With another hurricane bearing down on the United States, concerns for many Americans have once again turned toward the essentials. Hurricane Florence is expected to become a Category IV storm, and is further expected to make landfall somewhere in the area of North and South Carolina sometime later this week. For those in the path of the storm, many with fresh recollections of widespread power outages and infrastructure damage it took months to repair last year, Florence’s approach brings with it a familiar anxiety. Preparing for what could be a devastating storm is a unique frustration, with some carrying on with business as usual and others preparing for the end of the world. All as a large swath of other Americans are unsure of just how extensive their preparations need to be.

When preparing for a potential disaster, it’s important to let your unique experiences and needs dictate a great deal of your work. If you or members of your family rely on a specific medication, for example, you should ensure you have a plentiful supply in the event a long term power outage prevents you from getting more. If your experience dictates that your basement is prone to flooding, on the other hand, you may want to devote more time and effort to preventing that damage. However, there are some facets of storm preparation that can be seen as general, or fairly universal — and you can use suggestions provided by government agencies like FEMA and Ready.gov to create a baseline for your own, more specialized check lists to work through as you prepare for Florence’s arrival.

Preparing an Emergency Kit

Ready.gov recommends you assemble an emergency kit with the following essential supplies:

  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
This photo provided by NASA shows Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, as it threatens the U.S. East Coast. Forecasters said Florence could become an extremely dangerous major hurricane sometime Monday and remain that way for days. (NASA via AP)

What to Do as the Storm Approaches

Once you’ve assembled your kit (and any added supplies that are unique to your situation), FEMA goes on to recommend that you do the following before Hurricane Florence makes landfall in your area:

  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property.
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  • Consider building a safe room.

Surviving the Storm Once it Hits

Finally, Ready.gov offers some advice specific to surviving the worst of the hurricane. If you find yourself under the full brunt of Hurricane Florence, they recommend that you do the following:

  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not drive around barricades.
  • If sheltering during high winds, go to a FEMA safe room, ICC 500 storm shelter, or a small, interior, windowless room or hallway on the lowest floor that is not subject to flooding.
  • If trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood water.
  • Listen for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery outdoors ONLY and away from windows.
  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water.

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