As most Florida residents are well aware, June 1 begins the annual six-month long Atlantic hurricane “mean season.”
What they may not know is that even a few small mistakes in preparation or responding to a hurricane can result in profound, and even deadly, consequences.
To remind the public of the importance of details in hurricane preparation, a group of storm experts with the Get Ready, America! The National Hurricane Survival Initiative – the country’s most ambitious and wide-ranging hurricane safety campaign — held a teleconference on Thursday to present the top 10 mistakes people commonly make when faced with a severe storm.
Each one of the “failures” could increase the chances of property damage and personal harm.
“This is the critical time to educate people about avoiding these mistakes,” said Get Ready Executive Producer Ron Sachs, especially since hurricane predictors say the 2014 season could be modest due to the warmer weather resulting from the El Nino effect.
El Nino is where warm ocean water temperatures develop off South America’s Pacific Coast, causing warmer and drier conditions in North America.
“People may be lulled into a false sense of security or complacency and fail to take action necessary to be better prepared,” Sachs said, adding that nobody is predicting zero hurricanes, only fewer storms.
All it takes is one to have a devastating effect on life and property, he added.
As part of the Get Ready information campaign, Sachs was joined by Bryan Koon, Vice President of the National Emergency Management Association and Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management; Erik Salna, Associate Director and Project Meteorologist of the International Hurricane Research Center and Kevin Smith, Emergency Disaster Services Director for The Salvation Army.
Get Ready America! lists the top 10 mistakes people make during hurricane season:
- Failing to understand the threat
Many people who live within a mile of the coast, but not on the coast itself, frequently misjudge the threat of a hurricane. Often, they believe that wind that causes much of the damage. In fact, more than half of the hurricane related deaths are from rising waters of storm surges.
- Failing to evacuate
When local officials say to evacuate the area, it is for the benefit of residents. If an evacuation order comes down, grab your prepared disaster kit and leave, letting others know that you are going and where you will be.
- Failing to leave in time
Outrunning a storm is never a good idea. Every storm is different, and some storms are easier to predict and have less error, while others have more. Have a plan, go to a shelter, but be prepared to change the plan quickly, if needed.
- Failing to protect the home
The beginning of the season is the time to cut low-hanging branches and remove debris that could cause damage in case of high winds. If a homeowner faces a storm, with little done to prepare, the best strategy is starting first with the home’s largest opening — usually the garage door.
- Failing to organize papers
Aftereffects of any disaster can be difficult, even under the best of circumstances. However, when vital records are lost, the personal stress skyrockets. Have all necessary papers in a single waterproof container, ready to go in case of an evacuation order: Social Security cards, copies of personal identification, insurance forms, passports, birth, death, & marriage certificates, divorce and child custody papers, military records, bank account and credit card numbers. Duplicates can be left with trusted relative or close friends.
- Failing to inventory valuables
An inventory list of valuables, along with photos of each item, can be invaluable in the hectic aftereffects of a disaster, particularly for insurance claims. Relying on memory alone can hold up the process. Forms are available for download online and can be filled out and kept with other important papers.
- Failing to ensure adequate insurance
Homeowner’s insurance rarely covers flood damage, and as the insurance industry re‐defines flooding coverage, it is a good time to have a conversation with your insurance agent or contact the federal National Flood Insurance Program for policy information. Often, there is a 30‐day waiting period from the date of purchase before a policy goes into effect, so the best time to get flood insurance coverage is well in advance of the risk of flooding.
- Failing to make provisions
Expect to survive on your own once a disaster strikes. Have food, water, medical and other supplies in sufficient quantity for a minimum of 72 hours. On hand should be non‐perishable emergency supplies, kept in a safe area or room. Water is the most important; most people need at least two gallons of water per person per day.
- Failing to know safety protocols
Both during hurricane season and as an active tropical storm approaches, weather updates can frequently change, as much as several times a day.
Since weather conditions change fast, consider an NOAA weather radio as part of a disaster kit —especially one that is wind‐up, non‐battery. It can give you the most recent information on storms, hurricanes, or floods in the area, as well as what to do when you are at risk.
Inevitably, there are some people who will run a generator indoors — or enclosed space such as a garage — to protect it from rising floodwaters. This creates a situation where deadly carbon monoxide gases could get into the house. Knowing the relevant protocols after a storm is another way to stay safe.
- Failing to provide for Fido and Fluffy
Not all shelters take pets. Evacuation is too late to find out if one does. Have a plan for four-legged companions—either in an appropriate shelter or with friends—before the storm hits.
As the season starts, Get Ready America! recommends that the first thing Floridians (as well as residents of other states at risk of hurricane) should do is to visit and bookmark www.Floridadisaster.org, which provides the most up-to-date information on what actions to take to stay safe during a hurricane.