Hurricane season officially starts June 1 and concludes November 30. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a near-normal 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. Forecasters with the Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, are predicting a range of 12 to 17 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher, and of those five to nine could have winds of 74 mph or higher and one to four would be a category 3, 4 or 5. For homeowners along the Atlantic or Gulf Coast, now is the time to prepare for hurricane season. Here are five tips that will help you weather the storm and be ready for the aftermath should a hurricane hit your area.
1. Build an emergency kit for your house and car - This is what you will need to survive on for a few days: bottled water, prescription medicine, matches in a waterproof container, mess kit, sleeping bag or warm blanket, change of clothing, cash, and change, first aid kit, whistle, can opener, non-perishable food, flashlight, and extra batteries, toilet paper, and wipes, non-sparking wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, local map, cell phone battery or charger. FEMA has a great checklist that is available at: https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-02/ready_checklist.pdf
2. Know your local evacuation plan and evacuation zone – Keep in mind where fuel can be acquired or where charging stations are located along your exit route. Evacuation signs will have a blue circular symbol on a white square sign without a border. A directional arrow will point to the evacuation route. Most cities will divide up the locale into evacuation zones. For example, the city of Tampa has an interactive Natural Hazards Map that is accessible online. Evacuation zones are defined by the level of risk in the event of a storm surge. With five zones identified from A to E with A being the highest level of risk, evacuation of a city may be directed by zone for a more orderly and manageable exit from the city.
3. Have a written emergency plan – At any time of the day hurricanes can hit and local news outlets offer second-to-second coverage of the hurricane’s path and severity. Discuss as a family your emergency preparedness plan – where to meet given the day, time, and potential circumstances if everyone is at different locations. Here you will determine how to evacuate each child and loved ones that may live outside your home, and of course family pets too. Once you develop your plan be sure and review and revise each year. The Red Cross offers an excellent template to follow that is available in English and Spanish.
4. Make sure equipment and fuel are in good working order – In every emergency where the power is affected there is a retail rush for fuel-powered portable generators. Generators are typically operated by diesel fuel or gasoline and when any fuel is stored over time, gasoline or diesel, there can be issues that affect performance. Especially in coastal areas where humidity is high, there can be a degradation of combustibility that can result in bad fuel. Common problems can be the growth of bacteria, clogged filters, debris, evaporation, and water that will result in a loss of power, a cold start, and rough running – everything you do not need in an emergency. Just as important as an emergency kit or plan, is the need to think ahead and make sure fuel used as a backup for travel, generators, and power equipment is in top shape to perform. Test your generator before hurricane season and use a good fuel stabilizer in all diesel- and gas-powered equipment to ensure your fuel does not let you down in an emergency. It is also best practice to add the fuel stabilizer to your gas cans as well.
5. Emergency contacts identified, social media updates, and satellite phone – Include a list of emergency contacts on your phone in your written plan. Social media, Twitter and Facebook especially, have become the preferred sources for updates by companies, public utilities, government agencies, law enforcement, and non-profits. Both platforms are excellent resources for identifying needs and resources. Many people have been rescued by posting on Facebook their situation, and the addition of photos has been used to identify houses that need help from firefighters and police. Researchers with the Stevens Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College discovered that communication peaked for hurricanes shortly before or after they made landfall. Often, landlines and cellular phone services are not functional, or lines are jammed. If this is the case, text messaging or social media defaults to being the way to communicate with loved ones. Satellite phones also offer a level of security as they are not dependent on cable or lines to perform.
It is never too late to get started on taking the steps to prepare for a hurricane. If you are new to a coastal area, you may not have had the experience of evacuating a city and understanding first-hand the chaos that occurs. Start preparing today, and you won’t be sorry.
STA-BIL, the number one fuel stabilizer product in the USA, manufactured by Gold Eagle Company offers a wide range of helpful tips and information on the company’s blog and YouTube to prepare for hurricane season. For more information, visit www.goldeagle.com.