A lot has changed since Hurricane Andrew 22 years ago, but given the season, it’s still time to talk about preparing for hurricane season. The good news is technology has put us miles ahead on how we deal with hurricanes.
Think about it. Back then, we barely got warning. Now we have satellite images of tropical storms forming off the coast of Africa.
We’ve developed the 5-day cone, know wind speeds every few hours, and predict storm paths with alarming accuracy.
That’s not all. We’ve enacted two major building code changes, in 1994 and 2002, which radically improve how our buildings withstand high wind.
Most gas station and supermarkets are now equipped with generators that will allow food and gas to be available even after a direct hit. Even further, technology has substantially improved communication.
Yet, we still must prepare…
Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30, but as the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) notes: "There is nothing magical in these dates, and hurricanes have occurred outside of these six months, but these dates were selected to encompass over 97% of tropical activity.”
As a former technology and emergency planning executive, I look for ways to utilize technology to help in hurricane preparation. With a ton of free and low-cost technologies available, I’d recommend you get prepared now to deal with:
- Voice Communication – Always have multiple ways to communicate. Think about multiple paths to overcome failure of one system. Utilize a mix of landline, cell phone, texting and VoIP. Schedule with key people about when and how you will check-in when the storm strikes.
- Off-site Files – Computer files and personal data can be made safe and accessible using the cloud. I use Dropbox to have my important files backed up and accessible. For note-taking and important snippets of data, Evernote is fantastic.
- Computer Backup – It is always a good idea to have your critical computer files backed up and stored “somewhere else”. Whether you take a hard drive to a safe deposit box or a friend’s house or you use a cloud backup service like Carbonite, always have an off-site copy of all your personal files.You can always download software again, but can you ever get back that file of your mother’s recipes?
While no plan is perfect, the following should help you prepare for a storm.
Personal & Family Storm Preparedness Guide
Following Florida Power and Light standards, you should begin to get your family prepared 72 hours in advance.
Early Storm Preparations
At the first sign that a storm may affect our area, here are some things you should be doing to prepare.
- Know your evacuation route (in case an evacuation order is issued for your area)
- If you or a family member has special needs, contact your local emergency management office now (approx. 72 hours ahead of storm arrival).
- Trim trees and clear debris/items from your property that can easily become airborne. Make sure you have your trash/debris at the curb for pickup well in advance of the storm.
- Test your generator and fill gas containers with fresh gas (generators should be run monthly to ensure they are in working order, gas should be no older than one year old, and oil and filters need to be changed every 30 hours of use)
- Install or mount your hurricane shutters
- Maintain a printed emergency contact list for your family and friends
- Make copies of insurance and important documentation and have it available in a portable, waterproof container
- Photograph your property, inside and outside your home, should an insurance claim be necessary
Where applicable, ensure your storm supplies are stored in easy to carry containers, such as coolers or backpacks.
- First Aid Kit – ensure the medical supplies inside are not out‐of‐date
- Prescription Medicine – make sure you have enough supply for 7‐10 days
- Battery‐powered Radio and/or HDTV Television – make sure you have plenty of fresh batteries on‐hand.
- Flashlights – ensure you have extra batteries and bulbs
- Non‐Perishable Foods – you’ll need 3‐7 days worth of food for each person at your home. Make sure you have a manual can opener available.
- Plastic Plates & Utensils – enough so that you can eat meals without having to wash dishes
- Water – it is suggested you have a 3‐7 days supply of fresh water for each person at your home (use 1 gallon/day/person as a guideline)
- Specialty Items for Infants, Elderly, Disabled and Pets – Don’t forget the diapers, pet food, etc. that are required...
- Cash! – Make sure you have a good amount of cash on hand. This will allow you to make purchases after the storm at businesses that may not have working credit/debit card validation machines.
- Corded Phone – If you still have a landline, make sure you have at least one corded phone available for use should the power go out.
“Last Moment” Preparation Items
- Fuel Vehicles – Try to have full tanks on all your vehicles. Port Everglades closes 48 hours before a storm and fuel delivery trucks are banned from delivering gasoline to gas stations once winds are above 30 mph. Try to perform fueling at least 36 hours before a storm’s arrival.
- Set Refrigerator and Freezers to COLDEST Setting – This way, if the power goes out, your food will last longer.
- Ice and Frozen Water Bottles – It is a good idea to prepare as much spare ice (and freeze a few water bottles) as can fit in your freezer. It will keep your foods colder for a prolonged power outage and allow you to have cold water on hand if necessary.
- Charge Your Cell Phones Fully – Try not to use your cell phone until after the storm has passed so that you can conserve battery power (in case the power goes out)
- Pool Pumps – Turn off the pool pump, ensure timer won’t turn it back on automatically, and cover the pump.
- Unplug Extras – Just before the storm arrives, unplug all unnecessary items from the wall socket. This will protect them from any surges.
- Place Flashlights and Corded Phone – Find logical locations for easy access to these important items should the power go out.
- Park Vehicles Safely – Try to place vehicles in areas where they are shielded from wind and potential flying debris. If you are in an area that floods easily, seek the highest ground, perhaps even a short walk from your home!
- Fill Bathtub/Sink – In case the water supply becomes non‐potable and your water supply runs out, it is advisable to have some tap water in reserve.
While some of these preparations may sound like overkill, it is always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.