Hurricane Irene: Preparing “A Safe Room” and Flood Preparations
By Ellen Cannon
Hurricane Irene is barreling up the east coast with profound destruction expected in major metropolitan areas. Residents are to take the storm warnings seriously. Take the time to put together basic emergency kits for you, the kids, your pets, and special need persons or elderly members of the family. Also, know what evacuation means and basic steps that you can take to protect you and the family in a calm manner. (See Ellen Cannon, “Hurricane Disaster Kits: Calmly Getting Prepared for Hurricane Irene,” joltleft.com , 8/25/11; Ellen Cannon,”FEMA says prepare in the Mid-Atlantic States and the Northeast, joltleft.com, 8/24/11)
If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should: (1) Listen to the radio and T.V. for information. Make sure to have a battery radio or crank radio which requires no battery and extra batteries if required; (2) secure your home by closing storm shutters, or placing ply wood properly on all windows; secure all outdoor objects or bring them indoors; (3) turn off utilities if instructed to do so by local authorities . Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its door closed; (4) turn off propane tanks; (5) Avoid using the cell phone, except for serious emergencies. Only call 911 if it is a serious life and death situation; expect a cell phone surge and difficulty making calls. Instead text or twitter for easier connections; (6) ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water. Do this now before the storm hits.
You should evacuate under the following conditions: (1) if you are directed by local authorities to evacuate do so. Be sure to fill the car with gas before the storm hits. Be sure to follow their instructions as to where to go and follow those directions; (2) if you live in a mobile home or any form of light structure, you will be at greater risk. You are to listen to authorities and evacuate; (3) if you live in a high rise building-hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations. Listen for evacuation instructions by local authorities; (4) if you live on the coast, a floodplain, near a river, or on an inland waterway, expect to be evacuated.
Building a SAFE ROOM: If you are unable to evacuate, go to your safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines as defined by FEMA: (1) stay indoors during the hurricane and stay away from windows and glass doors; (2) close all interior doors-secure all external doors and patio doors; (3) keep curtains and blinds closed. If there is a lull in the storm do not be fooled. It could be the eye of the storm which is dangerous. It can be followed by severe winds which travel 90 miles from the eye of the storm; (4) take refuge in a small interior room, a closet, or hallway; lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
Hurricanes result in serious flooding. While storm surge has the highest potential to cause hurricane related deaths, more people die from flooding associated with storms and hurricanes. One cubic yard of water weighs 1700 pounds. The average person can be swept off their feet in 6 inches of moving water. The average auto can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water.
During landfall, rainfall amounts of 10-15 inches or more is common. The amount of rain depends on the size, forward speed and whether the hurricane interacts with other weather systems.
There is plenty you can do to prepare for a flood that might result from a hurricane: (1) in highly flood-prone areas, keep materials on hand like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, plastic garbage bags, lumber, shovels, work boots and gloves ; (2) be aware of streams, drainage channels and areas known to flood, so you are not cut off from your evacuation route; (3)keep informed using local radio stations or NOAA weather information; (4) if there is a possibility of a flash flood move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for local instructions at this point; (5) make sure your sump pump is working; (6) make sure any photos or videos of all your important possessions are easily accessible for an evacuation or kept in a separate, safe place. These will serve as documents that will help you file a full flood insurance claim; (7) store important documents and irreplaceable personal objects (photos) where they won’t get damaged. If major flooding is expected, move furniture and valuables to the upper levels of the home.
During a flood follow the following official directions that can keep your family safe: (1) do not walk through moving water. If you have to walk in water, walk where it is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you; (2) do not drive into flooded area. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely; (3) if told to evacuate your home, do so immediately; (4) if the waters start to rise inside the house before you are evacuated, retreat to a higher area including a second floor, an attic, or the roof; (5) floodwaters can carry raw sewage, chemical waste and other disease spreading substances. If you have come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and disinfected water; (6) electric current passes easily through water, so stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires; (7) animals lose their homes in floods. Be aware that domesticated animals may be confused and unpredictable in a flood situation.
For additional information visit the following websites (1)www.fema.gov/hazard/hurricane/hu_flood; (2)www.weather.gov; (3) Ready.gov Hurricane preparedness; (4) National Hurricane Center.
Preparing for man-made or natural disasters is a form of individual and community empowerment. The more each of us prepares, the better the community can respond to an incident. Future resiliency of the community and a return to normalcy after the incident is a goal that can be realized.