Emergency Preparedness

Safety During Severe Weather Depends on you

With the summer Atlantic hurricane season upon us, now is a good time to review storm emergency preparation procedures and to assemble the necessary supplies to sustain you and your family should your area be hit by devastating winds, rains and flooding.  For those who do not live in the likely path of a hurricane, many of the below measures are also useful in other emergency situations, such as in the immediate aftermath of a tornado, earthquake or tsunami.

First off, pay attention to local and national weather forecasts and follow the advice of local officials.  Do not leave your safety to chance, as you risk death or serious personal injury if you fail to take the precautions issued by public safety personnel.  This is especially true if you delay evacuation when told to do so.  First responders also need to watch for their own personal safety and are instructed not to enter certain zones or to respond to hard hit areas until their own safety can be reasonably assured.  This means that if you fail to evacuate, you may be without assistance once the storm bears down hard.

In the 72 hours before the arrival of a hurricane or tropical storm, assemble those items essential for survival and those necessary to provide nutrition and a source of light for you and your family if you remain in your home.  You can also accumulate these items and store them year round, preferably on an upper floor or in a high cabinet or shelf.  Specifically, ensure to have adequate, non-perishable food supplies, such as canned goods, sealed or vacuum packed items, such as dried fruits, granola or protein bars and fresh fruit that requires no refrigeration for extended periods, like apples or oranges.  Paper plates and napkins, disposable plastic silverware as well as a manual can opener will be necessary.  Personal hygiene supplies, including moist towelettes, should be stocked.  A gallon of water (approximately four litres) per day, per person will be essential.

If you have domestic animals or livestock, prepare an adequate food supply for them as well.

Flashlights and batteries will be required, as electrical power will likely be cut.  Ensure to have a basic tool kit in order to shut off the gas supply to your residence-this needs to be done before the storm hits and creates a gas leak.  Make a checklist of all medications needed by you and your family members and refill prescriptions in the days preceding the storm, if possible.  A well-stocked first aid kit should be purchased or you can assemble the items separately.  Have a local map handy in case you are required to relocate using alternate routes.   Solar powered lanterns and cell phone chargers will come in handy.  It’s also a good idea to have a few pairs of heavy-duty work gloves in your emergency kit.  Make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas.  Do not transport containers of gasoline in your trunk or passenger compartment of a vehicle as the volatile liquid can explode even in a minor crash.  Fuel tanks are insulated to reduce the risk of explosion.

Remember to communicate your evacuation plans in advance to a family member or friend who resides outside of the area affected by the storm.  This simple measure will allow someone who is not affected by the disaster to alert authorities of your possible location should they be unable to locate you.  You should also designate an assembly meeting point for you and your family in case you become separated during the storm.

For those travelling or contemplating travel, remember that your safety is not worth the risk.  If you can possibly defer travel, do so.  Most airlines and other travel service providers will refund your money or rebook you at no cost if a severe weather event is predicted in the area where you will be travelling.  They do not want the liability that could be incurred by transporting you to an area under severe threat and they do not want to risk the loss or damage to their aircraft or ship.  Hotels have all-contingency emergency evacuation and shelter-in-place plans at the ready, as do cruise ships.  Follow the instructions of the trained staff.  Although your hotel may provide some degree of protection from the elements, it becomes quite uncomfortable after a few days without heat or AC, not to mention the diet of ready to eat meals and the lack of reliable toilets or showers.

In tornado zones specifically, be sure to identify a below ground shelter area in the vicinity of your home if your home does not have a basement or cellar.  Your local Red Cross, state police or other first responders will have a list of safe locations identified and prepared for use.  If you are uncertain of where to go, contact local authorities before the storm for guidance.

Evacuation in severe weather is a difficult, dangerous and often traumatic experience.  This can be made a little easier if you take the time to prepare in advance of a potentially life-threatening situation.  You will not likely have the presence of mind to remember all the essential items to sustain you and your family if you postpone getting ready until severe weather is imminent.

Listen to emergency personnel.  Take measures in advance.  Protect yourself and your family.

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