Hurricanes come fast and can devastate a community with strong winds, torrential rains and flooding. If you reside in a hurricane-prone area, it’s important to know how to survive!
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Have a Hurricane Survival Kit
Preparation is a big part of survivalism, and it’s especially important when considering natural disasters.
Regardless of whether there’s a hurricane forecast, having a prepared emergency kit isn’t just a luxury – it’s a necessity. Chances are you’ll be isolated, without any outside assistance or conventional means of communication, for several days.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a “Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit” that I’m quite fond of:
I would additionally recommend including your paracord, chem lights and a flotation device for every person you expect to be relying on your emergency kit.
Know What You’re Up Against and Prepare Your Home Accordingly
Knowing what to expect is a crucial aspect of preparation. The Saffir Simpson Scale is used to rate hurricane strengths from 1 to 5.
If you work under the assumption that a Level 5 hurricane will hit and you thus prepare accordingly, you’ll be better off than the guy who assumed his area will only ever be hit by a Level 3 hurricane.
Here are a few relevant tips to keep in mind:
• Install storm shutters. Make sure to secure them ASAP after the hurricane alerts start airing.
• Install roof clips. While these might not help in catastrophic cases, they will keep your roof more securely fastened to the frame structure.
• Keep your bushes and trees properly maintained, including regular pruning. This will minimize the risk of your home sustaining damages from falling branches and other airborne debris.
• Keep your rain gutters and downspouts clear. This will help prevent misdirected flooding.
• Make sure you know where and how to switch your utilities off. Once evacuation is declared, do so immediately.
Unless you have a properly built hurricane shelter (PDF), whether in-residence or stand-alone, you’ll need to prepare for immediate evacuation.
However, you shouldn’t wait until the authorities declare an evacuation. That’s a surefire way to get stuck in traffic. Instead, keep up with the hurricane’s progress and expected trajectories by following news reports and emergency stations (both TV and radio), as well as on social media.
Do as much reading up on hurricanes as possible so you can learn to tell in advance whether an evacuation will be called for. This way, you can get a head start on finding safe shelter elsewhere.
If evacuation becomes inevitable, here are a few tips to follow:
• Use the American Red Cross shelter directory to find the nearest shelters in your area if you don’t have your own or aren’t able to find suitable accommodation with family/friends away from the hurricane’s immediate path.
• Know, plan and practice your evacuation routes ahead of time so you’re able to follow it intuitively and even improvise by switching from one route to another if need be. Install a reliable GPS app on your smartphone or get a Garmin navigation device for your car. As a back-up, also keep a paper map in your car with your planned routes highlighted.
• As soon as the hurricane is in the forecast, fill up your car’s gas tank. Preferably have a spare gas can to fill as well, so you won’t run out if you end up stuck in congestion for the long run.
• Make sure your emergency kit and supplies are easily accessible so you can quickly gather and pack them in with you.
Hurricane Survival Tips for During the Storm
Make sure everything you’ve prepared in advance is in working order: your storm drains and rain gutters clear, house secured and your emergency kit fully stocked. If you don’t have a designated shelter and are unable to evacuate in time, follow these extra tips:
• Board up in the most interior room of the building you’re in, closing all interior doors and avoiding windows and glass doors.
• If possible, stay in a small room or closet on the highest level. Taking refuge in the hallway is also advisable, especially if you have a sturdy object such as a table to bunker down under.
• Keep your storm shutters securely shut and your curtains and blinds closed until you’re told the hurricane has passed completely. Don’t let a lull fool you – it could just be the eye of the storm, in which case strong winds will pick up again.
• Wherever you take refuge, stay there until told it’s safe (this is why you have a crank radio in your emergency kit).
• Don’t try to run or ride from one location to another during the hurricane, even during the eye (which can last anywhere from 2 to 30 minutes). As little as 6 inches of fast-moving water will sweep you off your feet, and a foot of water will do the same with your vehicle.
• Your electrical appliances should be switched off – along with other utilities – as early as possible. Don’t switch them back on or try to use them during the hurricane. Stick to your battery-operated appliances and crank radio.
• Wait until after the hurricane has passed before you start washing. If lightning strikes your shelter, you run the risk of electrocution.
• Even after the storm has passed, stick to your supply of bottled water and (preferably) wet wipes for personal hygiene, as flooding can introduce all sorts of nasty chemicals and waste to your municipal or borehole water. If you must use tap water for anything, make sure to filter it properly.
Just because the immediate danger has passed doesn’t mean you’re in the clear just yet. There are still plenty of safety hazards that need to be avoided and dealt with post-hurricane.
While you’re waiting for the authorities to announce the all-clear, take the time to assess any injuries sustained by yourself or anyone else in your shelter.
Using the First Aid kit from your emergency gear, do what you can to clean and bind any wounds. If necessary, prepare to move the injured person for quick transportation to the nearest operating emergency services once the authorities announce the all-clear.
Work together with others in your shelter to assess any potential hazards in the immediate area. Once the all-clear has been given, do so for the surrounding area as well. Actively look for any downed power lines, broken gas lines, damaged water mains, overturned gas tanks, overflowing sewerage systems and any other hazards you might come across.
Coordinate with your community to ensure any issues are reported to the relevant authorities as soon as possible. Make sure others in the area are also aware of these problems to help avoid accidental injury.
Ideally, while cleaning your home and assisting with other cleanup efforts in the area, you should wear protective gear. Avoid floodwater as much as possible, as even the most superficial wound is vulnerable to infection.
There may be dangerous debris hidden beneath the murky surface, which will cause further injury. Downed power lines will also add to the risk of electrocution.
All communications should be done via radio, text, and social media, as far as possible. Avoid making phone calls except to the emergency services and other authorities. Only call if absolutely necessary and you’re certain no one else has already reported the issue or is able to transport injured parties.
Remain as positive and patient as possible. Having the right mindset is crucial for survival. As far as possible, help others in your area to remain calm and collected as well.