Posted on 27 September 2022
Basics, Preparing Yourself & Your Family
We’re in the middle of the hurricane season here in South Florida, which officially runs from June 1st to November 30th, with the peak activity usually happening between August and October.
The key to surviving a catastrophic storm is being very well prepared. Read this post or watch our 3-part video series on our YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/munara for tips on how to prepare for a hurricane. Don’t wait until the last minute, or you may find yourself in a very tough situation.
Let’s get started with some basic terminology, which can help you assess the risks when you get notifications from the authorities and news channels.
- Tropical Depression is a wind system in which the maximum sustained winds do not exceed 38 mph.
- Tropical Storm is a wind system in which the maximum sustained wind speeds range between 39 mph and 73 mph.
- Hurricane is a large rotating storm with sustained windspeeds of at least 74 mph.
- A Tropical Storm Watch is issued when tropical storm conditions are possible in the next 48 hours.
- A Tropical Storm Warning is issued when tropical storm conditions are expected in the next 36 hours.
- A Hurricane Watch is issued when hurricane conditions are possible in the next 48 hours.
- A Hurricane Warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in the next 36 hours.
- Storm Surge describes an abnormal rise in sea level during a hurricane.
It’s a good idea to have a detailed Hurricane Emergency Supply Checklist so you can plan and shop for essential supplies well in advance, to save yourself from panicking next to empty store shelves. You can download a pdf of a modified version of the checklist that we use for our own family (yes, we use it every year!) or you download a Word version to customize the list to your personal needs and circumstances. Follow this link for all downloads in this blog post.
Some of the most important things to highlight on this checklist are:
- Water and non-perishable food supplies to last your family about 5 to 7 days;
- Paper plates and disposable utensils;
- A mechanical can opener;
- A battery-operated or hand-crank radio;
- Sanitary supplies, such as toilet paper, paper towels, sanitary wipes, disinfectant, soap, bleach, feminine supplies, and garbage bags;
- Medical and first-aid supplies, including medications, insulin, eye glasses or contacts, thermometer, aspirin, antibiotic ointment, bandages, sunscreen, bug repellent, etc.;
- If you have a baby, don’t forget to pack formula, any specialty food, diapers & wipes, medications, and bottles and sippy cups;
- For pets, pack enough food, water, and medications;
- Store your important documents in a waterproof bag or a safe;
- Have some cash on hand, in case credit card readers and ATMs are inoperable.
Preparing Your Home
Take the necessary steps to prepare and protect your largest asset during the hurricane season.
First, clean up your house and take photographs of every part of your house, including inside as well as the exterior. Be sure to use a good quality camera, so you have nice crisp, clear pictures. Pre-storm pictures of your house as well as your personal property will be indispensable in the event of a loss, and can help expedite the insurance claims process.
Then, be sure to review your home’s insurance coverage, and that you’re comfortable with the level of protection you have. Go through the small print too, or call your insurance agent for explanations. Keep in mind, that in most cases, your insurance carrier will not accept any policy modifications if a storm is expected in just a few days.
If you’re buying a house be aware of the Hurricane Box! Do you know what it is? It’s a box… around the state of Florida that insurance carriers use to determine when it’s too risky for them to bind a new policy. The box varies by carrier and wind speeds, but it’s about 2 million square miles, stretching roughly from the southeast corner of Oklahoma to about Dominica, Martinique and Barbados. If a storm enters this box, it will be hard or impossible for you to get or add even a basic home insurance policy.
Also note that most homeowner’s policies in Florida do not include flood coverage, which protects your home from water damage due to a storm surge, heavy rains, or a blocked storm drainage. Check FEMA’s flood risk map online to assess your risk, but keep in mind that it may not always be accurate or up-to-date.
Take the time to inspect your property thoroughly, or hire a professional home inspector with a sharp eye. Maintenance is key to loss prevention. Check for loose roof tiles and other weak structural spots, like missing bolts, rust and so on. If you hire an inspector, you may want to ask them for a Wind Mitigation Report, which may help lower your insurance premium.
Clear your yard, porch or balcony of loose furniture, flowerpots, seasonal decorations, and other things that may turn into dangerous projectiles in high winds. Trim tree branches that are too close to your house or your roof.
Unless you have impact windows and doors or accordion shutters, make sure that all your hurricane shutters are accounted for. Also, check that you have enough of those butterfly nuts for tying down the shutters; they turn into an endangered species right before the storm.
And unless you need a great workout for your fingers, pick up a special wing nut drill bit at the local hardware store. It will make your life so much easier!
And finally, generator safety! Generators may be a great source of power when you need it, but they must be installed by a licensed and certified electrician, who is capable of correctly calculating the power requirements of your home and uses the correct cords and connectors. Never use a generator indoors, even if you think there is proper ventilation. Carbon monoxide is a deadly odorless colorless gas, which kills dozens of people in the U.S. every year. The generator should be placed outside, away from doors and windows, and protected from water.
Evacuating and Post-Storm Safety
“To Go or Not to Go?” That is the question. Is it safer for you and your family to evacuate or to stay and ride out the storm? There are a lot of things to consider, and your decision may depend on the predicted power of the storm, the location and build-type of your house, the condition of your car, the make up of your family (whether or not you have little children or elderly family members), road conditions, budget, friends up north, and so on.
If you decide to stay, make sure you have a list of all emergency telephone numbers. We’ve compiled a downloadable emergency telephone list (mostly, for the Palm Beach County) to get you started but you should update and modify it to fit your personal needs. You also want to make sure your loved ones know your exact whereabouts and where you plan to stay or go. Keeping in close touch with your friends and family before, during and after the storm is important for everyone’s sake.
There are approximately 15 emergency shelters in the Palm Beach County. Identify the one closest to you and map out the best route, incase of an emergency. If you decide to go to a shelter, which should be used as a last resort, be sure to notify your family and friends.
When the storm makes a landfall, unless you’ve been ordered to leave, you’re going to want to stay deep in a well-constructed building, away from windows and doors. Don’t get too curious! Don’t open the doors or window to “just take a quick look.” And don’t try to get famous by shooting a TikTok video. Let the storm pass. Stay inside during the short-lived lull of the hurricane’s eye. Also keep in mind that most hurricanes are often accompanied by powerful tornadoes.
If you decide to evacuate, be prepared!
Collect an evacuation supply kit. Again, we've made a downloadable list that you can use and modify. To highlight some of the most important things on the list, don’t forget to pack:
- Your IDs, credit cards and cash.
- Enough water for an extended trip and non-perishable foods.
- Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take your most important documents with you, especially if you don’t have a flood and fire-resistant safe in your house. These documents may include your passports, wills, immunization records, titles and deeds, financial instruments and investments, and insurance policies.
- Cell phones, chargers, flashlights, and a radio.
- Medications, baby supplies, pet food, and toiletries.
Once the storm passes, be careful when you step outside to assess the damages. There may be downed powerlines. Broken tree branches may pose a hazard over your head.
Tune in to the local radio or TV stations for updates and instructions. Use flashlights in the dark, instead of candles. Safely check for gas leaks and electrical damage, but don’t try to fix any issues yourself. These dangerous tasks are best left to licensed professionals.
Keep in mind that roads may be closed, and there may be a curfew in place. So don’t immediately jump into your car to drive around town. Stay away from waters, as some puddles may be electrically charged.
In general, exercise common sense logic, plan ahead and stay safe! Hurricanes are scary and can be stressful, but a good preparation can take the edge off the hardship and anxiety.
Disclaimer: The materials in this blog and the accompanying video on our YouTube channel and elsewhere are provided for informational purposes only. The authors of this post are not certified by any government agency as disaster preparation or management professionals. For more comprehensive and up-to-date guides, visit www.floridadisaster.org, www.fema.gov, www.nhc.noaa.gov, or www.ready.gov. The presented materials are not meant to provide any medical, legal, or financial advice. Some definitions are partially based on https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutgloss.shtml#t.