This week as Hurricane Earl threatens the east coast, Virginians will be preparing their homes and families for the impact of heavy winds and rain. After the storm, many could be faced with the reality of a wind-damaged business or a home basement saturated in water. While we don't know what the true course or impact of the storm will be, being prepared before and after can help you and your family better respond.
The Virginia Evacuation Coordination Team for Operational Response, along with the Virginia Department of Transportation, has created preparedness videos on hurricane evacuations and emergency supplies that can be viewed on YouTube or at www.ReadyVirginia.gov. You can keep Dominion Power's toll free number, (888) 667-3000, on hand to report outages or downed lines. In addition, I have compiled a list of resources to help you this week before, during, and after the hurricane.
BEFORE THE HURRICANE HITS…
Evacuate or Stay Put. Listen to the local authorities via your local radio or television and follow their guidance. If you have not been asked to evacuate, determine whether your home or work is safe. You can follow these guidelines from Ready.gov.
Secure Your Home. There are steps you can take to make your home more secure and able to withstand stronger storms. FEMA recommends taking the following steps:
- Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
- Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
- Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
- Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
- Determine how and where to secure your boat.
Subscribe to alert services. Many communities have developed systems that will send text messages or emails alerting you to local emergencies or bad weather. Check the community information page to find ways that you can be alerted for hurricane situations.
Know the terms. Familiarize yourself with the terms used to help identify hurricane hazards, like storm surge, tropical storm, storm tides, and more.
Create an emergency supply kit. Ready.gov recommends including the following items in your emergency supply kit. Homes with senior citizens should also include medications, medical records, and personal items such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchair batteries and other appropriate supplies.
- One gallon of water per person per day for three days
- A three-day supply of non-perishable food. Also pack a manual can opener and eating utensils
- Battery-powered radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities in your home
- Local maps
DURING THE STORM…
When the storm begins to hit, you should take the following precautions from FEMA.gov:
- Listen to the radio or TV for information.
- Secure your home, close storm shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
- Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
- Turn off propane tanks. Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
- Moor your boat if time permits.
- Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
AFTER THE HURRICANE…
Coping with power outages. This site from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights healthy steps you should take to ensure food, water, and home safety after an extended power outage. Tips on the site address everything from guidelines on what to do with food in your freezer or refrigerator, to water purification procedures, to carbon monoxide poisoning protection.
Servicing your septic system. Once storm waters have receded, there are several things homeowners should consider regarding their septic systems. This site from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers frequently asked questions and answers on servicing septic systems after flooding. The site also includes links to contact information if assistance is needed from local health departments.
Managing flooding and mold. This site from the Environmental Protection Agency is dedicated to providing information on cleaning up your home or office after a storm that has resulted in flooding, including addressing standing water and wet materials. The site offers basic information on addressing viruses, bacteria, and mold that can occur in the wake of a flood.
Removing fallen branches and trees. The CDC provides tips to help safeguard against injury as a result of removing fallen or partially fallen trees and tree branches, including information on properly using chainsaws in hazardous conditions.
Saving family treasures. These guidelines from The National Archives will walk you through preserving some of your family’s most treasured items that may have been damaged by flood waters. The guidelines range in topics from what do to with wet records, to salvaging family papers, to properly air-drying books, to caring for water damaged heirlooms.