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7 must-do steps for hurricane disaster preparation, recovery

From gathering necessities to understanding the hazards once the winds have ceased, these seven steps will ensure your community is prepared for a major storm

Hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, with a peak from mid-August through late October. For coastal areas traditionally impacted by hurricanes in the U.S., it鈥檚 important that people prepare well in advance of these storms.

From gathering necessities to understanding the hazards once the winds have ceased, these seven steps will ensure your community is prepared for a major storm.

[Fill out the form on this page to download a copy of these guidelines to keep with you and share with your community.]

1. Know the safest place in your house

Planning is crucial. Prior to a storm, the National Weather Service (NWS) recommends covering windows with either permanent storm shutters or plywood 鈥 both of which should be considered prior to a storm watch or warning.
During a hurricane, the NWS encourages residents to seek shelter in an interior room, and to put 鈥渁s many walls between you and the outside as you can.鈥

You should also stay away from windows, skylights and glass doors.

2. Have a getaway plan

If you are in the path of a hurricane, you should know what you will do in the event you are ordered to evacuate. Do you have family further inland you can stay with? Do you have money for a hotel? Is there a shelter available for evacuees?

Visit the Red Cross for a list of available shelters by state, and PetsWelcome.com for the closest pet-friendly shelters by state.

3. Safeguard important documents

Technology has made this once-difficult part of disaster planning much easier.

Make digital copies: All important documents and photos should be scanned and uploaded to a cloud service that allows you access from anywhere. This includes:

  • Insurance policies
  • Passports
  • Medical records
  • Licenses
  • Birth certificates
  • Financial records
  • Personal and pet medical records

Protect the physical items: Purchase waterproof containers to store hard copies of important documents and place them in the designated safe spot in your home.

  • UL Classified to endure 1/2 hour at 1550掳F
  • ETL Verified for 72 hours of water submersion
  • Made to withstand temperatures up to 5,200鈩
  • 15.15"x11.22"x4.33"
  • Good for go-bags
  • 4-layer protection includes a silicon-coated fiberglass exterior and an aluminized fiberglass interior

4. Understand the risk of floodwaters

The biggest hazard of a hurricane may not be the winds and force of the storm itself, but the flooding it could bring. Floodwaters contain contaminants and pose a significant risk to public health.

鈥淔loodwater mixes with everything below it,鈥 Dr. Richard Bradley, chief of the division of emergency medical services and disaster medicine at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said in an interview with Time Magazine. 鈥淚f it covers a field with pesticides, it picks up the pesticides. It can also carry animal waste from fields and forests.鈥

Avoid floodwaters if possible, and take these precautions:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Do not let children play in floodwaters
  • Wear safety equipment when cleaning up after floodwaters, such as gloves and a surgical mask
  • Seek medical attention for any infections or symptoms such as upset stomach or diarrhea

Finally, keep pets from drinking floodwaters, as the contaminants can cause health issues for them, as well. A study of cats and dogs following Hurricane Katrina found that many of the animals were positive for infectious diseases.

5. Watch out for mold

Where there is water, there is the potential for mold. Mildew (early mold) and molds can grow on:

  • Wood products
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Cardboard
  • Wallpaper
  • Carpets
  • Drywall
  • Fabric
  • Plants
  • Foods
  • Insulation

Mold can begin growing within 24-48 hours of water exposure and it will continue to grow unless steps are taken to stop it.

Follow FEMA鈥檚 guide, 鈥Dealing with Mold & Mildew in your Flood Damaged Home,鈥 for how to address mold issues after a hurricane.

6. Check for damage

Hurricanes with winds in excess of 157 mph are considered to be Category 5 storms, and are known for the incredible damage they inflict on communities. However, even Category 1 hurricanes, with wind speeds starting 74 mph, are capable of causing property damage.

After a storm, check the outside of your home for missing shingles, damaged siding or loose gutters. Inspect trees for broken limbs and ensure power lines remain intact.

7. Expect potential for emotional pain

Regardless of the amount of damage or the size of the storm, experiencing a hurricane can be emotionally and mentally challenging. The loss of valuables, the cost of repairs, the stress of evacuating and the worry over loved ones make natural disasters difficult to deal with.

Check with local and state websites for resources, and take things one step at a time.

This article, originally published in July 2020, has been updated.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of FireRescue1.com and 91视频.com. In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor鈥檚 degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.