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Hurricane and Summer Storm Preparedness

Art Aiello |
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Art Aiello is a writer and editor based in Waukesha, WI.

As summertime starts getting into full swing, it’s important to remember that it isn’t all suntans, barbeques and corn on the cob. June 1 marked the traditional beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, which will continue until November 30.

Depending upon where you live, hurricanes are either more or less of a concern. What will likely affect you regardless of where you live, are summer storms. They can mean high winds — even tornadoes — hail, torrential rains, flash floods, and dangerous lightning. It’s always important to be prepared for severe summer weather, especially if you, or a family member, have limited mobility or other health concerns.

Let’s cover how to prepare your home and property first. Starting at the top, consider having your roof inspected. Check that there are no leaks, and that it’s up to the task of defending your home against heavy rains, high winds, and hail. Any loose shingles should be refastened or replaced so that high winds don’t tear them away.

Next, evaluate your windows and doors. Both are areas where rain can be driven into your home. Consider talking with a contractor about whether they need to be replaced or if they can be sealed, particularly around seams, to keep rain out.

If you live in an area prone to hurricanes or particularly severe summer storms, you might want to consider impact-resistant windows and doors. High-strength garage doors are also available. All provide extra resistance against objects turned into projectiles by high winds. You or your friends and family should discuss the need and cost of such improvements with a trustworthy contractor.

Finally, look around your property to see if there are any items that can be easily picked up and thrown by high winds in a storm. If you cannot or do not want to remove these items — such as patio furniture or landscape decorations — come up with a plan for securing them before a storm. If you need help moving larger items, discuss with a friend, neighbor or family member to enlist their help in advance of bad weather.

Trees are often blown over in a storm, or weak limbs can be knocked down onto your property causing damage. Discuss the need for trimming or even removing some trees with someone you trust, who can help you get estimates for the work from a trustworthy contractor.

Aside from damage to your property, trees and tree limbs also have a tendency to fall on power lines and knock out electricity. If the power goes out frequently in your area — especially if you require electric-powered home health equipment, such as an oxygen machine, or require your medication to stay refrigerated — you might want to consider investing in a backup generator. Permanently installed generators are more expensive than portable units, but they have the advantage of operating automatically during a power outage. Also, because they are fueled by your natural gas or propane fuel supply, they can run indefinitely. Portable generators can provide power to lights, window air conditioners, sump pumps and home health equipment. Discuss the various options and their associated costs with a reliable electrician.

Now that we’ve dealt with your personal infrastructure, what else should you do to prepare for a severe storm or even a natural disaster? First, make sure that you and your loved ones — particularly those charged with helping you on a daily basis — have a communications plan in place. Know who will be assisting you and when as well as how you will get in touch with them in an emergency.

Additionally, know who to call in an emergency beyond just your friends and family. Write down the numbers of your local police and fire departments so that you have them handy should you need them. Better yet, let your local authorities know of any special circumstances you might have — limited mobility, a specific health condition, etc. — so that they will know to check on you specifically in an emergency situation. Finally, talk to you neighbors so that they can keep tabs on you when a storm hits and make sure you are okay.

Next, make an emergency preparedness kit. You don’t need any fancy container — just something that can hold some or all of your emergency supplies, or a safe place where you can store all of them.

Start your kit by securing several gallons of fresh water and nonperishable food items that can sustain you for several days. Next, add a flashlight and batteries as well as a battery-powered radio for staying informed of the situation even if the power fails. Keep candles and matches handy, as well, as a backup to the flashlight.

Also, keep a whistle in your emergency kit. It could be useful for signaling neighbors or authorities should you become trapped in your home or require assistance and cannot otherwise signal for help. Important documents, like your ID or birth certificate, should be kept in your emergency kit, as well.

For chronic conditions, such as diabetes, consider getting a medical alert bracelet that describes the condition and the medications you take for it. Otherwise, create a document that outlines any medical conditions that a first responder would need to know about, the medications you take as well as their doses and your doctor’s name and contact information.

Finally, keep a small supply of cash — perhaps $100 — in your emergency preparedness kit. In the event of an extended power outage, banks might not be open and ATM machines will not be operational. You might need the cash to pay for supplies or other services during an extended emergency situation.

Do you have pets? Discuss with your veterinarian what you need to do to keep them safe in an emergency. If you have to evacuate, figure out now what you will have to do to keep your pets safe, especially if you cannot take them with you.

The most important thing you can do to prepare for severe weather and natural disasters is to begin planning now. Make sure you know how you will handle every eventuality should the situation become dire. Don’t wait for the storm to ask yourself, “What am I going to do?”