EMS Guide to Hurricane Preparation 2017: Keep Your Family Safe!

Editor’s note: we first ran this post September 26, 2016.  In light of  this year’s unprecedented hurricane season – and hopefully in time to help those of you in hurricane Irma’s path better prepare to weather the storm – we decided to run it again.  Be safe everyone!

girl_under_umbrella_hurricaneWe are barely into September and already dead in the middle of hurricane season. While the thought of being in hurricane season may not concern most people, the thought of getting ready for a hurricane can cause some worry and panic if left to the last minute.  The long lines, the financial cost, and finally the letdown when yet another hurricane comes and goes and turns out to be nothing more than a windy, rainy day has made properly preparing for hurricanes a bother and an afterthought. I realize that hurricanes, unlike earthquakes can take days and sometimes weeks to happen and give ample time to prepare, but the fact remains that proper preparation and planning can avoid putting you and your family in danger both during and after a storm.

As an EMS provider, I would like to share with you some of the basic hurricane preparation tips that we tell people and also share with you some of the issues that I have seen in the aftermath of storms and weather events.

INSIDE YOUR HOME.

  • How many people will you be preparing for? Will it be just the people in the house or will there be extended family or grandparents as well.   Preparing for four people and housing more will deplete supplies very quickly.
  • Do the people in the plan have special needs, handicaps or medications that need to be filled? What about medical devices that require power?  Beds, oxygen tanks, breathing machines, asthma machines etc.  All need to be considered.
  • If you have a baby or small child, do you have an ample supply of diapers, formula, medication, clothing etc.
  • Food and water. Buying nonperishable food is recommended, and having at least a 3 day supply is recommended as well. How will we cook the food?   Propane tanks should be filled and ready, does a barbecue need to be purchased or brought inside?    Refrigerators and freezers should be set very low to preserve food in times of power loss.   Enough water should be purchased to keep people hydrated during times of power loss and no air conditioning to avoid any heat or dehydration issues.  Water should also be considered for cooking needs as well.
  • Do you have enough batteries to power devices? Do you have a power generator in the event of a loss of power for an extended amount of time?  There are many different sizes depending on your power needs.  Do you have gas for your generator?  When storing any type of fuel, please do so in a well ventilated area and not in the living area as fumes may be toxic.  NEVER RUN YOUR GENERATOR IN OR NEAR THE LIVING AREA. Carbon monoxide from the exhaust can be fatal.  The generator or any motorized device should be run outside, in a well ventilated area, well away from where people are gathered or living.    Do you have extension cords to run into your home from the generator?  Make sure you buy properly rated cords or you could risk a fire starting from overheating of the cords.
  • All pets should be brought in during the storm and enough food and water should be on hand for the pet inside the home.  Will there be different pets in the house and could that cause problems?  Do the pets take any medication that need to be filled before the storm?  Do any of the people staying in your home have any pet allergies? And will this be a possible issue?
  • First Aid supplies. During a storm, EMS providers and fire trucks cannot go outside once the winds hit a certain miles per hour and may prevent us from responding to your home in an emergency.  Having a basic first aid kit and supplies such as band aids, gauze, ice packs, ace bandages etc. will help in times of delayed response by EMS.

OUTSIDE YOUR HOME

  • Patio items. Are there any items that may fly way during a storm?  Patio furniture, above ground pools, Barbecues, boats, golf carts etc..  If it can be brought inside then it is recommended, but if it cannot then secure it the best you can or try to find an alternate storage site.
  • Securing your home. Do you have impact windows and doors?   If not, then are there any hurricane shutters that need to be put up?  Do you own hurricane shutters?  If not there are places that sell them in standard sizes.  Do we have any lingering roof or window issues that may worsen during a heavy rain and wind event?   A little drip can turn into a lot more very quickly.    Do you have a flooding issue around your home?   Sandbags may need to be filled and placed as well.
  • Vehicles can get severely damaged when left outside in a storm.  If you have nowhere to store your vehicle then I recommend pulling it as close to the building as possible to avoid as much exposure as possible and it can provide some protection to the structure as well.   Having the vehicles fully fueled beforehand is recommended in case of emergency and also to avoid the long lines at the gas station that always result.
  • Sheds and outside storage. In hurricane Andrew here in south Florida, there were numerous reports of tool sheds being sent air born and the tools inside become very sharp and dangerous projectiles in the process.   Please secure sheds and storage as much as possible and bring tools inside if possible.
  • Items attached to the home. Any items on the roof such as turbines or whether devices can be ripped off leaving very large holes in the roof and should be removed and capped if possible.    Below ground pools should be lowered to avoid damage to the pool as well as the overflowing possible causing flooding towards the home.

For those of you in Florida today – September 8, 2017 – as well as those of you who may find yourselves in similar situations throughout this hurricane season:
Please listen for, and act on evacuation orders. These orders are given after careful consideration and many meetings with informed people. Deadly flood surges are expected in areas of south Florida. So please heed the evacuation orders given by the mayor.

Being 100% prepared for a hurricane truly depends on your needs and the needs of those around you.  The list of possibilities is endless but the basics are not.  What things do YOU and YOUR FAMILY need to survive on a daily basis?  Is a question that should be asked, and contrary to your kid’s beliefs, internet is not one of them.   The basic essentials of shelter, food, water, and medicines trump all else.  The overall list can be long and daunting and looks much worse when done at the last minute.  But having the essentials on hand at the beginning of hurricane season leaves time to accomplish everything else thus making that list not so bad. Having been born and raised here in South Florida and gone through hurricane Andrew, I can tell you firsthand that the supplies we had made all the difference and it will for you as well.   I hope this list has served as a guide and a good place to start for you.

Thank You

About the Author

Greg Atwood is a Firefighter /Paramedic in Coral Gables Florida and works for the Coral Gables Fire Rescue. He is an American Heart Association certified instructor in BLS ( Basic Life Support ), ACLS ( Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support ), and PALS ( Pediatric Advanced Life Support ). Greg currently lives in Miami Florida with his beautiful wife Alexa and their 2 sons, Connor and Jake. Greg is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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