Emergency Tips and Disaster Preparedness

One of the most important things you can do to prevent (or at least reduce) devastating losses in the event of emergency is simply to be prepared. We have compiled the following tips and suggestions to aid you in being as prepared as possible. Click on any link below to learn more:

Hurricanes Floods & Water Thunderstorm
Evacuation Mold Tornados
Storm Alerts Fire


Hurricanes:  (Back to Top)

Preparing your home for a hurricane won't take nearly as long as repairing the damage that could have been avoided with a few precautions:

  • Make sure your homeowner's, windstorm and flood insurance policies are effective.

  • Check with your neighbors to see if there are any preparation plans you can coordinate to help each other out.

  • Develop an evacuation plan so everyone in your family will know where to go if they need to leave.

  • The greatest threat to your home in most hurricanes is not the wind itself but wind-blown debris that can break windows and doors. Bring in anything from the yard that could become wind-borne -- and ask neighbors to do the same.

  • Tape will not protect your windows. If you don't have impact-resistant windows, then get shutters. Plywood panels should be a last-resort option and should be prepared and fitted beforehand. Plywood that is not properly attached to your house can rip off during high winds and become a projectile that can cause serious harm to your and your neighbor's property.

  • If you buy shutters, check to make sure they meet local wind-resistance standards.

  • When shopping for shutters, ask about the weight gauge or thickness. The greater the thickness ( for aluminum), the stronger the shutter. However, don't buy shutters that are too heavy to be installed efficiently before a storm.

  • Reinforce the garage door and tracks with center supports. About 80 percent of residential hurricane wind damage starts with wind entry through garage doors.

  • Remove your TV antenna, but be careful not to touch electrical wires. Unplug your TV before taking down your antenna.

  • Take "before" pictures of your home and store them in a secure place where you can access them after the storm.

  • Cover valuable indoor furniture with plastic. If you lose your shingles and the roof starts leaking, you may save your sofa. And remember, a can of roofing tar and roll of heavy plastic could be priceless after a storm.

  • Choose a safe room, preferably an interior hallway or bedroom with no windows, to ride out the storm. Keep a mattress and a functional fire extinguisher nearby.

  • Store at least a two-week supply of water for each family member. That means at least one gallon a day for each person.

  • Store water only in washed containers and only for three months. If you buy bottled water, remember that it generally should be stored only for six months.

  • As a storm approaches, you also can store water in your bathtub and toilet tank (not bowl) for washing and flushing toilets. Sponge the tub with a solution of liquid bleach and water, caulk the drain to make it watertight and fill the tub. Cover it if you can. Use 4 drops of unscented bleach per gallon of water.

  • Freeze as much water as you can.

  • Depending on the size, water heaters hold several gallons of clean water that you can use after a storm for sanitary needs. Before a storm, unhook or shut off the water heater from its water source so it will not get contaminated.


Evacuation:  (Back to Top)
  • Authorities will issue an evacuation order broadcast over television and radio. They also will release lists of evacuation shelters and times they will open. Follow recommended routes to the evacuation center, and if possible, travel during daylight.

  • Take your own supplies to the shelter, including food, a change of clothes and shoes, medicine, diapers and other sanitary needs. Bring a radio, pencil, notebook, important papers, flashlight, bedding, plastic bags for dirty clothes and items to keep yourselves amused.

  • Remember that pets (except guide dogs), firearms and alcoholic beverages are not permitted in evacuation centers. Find an inland kennel for pets or leave them behind.

  • Volunteer to assist shelter workers.

  • Keep your area as clean and neat as possible. Bring your sense of humor; tensions can run high.

Storm Alerts & Their Meaning:  (Back to Top)
  • Tropical wave or disturbance
    Area of thunderstorms moving in the tropics with wind speeds of less than 39 mph but without an organized circulation.

  • Tropical depression
    Area of low pressure with an organized circulation and wind speeds of less than 39 mph.

  • Tropical storm
    Organized, defined circulation storm with winds from 39 mph to 74 mph. These storms are named.

  • Hurricane
    Tropical storm with surface winds of 74 mph or more.

  • Extratropical storm
    Cyclone that has lost its tropical characteristics but still can retain winds of hurricane or tropical storm force.

  • Subtropical storm - Low pressure system with characteristics of both a tropical and extratropical cyclone. It has maximum sustained surface wind speed of 39 mph or more. These generally short-lived systems can have warm or cold cores.

  • Storm surge - Abnormal rise of sea level when a hurricane or other intense storm is nearby. Its height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the storm.

  • Warning
    Issued by officials for either a hurricane or tropical storm and means sustained winds and weather associated with these storms are expected within 24 hours in a specific coastal area.

  • Watch
    Issued by officials for either a hurricane or tropical storm and means conditions associated with these storms are possible within 36 hours in a specific coastal area.

Floods & Water:  (Back to Top) 

     Know your Flood Terms:
  • Flood Watch 
    Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • Flash Flood Watch
    Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for more information.
  • Flood Warning
    Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Flash Flood Warning
    A flash flood is occuring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

     Before A Flood:

  • Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Construct barriers (levees, beams, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering the building. 

     During A Flood:

  • Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground.
  • If evacuating, secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor. Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away. 

      After A Flood:

  • Listen for news reports to lear whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaiminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Avoid moving water.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
  • Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.

Mold:
  (Back to Top) 

Mold growth problems can adversely affect many homeowners. Homeowners who act quickly and appropriately can prevent or correct conditions that may cause mold growth. We have prepared this publication to help you understand the concerns related to mold growth and to provide some effective steps you can take to help prevent mold growth. The following information will help protect your investment in your home and may prevent the possibility of health risks due to mold exposure:

  • What are Molds?
    Molds are microscopic organisms commonly found both indoors and outdoors. Molds, along with mushrooms and yeast, are known scientifically as fungi. Their purpose in nature is to break down dead material and recycle nutrients in the environment. For molds to grow and reproduce, they need a food source - any organic material, such as leaves, wood, paper, or dirt - and moisture. Since molds grow by "eating" the organic material, they gradually destroy whatever they are feeding on.

    Mold growth on surfaces can often be seen as a colored spot, frequently green, gray, brown, black or white. It commonly appears as a powdery, fuzzy, or hair-like material. Actively growing molds typically produce odors, sometimes described as earthy or moldy, or like mildew, old dirty socks, or ammonia. Molds release thousands of microscopic spores, which are lightweight, easily airborne and carried by air currents to surrounding areas. The spores must have both food and moisture to actually start growing, similar to plant seeds.

  • Health Effects
    The vast majority of people are exposed to small amounts of mold or their spores on a daily basis without evident harm. However, mold growing inside a home is an unsanitary condition that may present potential health risks to occupants. Therefore, it is always best to identify and correct high moisture conditions quickly before mold grows and possible health problems develop.

    Potential health effects produced by molds may include allergic, irritating, or toxigenic effects, and rarely, infection. Allergic reactions are generally the most common health effect. Typical symptoms (alone or in combination) reported by people living in moldy homes include:

    - Respiratory problems, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath

    - Sneezing and/or nasal congestion

    - Eye irritation (itching, burning, watery, or reddened eyes)

    - Coughing or throat irritation

    - Skin rashes or irritation

    - Headaches

    - Fatigue

    The potential health effects depend on the amounts and types of mold present, the length and frequency of exposure, and the sensitivity and health condition of exposed individuals. Anyone with a health problem they believe may be due to mold exposure should consult a medical professional. To learn more about mold and protecting your home click here. 

Fire:  (Back to Top)     

     What to do before a fire:

  • Smoke Alarms 
    Install smoke alarms on every level of your residence. Place them outside bedrooms on the ceiling or high on the wall (4-12 inches from ceiling), at the top of open stairways, or at the bottom of enclosed stairs and near (but not in) the kitchen. Test and clean once a month and replace batteries at least once a year. Replace the alarms themselves once every 10 years.

  • Escaping the Fire 
    Review escape routes with your family and practice escaping from each room. Make sure windows are not nailed or painted shut. Teach family members to stay low to the floor (where the air is safer in a fire) when escaping from a fire.

  • Flammable Items
    Never use gasoline, benzine, naptha, or similar flammable liquids indoors. Store flammable liquids in approved containers in well-ventilated storage areas. Never smoke near flammable liquids.

    What to do during a fire:

  • Clothes 
    Stop, drop, and roll untill the fire is extinguished. Running only mkes the fire burn faster.

  • Escaping the Fire 
    Check closed doors for heat before you open them. If you are escaping through a closed door, use the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, the door knob and the crack between thte dor and door frame before you open it. Never use the palm of your hand or fingers to test for heat. Burning those areas could impair your ability to escape a fire.

    What to do after a fire:

  • If you are with burn victims
    Call 911; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.

  • If you are a tenant
    Contact the landlord immediately.

  • If you have a safe or strong box
    Do not try to open it. It can hold intense heat for several hours. If the door is opened before the box has cooled, the contents could burst into flames.

  • If you must leave your home 
    Ask someone you trust to watch the property during your absence.

          To find out more about fire safety click here


Thunderstorms
  (Back to Top)
  • Tropical wave or disturbance - Area of thunderstorms moving in the tropics with wind speeds of less than 39 mph but without an organized circulation.

  • Tropical depression - Area of low pressure with an organized circulation and wind speeds of less than 39 mph.

  • Tropical storm - Organized, defined circulation storm with winds from 39 mph to 74 mph. These storms are named.

  • Hurricane - Tropical storm with surface winds of 74 mph or more.

  • Extratropical storm - Cyclone that has lost its tropical characteristics but still can retain winds of hurricane or tropical storm force.

  • Subtropical storm - Low pressure system with characteristics of both a tropical and extratropical cyclone. It has maximum sustained surface wind speed of 39 mph or more. These generally short-lived systems can have warm or cold cores.

  • Storm surge - Abnormal rise of sea level when a hurricane or other intense storm is nearby. Its height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the storm.

  • Warning - Issued by officials for either a hurricane or tropical storm and means sustained winds and weather associated with these storms are expected within 24 hours in a specific coastal area.

  • Watch - Issued by officials for either a hurricane or tropical storm and means conditions associated with these storms are possible within 36 hours in a specific coastal area.

Tornados  (Back to Top)
  • While at home, the basement provides you and your family the greatest safety. Whenever possible, take protection under a workbench or heavy table.

  • If you are away from home during a tornado watch, be prepared to find an appropriate shelter. Should there be a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately..

  • If you are in a store or shopping center, stay away from large glass areas such as display windows.

  • If you are on the road in your car, do not try to out run a tornado. Leave your car and seek appropriate shelter immediately.

  • Once a tornado has passed and power is lost, turn off all large appliances. Stay away from any downed wires. Avoid flooded basements.

      For more tips and information see our Quick Links at the top of the page.


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