With a large portion of the country still working to recover from Hurricane Harvey, and another region now bracing itself for the destruction Hurricane Irma brings with it, the U.S. Army has been playing an active role in the preparation, rescue, and recovery efforts for weeks now.  Thursday, as Florida prepares for Irma’s arrival, the Army released guidance to military personnel and civilians in the massive storm’s projected path, to help ensure Americans have what they need, whether sheltering in place, or preparing to evacuate.

The guidance, prepared by James Dean, the contingency planner with the Fort Stewart Directorate of Plans, Mobilization and Security at Fort Stewart, Georgia, has three simple tips that he believes will help ensure your safety, as well as the safety of your loved ones.

“Have a plan to evacuate; have a kit to support your family and pets for three days and stay informed,” Dean offered as advice before reminding all service members and civilians alike that September is National Preparedness Month and that it pays to be proactive, particularly for those living on the East coast.

“Most of the year, we’re in hurricane season — from May through November,” Dean said. “This is the height of the hurricane season. Most hurricanes happen in the Atlantic August and September.”

In the Army release, Daryl Lusk, safety specialist with the Fort Stewart Safety Office, also chimed in with his own advice, which he says he’s gained through a combination of real life experience and the training he’s received working for the Army.  His recommendations were sourced from FEMA’s hurricane training:pay attention to the news to track the upcoming storm’s progress

  • create an emergency supply kit
  • ensure vehicles are fueled up and serviceable
  • store loose items around the house such as hoses and grills
  • follow local directions from the local authorities.

Military personnel are also reminded to maintain open lines of communication with their chain of command, in order to ensure overall force accountability.  For civilians, that serves as good advice as well, but include family, rather than formal command structure, in your notifications.

Other advice offered by the Army’s specialists included unplugging appliances before evacuating your homes, bring a minimum of three days’ worth of any prescribed medications with you, and, of course, “Take your pets with you,” Lusk said.

For those evacuating with pets, be sure to bring a pet carrier or crate, as some shelters will not permit entrance to pets without one.

Ready.gov is a government-funded national public service campaign that offers advice on how best to prepare for different situations.  Much of their advice parallels that of the Army’s release, but they offer a bit more detail into what you should maintain in your hurricane kit.  Per their website, a basic disaster kit should always include the following:

  •     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

While you can consider that list to be the bare necessities, Ready.gov does go on to include another list of things you should be sure to have in your home as you prepare for the possibility of extended power outages, flooding, or having to remain in place as you wait for rescue:

  • Prescription medications

  •     Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives

  •     Glasses and contact lens solution

  •     Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream

  •     Pet food and extra water for your pet

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  •     Cash or traveler’s checks

  •     Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container

  •     Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

  •     Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes

  •     Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water

  •     Fire extinguisher

  •     Matches in a waterproof container

  •     Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

  •     Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils

  •     Paper and pencil

  •     Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

If you live in an area with mandatory evacuation orders in place, be sure to allot yourself sufficient time to get clear of the impacted region before the storm hits.  For those in areas with evacuation recommendations, it is also highly advisable that you leave the area, but if you choose to shelter in place, basements often offer the most protection from the storm.

Be sure to keep your storm preparation kits in a readily accessible place in your home, and if you are preparing for the possibility that you may need to evacuate, assemble a three-day “go bag” using these lists as your guide – or one of these articles written by experts in doing exactly that.

Hurricane Irma has already begun delivering destruction to the islands south of Florida, so act quickly, take this threat seriously, and remember that it pays to be proactive.

Stay safe out there.


Image courtesy of the Defense Dept.