With contributions from Susanna Marking, Office of External Affairs, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
As Hurricane Isaac inched towards the Gulf Coast in August 2012, Petty Officer 2nd Class James Hockenberry was assigned to an aircrew tasked with relocating a Coast Guard helicopter outside of the storm’s path. Left behind were his wife and two boys.
A flight mechanic at Air Station Orleans, Hockenberry’s duty to respond doesn’t stop when there is a storm on its way and he ensures his family is prepared well in advance of the storm first and foremost.
Stationed in New Orleans for the past three years, Hockenberry and his family have seen firsthand the very real danger tropical storms and hurricanes pose. Together, the family ensures they are ready before, during and after a storm. The Hockenberry’s summarize their hurricane preparedness plan into one simple mantra – “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
“Even if the news is predicting a small hurricane or a large tropical storm, you never know what can happen,” said Hockenberry. “I’ve noticed that the smaller hurricanes can quicker upgrade to a major hurricane right before they make landfall.”
Communities all along the Gulf Coast count on Hockenberry and his fellow lifesavers to take action during a storm, but his family is counting on him as well. He is a lifesaver but he is also a dad.
“At the beginning of Hurricane season our command briefs us on the expectations for the upcoming season. From there I go home and I talk with my wife and my in-laws – who live only 30 minutes away – about what to expect,” said Hockenberry. “We discuss our evacuation routes…depending on the path the hurricane might take.”
Locating an additional place for shelter, identifying key evacuation routes and communicating with those around you are all critical in staying safe before a storm hits. During Isaac, his family stuck with the plan, allowing him to focus on the mission at hand – saving lives.
“I’m glad my family went to [my wife’s] parent’s house because it was one less thing I had to worry about,” recalled Hockenberry. “I’m also glad they decided to go to Mobile even though no evacuation order had been given for the same reasons.”
Along with discussing plans, the Hockenberry family prepares an emergency kit. Filled with food that won’t spoil, gallons of water, flashlights, batteries and extra diapers, the kit is ready regardless of what is forecasted. They also fill up a propane container – to have something to cook with, buy extra ice and top off all vehicles early since gas lines fill up hours before a hurricane makes landfall.
Discussing emergency plans and having the necessary tools is an annual reality for Hockenberry and his family. But despite the frequency, they never let their guard down.
“Isaac was only a Category 1 however it caused widespread flooding because it was so slow moving and power was out around the city for about five days after the storm had passed and base didn’t get power back until eight days after the storm had passed,” recalled Hockenberry.
The Hockenberry family’s preparedness was put to the test during Isaac but they stuck to their plan and everyone stayed safe. We encourage you and your family to stay ready as well. You are the first line of defense to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe during a hurricane. The time to prepare is now.