The governor of Florida has declared a state of emergency for each county in the state ahead of Hurricane Irma’s expected landfall on Friday. Residents of the state are being urged to keep an eye on local weather reports as well as the forecasted path for the storm. The hurricane was upgraded to Category 5 on Tuesday and it is expected to maintain its strength through the week. It’s already being called the strongest storm on record outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Irma has sustained 185 miles per hour wind speeds; for comparison, Hurricane Katrina only reached 175 mph.
Residents of Florida are advised to take the proper precautions and to prepare for the impending landfall. Irma is expected to be one of the strongest storms of the century (at the very least) and, if predictions are correct, widespread devastation may occur. The American Red Cross has released a preparedness checklist to help residents of the state and the lower East Coast get ready for the storm.
1. Make a plan and discuss it with your family. You should know where the local evacuation centers are and how you will get there. Make more than one plan in the event that one route is blocked. You and your family should also have a plan in place for where you will meet should you become separated.
2. Charge portable battery packs. Your cell phone will only remain charged for so long. Charge portable battery packs so that you can keep your phone charged. It could be your only way to communicate with friends and family members should the power go out.
3. Make copies of important documents and put them in a safe place. In the likely event that your city floods, even a safety deposit box may not be enough. If you need quick access to your documents you may not be able to get to them. Take photos with your cell phone. Take a picture of your driver’s license, birth certificate and other identifying documents. Do this for each member of your family. You may also want to take pictures of your insurance documents.
4. Load any important information or digital documents onto a flash drive and hook the drive to your keychain. Be sure to include pertinent medical information for yourself and family members who may be with you escaping the storm.
5. Use a battery-operated radio to listen to NOAA radio broadcasts. You can find an app on the Apple Store or Google Play. NOAA will keep you updated on the latest and most pertinent storm information for your locality.
6. Make a plan for your pets. You should put together a pet emergency kit and make a plan for where they will shelter. If your pets are not welcome into a shelter with your human family members, know where you will take them.
7. Prepare your home by nailing one-half inch marine plywood over doors and windows. Store outdoor furniture inside and place important items on the highest floors or in the attic. This by no means guarantees their safety, but items on the ground level and first floors are more likely to be damaged. Keep in mind that a typical homeowners insurance policy does not protect you from flood damage. Contact your insurance agent today to find out if it is too late to purchase a flood rider.
When landfall is imminent, you should be prepared to evacuate. Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest instructions and updates. If you are not forced to evacuate, take the time to fill the tub and all sinks with water. This will give you water to use to flush the toilet and wash yourself and clothing. Turn off small appliances and unplug them.
Make sure any companion animals are in the home and being supervised by yourself or a family member. Dogs should be kept on leashes and cats in carriers. Small animals should also be kept secure. This will help to ensure they do not run out of a door or window that is unsecured.
If you do not evacuate, remain indoors. Avoid the use of candles; stick to flashlights to provide a source of light. Keep the radio tuned to NOAA or a local station. Stay out of floodwater, as it will likely be contaminated. If you are instructed to do so, turn off your utilities and unplug major appliances.
A hurricane is something that can be survived if you are prepared. Follow the tips above to help ensure that you are as prepared as possible for the impending storm.