impales them? Probably not.
It is crucial that you take steps to prepare your home ahead of the hurricane. These include:
- Boarding up windows
- Turning off gas and water
- Turning off electricity at the main if flooding is likely
- Bringing in lawn furniture and any other items outside
- Unplugging appliances
8. Inadequate Emergency Supplies
In case you aren’t able to evacuate, you need to have hurricane supplies ready. Stores are always wiped out days leading up to the hurricane, and won’t restock for up to weeks afterwards.
Mistakes Made During the Hurricane
9. Going to the Attic
First the water breaches the doors, so you head upstairs. You think you are safe until you see the water coming up the steps. Not believing it will rise any higher (and wanting to stay dry), you head up to the attic.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that they’d be better off on the roof. There you can be spotted by rescuers. And you don’t want to be trapped in the attic when it floods!
If you are serious about hurricane preparedness, consider installing an emergency door in your attic.
10. Using Candles
In some situations, candles are great emergency lighting. However, you should never use candles during a hurricane. You never know when a huge gust of wind will come in, knock the candles over, and result in a fire.
Be cautious using candles after a hurricane too. If there is a gas leak, the candles can result in fire or explosions.
11. Going Outside during the Eye of the Storm
At the center of the hurricane is an “eye.” The hurricane eye is very calm and there might even be sunny skies as it passes over.
But never forget the eye is just passing over!
It can take anywhere from 2 to 30 minutes for the hurricane eye to pass over. Once it does, the winds are going to pick right back up. So don’t mistakenly think the hurricane is over and go outside, only to get swept up.
12. Opening a Window to Relieve Pressure
Another prevalent hurricane myth is that you need to open your windows a bit. The idea is that the hurricane causes buildup of pressure inside the home, and you’ve got to open your windows to prevent the home from bursting.
Well, physics explains why you shouldn’t open your window during a hurricane. The winds are actually so strong that they can literally lift the roof off your home.
Mistakes after the Hurricane Passes
*Just because the hurricane is over, it doesn’t mean the danger has passed. Many hurricane deaths actually occur in the aftermath because of these mistakes
13. Turning on Appliances that Are Wet
This is a recipe for electrical shock or fire. Wait until everything has dried out to test your appliances
14. Walking or Driving through Floodwater
Flash flooding is a huge risk after hurricanes. Even six inches of water can move a car, not to mention knock a person off their feet and pull them under.
Don’t forget that there may be downed power lines under water.
15. Using a Generator or Charcoal Grill inside Your Home
According to an NBC report, a huge cause of hurricane deaths occur from carbon monoxide poisoning. It occurs when people use generators or charcoal grills indoors.
You shouldn’t even use them in your garage or other ventilated areas because the risk is so great. It is recommended that you keep the generator 30 feet from the home or any openings to the home.
16. Turning On All Appliances At Once
Hopefully you unplugged all of your appliances instead of just shutting down power at the main. If you turn on the main and power up all of those appliances at once (your fridge, AC, computers, etc.), you risk an electrical surge which destroys your appliances
17. Underestimating the Infectious Disease Risk
Disease outbreaks from hurricanes aren’t usually major in developed countries like the USA. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious.
There are the hygiene threats from sewage floating in the water. The wet conditions could lead to specific outbreaks. For example, Dr. Ruth Berggren warns of the risk for a Zika outbreak in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey because of all the standing water.
18. Not Wearing the Proper Gear during Cleanup
The last thing you need is to put yourself at risk of disease from infectious waste or toxic debris like asbestos.