How to Be Prepared: Hurricane Emergency

You never know when the big one will hit – this weekend is a good example of that! We were on vacation on hurricane evacuation routeLong Beach Island off the coast of New Jersey this week, but had to cut it short because of the impending Hurricane Irene. The day after we left, evacuation was deemed mandatory.

We are home in New Jersey, taping windows, tying down the deck furniture, gathering supplies, and even packing the suitcase we just unpacked - in case we have to leave unexpectedly. Our biggest worry besides the safety of our family members is whether the two tall trees in the front yard will come down on our house. That’s something we can’t control, but to be safer we can stay away from the upstairs rooms during the hurricane and stay away from windows in all the rooms.

Here is a check list of preparedness actions from The American Red Cross that they recommend for you to follow:

1. Get or assemble an emergency preparedness kit:

A portable kit, stored in a sturdy, easy to carry, water resistant container should have enough supplies for three days. Check your kit and replace perishable stock every six months. Whether you purchase a kit or choose to build your own, your three-day kit should include:

  • Water – one gallon per person, per day.
  • Food – non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items such as tuna fish, peanut
    butter, crackers, and canned fruit. Make sure to include a manual can opener.
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight and plenty of extra
  • A first aid kit.
  • Prescription and non-prescription medication items. Include medical supplies
    like extra hearing aid batteries, syringes, etc.
  • Copies of important documents, including birth certificates, insurance
    policies and social security cards.
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items.
  • Extra cash. ATMs and credit cards won’t work if the power is out.
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
  • One blanket or sleeping bag per person.
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowls).

2. Prepare a Family Evacuation Plan

The American Red Cross urges each and every household to develop a household disaster plan. Meet with your family to create a plan. Discuss the information you have gathered and why it is important to prepare for a disaster.

1. Identify two meeting places:

  • One right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like
    a fire
  • One outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.

3. Be sure to make advanced preparations for your pets.

  • Be aware that pets may not be allowed in shelters. Contact hotels, motels, family members and animal shelters to see if they would allow pets in a disaster situation.
  • Keep a contact list of “pet friendly” locations.
  • If you are asked to evacuate, take your pets with you.

4. Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person.

  • During or after a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance, especially if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Family members should call this person and tell them where they are.
  • Everyone must know your emergency contact person’s phone number and email address.

5. Tell your family about the Safe and Well web site accessible at all times via

  • The Safe and Well Web site is an Internet-based tool that allows those directly affected by a disaster to let their loved ones know of their well-being.
  • People within a disaster affected area are able to select and post standard “safe and well” messages. Concerned family members who know the person’s phone number (home, cell, or work) or a complete home address can search for the messages posted by those who self-register.

6. Show and explain to each family member how and when to turn off the water and electricity at the main switches.

  • Turn gas off only if instructed by local authorities.
  • Remember, if the gas is shut-off, only a professional can turn it back on.

7. Plan your evacuation route.

  • Use local maps and identify alternate evacuation routes from home, work and/or school.
  • Know where you are going and how you plan to get there before you leave home.