The loss of life? That’s a different story.
Last week we were threatened by Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm that wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and our southeast coast, including much loss of life. Of course, the path of any storm is not predictable with 100% certainty, hence the “cone” of possible directions a storm might take. Any time our area is in the cone we should, as the saying goes, hope for the best – but prepare for the worst.
Have we learned from Sandy? I pray that we have. When a Hurricane Watch becomes a Hurricane Warning we should use this time wisely. We should take stock of our vulnerability and make preparations for the worst case scenario – even if it means facing the uncertainty of evacuation.
Coastal communities have designated hurricane evacuation zones based on their risk for storm surge and flooding. Before a tropical storm or hurricane hits, city officials may ask you to evacuate if you live or work in one of these zones. When you know your zone, you and your family will know when to evacuate. If you are not sure that you’re in such a zone, New York City has a hurricane evacuation finder here.
If you are required to evacuate, it is recommended that you shelter at the home of friends or family outside of the evacuation area. If you wish to go to a public facility, select any evacuation center from those listed on the hurricane page and click for travel directions. Before you leave make sure you secure your home: close and lock windows and doors, and unplug appliances. Wear sturdy shoes and comfortable, protective clothing, such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Prepare a Go-Bag of essential items and important documents – see the list below - to take with you.
Hurricanes can cause extended power outages, flooding, and blocked roads. If you not asked to evacuate and are sheltering in place, you should:
· Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (bicycles, lawn furniture, etc.).
· Close your windows, doors and hurricane shutters, if you have them. Most folks don’t in our area, so if you have sufficient warning and the means and ability to do so, windows and doors with plywood.
· Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting. Keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.
You should build an emergency kit in case you lose power or can’t go to a store. Make sure your kit includes:
· Bottled water
· Shelf-stable food
· A radio and extra batteries
· A first-aid kit and sanitation items
· Important documents and records
· Medication and medical supplies
· Pet food and pet items
It’s important to have a communications plan so you can stay in touch with worried loved ones who may not live in the area, and make sure that each family member has a list of important phone numbers. It’s also a good idea to designate one out-of-area friend or relative as the point person for everyone to call and check in with. Things are a lot less stressful if people know who’s safe.
Make sure your emergency plans are tailored to all of your family members and their needs, including seniors, children, individuals with medical needs, and people with disabilities – and by all means stay informed! As the storm approaches, and for as long as you have the means to do so, monitor media reports and follow instructions from public safety officials.
The destruction of property during any significant storm may be unavoidable – a house can’t simply be moved out of the danger zone - but property can be replaced. The loss of human life, however, IS avoidable by making sure one gets out of harm’s way. And a human life, of course, can never be replaced.