Preparing for hurricane season (typically June 1-Nov. 30) is stressful. Doing so during a pandemic can be especially stressful. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, please do not delay in preparing, as there have already been more named disturbances than in recent history.
If the past several years have taught us anything at all, it is that you could be in big trouble if you are not ready. We have seen most of our hurricanes in late August and early September, so we’re making sure we get this information out before that busy time.
As always, follow the instructions of your local city and state authorities as to the proper evacuation procedures. There is no way to predict how devastating the resulting damage from a storm can be, but you should always have a plan for your home and business and have your supplies ready.
Watch vs. Warning
A HURRICANE WATCH issued for your part of the coast indicates the possibility that you could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours. This watch should trigger your family’s disaster plan. Protective measures should be initiated, especially those that require extra time, such as securing a boat, leaving a barrier island, etc.
A HURRICANE WARNING issued for your part of the coast indicates that sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 24 hours or less. Once this warning has been issued, your family should be in the process of completing protective actions and deciding the safest location to be during the storm.
History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. Hurricane hazards come in many forms: lightning, tornadoes, flooding, storm surge and high winds. Even landslides or mudslides can be triggered in mountainous regions. Look at the safety actions associated with each type of hurricane hazard, and prepare your family and business disaster plan accordingly. But remember, this is only a guide. The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a hurricane threat is to use common sense.
Understanding that planning may be different this year, the CDC recommends:
- Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your emergency food, water and medicine supplies. Home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies, but that may not be an option for everyone. If in-person shopping is your only choice, take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands.
- Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Sign up for mail order delivery, or call in your prescription ahead of time and use drive-thru windows or curbside pickup, if available.
- Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, including shelters for your pets.
- When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
Prepare to evacuate
- You may need to evacuate. Prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, bar or liquid soap, disinfectant wipes (if available) and two cloth face coverings for each person. Face covers should not be used by children under the age of 2. They also should not be used by people having trouble breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Know a safe place to shelter, and have several ways to receive weather alerts, such as National Weather Service cell phone alerts, NOAA Weather Radio or @NWS Twitter alerts.
- Find out if your local public shelter is open, in case you need to evacuate your home and go there. Your shelter location may be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Follow guidance from your local public health or emergency management officials on when and where to shelter.
- Make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pets. Find out if your disaster shelter will accept pets. Typically, when shelters accommodate pets, the pets are housed in a separate area from people.
- Follow safety precautions when using transportation to evacuate. If you have to travel away from your community to evacuate, follow safety precautions for travelers to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Be sure to know any travel restrictions to “hot spots” that are in neighboring cities/states to which you might evacuate during a hurricane.
Staying with family or friends
If you will be staying with friends or family outside your household to evacuate from the storm:
- Talk to the people you plan to stay with about how you can all best protect yourselves from COVID-19.
- Consider if either of your households has someone who is at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, including older adults or people of any age who have underlying medical conditions. Make sure everyone knows what they can do to keep them safe from COVID-19.
- Follow everyday preventive actions, including covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands often and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Consider taking extra precautions for people living in close quarters.
- Know what to do if someone in your family or in the household you are staying with becomes sick with COVID-19. Take steps to keep your pets safe.
Stay safe after a hurricane
- You should continue to follow preventive actions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, like washing your hands and wearing a cloth face covering during cleanup or when returning home or to work.
- It may take longer than usual to restore power and water if they are out. Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if you use a generator.
- If you are injured or ill, contact your medical provider for treatment recommendations. Keep wounds clean to prevent infection. Remember, accessing medical care may be more difficult than usual during the pandemic.
- Dealing with disasters can cause stress and strong emotions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is natural to feel anxiety, grief and worry. Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family and your community recover.
- People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. Additional information can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration page.
- After a hurricane, it’s not unusual for rats, mice and other pests to try to get into your home or building. Be aware that with restaurant and commercial closures related to COVID-19, there are already reports of increased rodent activity as they try to seek other sources of food. Follow recommendations for keeping pests out of your home.
As eager as you might be to go back, returning to your home or business immediately after a hurricane can be just as dangerous as sticking around during the storm. Return only after authorities advise it’s safe. We know that you all provide a critical service to your communities and you’re among the first businesses back up and running after a hurricane. We commend you for that and remind you that we’re here to help with any claims needs you might have as a result of a hurricane.