June 1 starts off the 2009 Hurricane season. For those of you that live in areas that might be affected by a hurricane, now is the time to make sure your plans and supplies are in place. Lets just review some basic disaster preparedness plans.
Have a primary and a backup evacuation route. This includes everything from interstate highways to country back roads. Drive these roads every once in awhile – check on construction zones and slow areas. If the traffic is slow during rush hour, its going to be at a dead stop (or barely moving) during an evacuation.
Have enough food and water for double to triple the number of people in your house right now, for at least 1 week (7 days). If you live 100+ miles inland, you might have to receive friends or family members that are evacuating from the coastal area. Do not depend on evacuees to bring their own food – most do – some don’t.
Have a way to cook without electricity. This is where a lot of people fail to plan. A simple camp stove – liquid fuel or propane – will do the job just fine. On a personal note, I prefer my pull behind bar-b-q pit with a 6 feet 9 inch long and 29 inches across grill.
Have some air mattresses on hand. These are for evacuees to bring with them and for the people receiving the evacuees. Sleeping on an air mattress is a lot better then sleeping on the floor. Be sure to have a way to inflate the air mattress.
Have some extra pillows and blankets – these go with the air mattress.
Make sure every member of the family has their own flashlight. Some of the best ones to hand out are the hand crank dynamo powered units. That way there is no need in worrying about batteries.
Hand crank battery powered lanterns could be placed in the bathrooms. That way people do not have to have to try to hold their flashlight and do their business at the same time. Be sure the lanterns are positioned so that the light is reflected by the bathroom mirrors.
Instead of dynamo powered flashlights, solar powered sidewalk lights work well in bathrooms. Either option will help eliminate the fire hazard posed by kerosene lanterns and candles.
Communications – be sure to have the cell phone and home phone number of everyone you might need to call. Usually, right before a hurricane makes landfall the telephone company will be overloaded – as friends and family members are calling each other.
2 days before Hurricane Rita made landfall, cell phone and home circuits were overloaded. Because the phone systems might be overloaded, its important to have some kind of backup communications – such as email, instant messenger program, posting in a forum,,,,.
People that have a full time internet connection, such as DSL and cable modem should still have internet access even though the phone system will be overloaded. One example of an instant messenger program is Yahoo messenger. It offers voice, text, image and webcam support.
Its important to have backup plans in place and understood by everyone involved. If you can not reach person A by phone, then what will be the first backup? Person A should know the plans and know to check the backup communications on a regular basis.
Generators – service the generator before its needed. Run the generator only in well ventilated areas. There have been stories of entire families that have died from the generator exhaust fumes.
One such family ran their generator inside their house so it would not be stolen. They were worried that if they ran the generator outside, someone would steal it. Lets use some common sense here people. If you run your generator inside your house, chances are your going to die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Ice chest – disaster relief efforts usually include food, water and ice. When going through the food lines, make sure to have some kind of good quality ice chest. The ice chest can be used to store food from the freezer or refrigerator. With no electricity, the freezer and refrigerator will not be able to run, since they will not run, the food will not stay cold, food does not stay cold, it spoils.
Hand washing – have a way for people to wash their hands. Even if its just alcohol based hand cleaner, clean hands help stop the spread of disease.
Dealing with human waste – if the city water has been shut off, there will be no way to flush the toilets. The disruption of the water supply can either be on purpose or by accident.
During high winds, oak trees are likely to be uprooted and fall to the ground. This is because most oak trees have shallow roots. When the oak tree falls, the root pack – which can be 10 feet across – will be pulled out of the ground. Any water lines that are in the roots will be broken as the force of the falling oak tears the lines apart.
To prevent the loss of massive amounts of water due to broken water lines, some cities will shut off the public water supply just before a hurricane makes landfall. To be able to flush the toilet as normal, fill the bathtubs with water before the water supply is shut off. Then use a 2 – 5 gallon bucket, dip the water from the bathtub, pour it into the bowl of the toilet and it will flush.
Medications – try to have an extra months supply of medications on hand.
211 program – if there is a 211 program in your area. Call 211 and see what services they provide.
Special needs persons – If someone in your family has special needs, contact organizations in your area for assistance.
First aid kits – Every family unit should have a well stocked first aid kit. Have enough supplies on hand to deal with everyday cuts and bruises. Also have enough first aid training to deal with major cuts and know how to stop blood lose.
After the hurricane has passed through, people will break out the chainsaws, start cutting up the fallen trees and clearing the roads. This is when a lot of people get hurt. Its human nature to want to help. But some people attempt to do things they have no experience in – such as cutting up a tree when they have never used a chainsaw.
Lets add this up, (never used chainsaw + brand new chainsaw + fallen tree) * no access to medical care = disaster.
Its very, very important to use caution when there are no medical services nearby. When accidents do happen, be prepared to deal with the situation. Doctors are like everyone else, most of them are going to evacuate before the storm makes landfall. If you have never used a chainsaw, pass the task to someone that has.
Chainsaws – have a good sharp chain, a couple of extra chains, oil, gasoline, tools to tighten the chain and experience in how to use the chainsaw. Experience on using a chainsaw is critical in preventing injuries.
Be sure to visit the disaster preparedness forum.