Written by Susanna Marking, Office of External Affairs, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
It may feel like Superstorm Sandy happened just yesterday, but this weekend already marks the first day of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts we’re in for an above-average season, which means there is an extremely high probability of at least one major hurricane making landfall in the Gulf Coast and East Coast.
As with any hurricane season, the Coast Guard is working closely with local, state and federal partners to prepare so we can respond to this year’s storms as one team. However, the preparations cannot stop with us. You are the first line of defense to make sure you and your family stays safe during a hurricane. Especially for those who reside along the coast, the best time to prepare for hurricanes is now – the beginning of hurricane season.
Last year’s Superstorm Sandy was a great example of how being prepared could be a matter of life or death. People survived without power for weeks because they were equipped with generators, battery-operated radios and supplies of food. Many coastal residents were safe because they listened to officials and were prepared to evacuate on a moment’s notice. Good preparation was the key to lives being spared. However, many others did not fare as well and the historic storm claimed more than 100 lives. The nation’s ongoing recovery from Superstorm Sandy is a strong reminder that everyone needs to be ready for the next big storm.
Here are three things you can do to prepare for the 2013 hurricane season:
- Build a kit. Be ready for power outages and stock up on emergency supplies of food, water, medications, batteries and other supplies that will last up to 72 hours. Consider making a kit you can take with you on a moment’s notice if you need to evacuate.
- Make a plan. Have a conversation with your family about how you will contact one another if separated, where to go if evacuated and what you will do with your pets.
- Stay informed. Listen to your NOAA weather radio and local news to follow weather conditions. Sign up for emergency alerts from your workplace, schools and community officials to stay informed. Know your home’s vulnerability to flooding, and take the time to learn about flood insurance.
When you learn that a hurricane is imminently approaching your area, take these steps:
- Protect Your Home. Cover your windows with plywood, turn off propane tanks and bring outdoor objects inside. Find out how to keep food safe. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water for sanitary purposes, such as cleaning and flushing toilets.
- Listen to local officials. If told to evacuate, do so immediately. You should consider evacuating if you live in a mobile home, high-rise building or near bodies of water. Community organizations like the American Red Cross will often set up shelters for evacuees.
- Hunker down in a safe room. If you don’t evacuate, locate the safest areas in your home or find a storm shelter in your community. Stay indoors and away from windows.
Throughout this year’s hurricane season, we’ll keep you updated on the latest hurricane forecasts and provide more tips to keep you safe. But in the meantime, we hope you take the simple steps above to prepare for a busy hurricane season. Join us in following the Coast Guard’s motto, “Semper Paratus” – Always Ready!