Hurricane Threatens Home

Problem: Major hurricane is heading toward your location, bringing dangerous winds, floods, and storm surges.

Background: While hurricanes are relatively rare events at any one location, none of the United States coastal areas is immune. Hurricanes are tropical cyclones in which winds reach speeds of 74 miles per hour or more, and blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center (the eye of the hurricane). Near the center counter clockwise rotating winds may gust to more than 200 miles per hour. Hurricanes that strike the eastern United States originate in the tropical and subtropical North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Most occur in August, September, and October, but the 6-month period from June 1 to November 30 is considered the Atlantic hurricane season. An aver age of six Atlantic hurricanes occur each year, and drift gradually to the west-northwest. Initially the storms move forward very slowly in the tropics (about 15 miles per hour), in creasing in forward speed to some times more than 50 miles per hour.

What to do: Collect and read government and community literature about safety measures. When a hurricane threatens, you need to decide whether to evacuate or to ride out the storm at home. If local authorities recommend evacuation, leave! Their advice is based on their knowledge of the storm’s strength and its potential for death and destruction. In general, plan to leave if you live on the coastline or offshore islands, if you live in a mobile home, or if you live near a river or in a flood plain.
Make plans before the hurricane season (June). Learn the storm surge history and elevation of your area.
Determine safe routes inland, the location of official shelters, and where to move your boat (if you have one) in an emergency. Trim back dead wood from trees, check for loose rain gutters and downspouts. If shutters on your home don’t protect windows, keep boards on hand to nail over the windows and cover the glass. When a hurricane watch is sued for your area, check often for official bulletins on radio, TV, or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Ad ministration (NOAA) weather radio. Fuel your car, check mobile home tie-downs, moor or move your small craft to safe shelter, and stock up on canned goods. Also check your sup ply of special medicines and drugs and batteries for radios and flash lights. Secure lawn furniture and other loose outdoor items. Tape, board, or shutter windows, and wedge sliding glass doors to prevent them from lifting out of their tracks.
When a hurricane warning is sued for your area, stay tuned to radio, TV, or NOAA weather radio for official bulletins. Leave if you are in a mobile home, or if officials advise. Leave in daylight if possible, shut off water and power at mains; take small valuables and papers but travel light. Leave food and water for pets, lock up the home and drive carefully to the nearest designated shelter using the recommended evacuation routes. If you stay home, board up garage and porch doors, move valuables to upper floors, and bring pets inside. Fill containers and bathtub with a supply of water for drinking. Turn the temperature control in the refrigerator to coldest set ting and don’t open unnecessarily. Use the phone for emergencies only.

Special advice: After the all-clear is announced, drive carefully and watch for dangling electrical wires, weakened roads and bridges, and flooded low spots. Avoid downed power lines and any water in which they may be lying, as well as weakened tree limbs or damaged overhanging boards. Watch for poisonous snakes, which may have been driven from their dens by high water. Don’t go sightseeing. Report broken or damaged water, sewer, and electrical lines. Avoid using the phone any more than absolutely necessary (the system will likely be jammed with calls). Use caution when re-entering your home. Check for gas leaks (don’t use any flames for light) by smelling for any gas like odor, and check food and water for spoilage. Don’t drink or prepare food with tap water until you are sure it is not contaminated. For more tips on re-entering your home.

Helpful hint: Beware of the “eye” of the storm. If the eye of the hurricane passes over your area, be aware that the improved weather conditions are temporary, and that the storm conditions will return—sometimes in a few seconds—with winds that come from the opposite direction.

Flood Threatens Home

Problem: Floodwater threatens the family, the home and its contents, and the community.

Background: In flood situations, the safety of your family is the most important consideration. Since flood water can rise very rapidly, you should be prepared to evacuate be fore the water level reaches your property. Before a flood threatens, learn the safest route from your home or office to high, safe ground should you need to evacuate in a hurry. Also keep a portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, and flashlights in working order.

What to do: Tune a battery-powered radio to a local station, and follow all emergency instructions. If you’re caught in the house by suddenly rising water, move to the second floor and, if necessary, to the roof. Take warm clothing, a flashlight and a portable radio with you. Then wait for help; don’t try to swim to safety. Rescue teams will be looking for you. When outside, remember that floods are deceptive. Try to avoid flooded areas, and don’t attempt to walk through floodwater that is more than knee deep.
If (and only if) time permits, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. Don’t touch any wet electrical equipment. Move valuable papers and possessions to upper floors or higher elevations. Fill tubs, sinks and buckets with clean water, in case regular supplies are contaminated. (You can sanitize these containers by first rinsing with bleach.) Board up windows, or protect them with storm shutters or tape to pre vent broken glass from flying. Bring in outdoor possessions that might be swept away, or tie them down securely.

If it’s safe to evacuate by car, stock the car with non-perishable foods (like canned goods), a plastic container of water, blankets, first aid kit, flashlights, dry clothing and any special medication needed by your family members. Keep the gas tank at least half full since gas pumps won’t be working if electricity gets cut off. Don’t drive where water is over the roads; parts of the road may already be washed out. If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it if you can do so safely since flood water can rise rapidly and sweep a car and its occupants away. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.

Special advice: If you live in a frequently flooded area, keep materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber on hand to use to protect your property. Sandbags should not be stacked directly against the outer walls of a building since they can create added pressure on the foundation when they are wet. Also check about eligibility for flood insurance offered through the National Flood Insurance Program. Generally there is a 5-day waiting period before a policy goes into effect, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

Helpful hint: Make an itemized list of personal property (photos are helpful) to assist an adjuster in settling claims and to help prove un insured losses, which are tax deductible. Keep your insurance policies and a list of personal property in a safe place outside your home, such as a safety deposit box. Know the name and location of the agents who issued these policies. (For more information on what to do after a flood.

Earthquake Threatens Home

Problem: Home is in earthquake area, or is threatened by earthquake.

Background: Accurate predictions of earthquakes cannot be made. In the United States, earthquakes occur most often in the western states, but can occur at widely scattered locations across the country. Most casual ties result from falling objects and debris, and are caused by partial building collapse, flying glass, over turned fixtures and other furniture and appliances, fires from broken chimneys or broken gas lines, fallen power lines, and drastic actions taken in moments of panic. Consider the suggestions below for measures you can take before and during an earth quake. If your home has suffered earthquake damage.

What to do: Besides supporting community efforts to prepare for an earthquake, check your home for earthquake hazards. Bolt down or provide other strong support for water heaters and other gas appliances, because fires can result from broken gas lines and appliance connections. (Use flexible connections wherever possible.) Put large, heavy objects on lower shelves and securely fasten shelves to walls. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects. When building or remodeling, always follow codes to minimize earth quake hazards.
Keep a flashlight and battery- powered radio in the home, ready for use at all times. Keep family immunizations up to date. Show your family how to turn off electricity, gas, and water at main switches and valves. Hold occasional home earth quake drills so your family knows how to avoid injury and how to remain level-headed during an earth quake. Also have responsible family members receive first aid instruction because medical facilities may be overloaded immediately following a severe earthquake (check with your local Red Cross for training seminars).

Special advice: During an earth quake, try to remain calm, reassure others and think through the consequences of any action. If indoors, watch for falling plaster, bricks, light fixtures, and other objects such as high bookcases, cabinets, and shelves or other furniture that might slide or topple. Stay away from windows, mirrors, and chimneys. If in danger, crawl under a table, desk, or bed; move to a corner away from windows; or stand in a strong doorway.
Usually it is best not to run outside.
However, when outside, avoid high buildings, walls, power poles, and other objects that could fall. Don’t run through the streets. If possible, move to an open area away from hazards. If you are in a car, stop in the safest place available, preferably an open area.

Helpful hint: If an earthquake strikes while you are in a high-rise building, get under a desk. Don’t dash for exits because stairways may be broken and jammed with people, and power for elevators may fail. In crowded stores, don’t rush for a doorway since hundreds of others may have the same idea. If you must leave, choose your exit carefully.