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15 years ago, our family moved into a small 540-square-foot summer cottage on Long Island, NY. We lived just two blocks from the ocean for several years. Both my husband and I had grown up in western states with snow storms, heat waves and earthquakes, but neither of us knew anything about hurricane preparation.
I remember hearing warnings about an incoming hurricane that first weekend after we arrived. We inquired at church about how we should prepare. The response was to tie down the garbage cans and bring in any lawn furniture. That was good advice, but there was so much more we should have done. The hurricane, though it was a direct hit, had lost strength and was luckily a tropical storm as it passed overhead.
We had several other hurricanes come close that year. In 1999, we were still in the same place on the east coast when Hurricane Floyd hit and caused widespread flooding in our area. By then, though, we had learned a little more about hurricane preparation and were less nervous and more prepared than that first year.
As we watch Irene approach the east coast again this year, I thought I would review several principles of hurricane preparedness:
1. Develop a Family Plan.
Discuss your home's vulnerability to flooding, wind and storm surge. Designate a safe room within the home. Decide on an evacuation plan. Determine an out of state contact. Check up on your home insurance to determine if you have flood coverage.
2. Create an Disaster Supply Kit.
Keep a supply of food, batteries, flashlights, water, medications, cash and other necessities on hand. Make sure you have a radio that you can use to get up-to-date information if the power is out. Keep your cars fueled.
3. Have a Place to Go.
Evacuate quickly if you are asked to do so. The longer you wait to leave, the more difficult it will be to get out. Choose an evacuation destination with friends/family or at a hotel. Your first choice should be as close as possible. If you have to evacuate farther away, be prepared for long waits on roadways. Fill your car up with gas prior to leaving. If you go to a hotel, call ahead for reservations. Choose a shelter only if you don't have other options available because they will be full, uncomfortable and may not accept pets.
4. Secure Your Home.
Get flood insurance if needed. Protect and reinforce your home as described on the NOAA site. Turn off utilities if instructed. Turn off propane tanks.
5. Have a Pet Plan.
Make sure your pets are current on their vaccinations. Use identification collars and appropriate carrying containers. Prepare a pet disaster kit including vaccination records, medications, food and water. Locate possible pet sheltering locations beforehand.
I found this information on the NOAA site (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). This is a fabulous site if you want more information.