Hurricanes: how do you prepare to protect yourself?

Miami and South Florida are bracing for the possibility of a hurricane before the end of September. (EFE/ Yander Zamora) (EFEI0373/)

Sometimes you have to evacuate the area where you are. Other times it is possible to stay at home (or in the hotel or rented apartment if you are visiting) but in very different conditions than normal. The passage of a cyclone, no matter how serious, is a difficult time and warrants take all the precautions you can.

The Tropical Depression Nine moving through the Caribbean has South Florida in the middle of the cone of impact. Given the weather conditions, it is possible that it will gain strength and become a category 3 hurricane, with wind gusts that could exceed 180 km per hour and a volume of water that causes flooding.

It is important that you do a Family plan and that you buy the necessary things for spend several days without electricity, water or telephone; also that you learn to distinguish alerts and emergency notices so as not to scare you unnecessarily. The right time to organize preparations is always the present. There is no need to wait until the last minute, when the supermarkets no longer have water and there are long lines of cars to fill up with gasoline.

General plan for the family

Everyone will need basic supplies: a reserve food, water and medicine. It is likely that you will be left without electricity, which in a few hours means that you will not have water or be able to charge the battery of the phones. Supermarkets and pharmacies will be closed. Streets may be flooded or blocked by fallen trees or traffic signs.

Bottled water on supermarket shelves
A reserve of water, one gallon per person per day of the storm, is the usual preparation. (Wikimedia Commons)

You must have at least a gallon (almost four liters) of water for each person and for each day. For example, if there are two major and two minor in your house and it is estimated that the storm and its consequences could last seven days, you need four gallons a day, a total of 28 gallons (a little more than 100 liters). The water will serve to drink and to sanitize, since there will be no other source.

It will not be possible to cook or keep food fresh or frozen, so it is important to have non-perishable foods: canned fish, shellfish, or chicken; canned vegetables and fruits and others that do not need a refrigerator, such as tomatoes or apples, and can be eaten raw; instant preparations with water; crackers and cookies; pet food, etc.

If your property and your budget allow you to have a Electric generator, it is very important to make sure you have the fuel to operate it. Without a generator, it matters to have all the electronic devices charged to 100% before the storm and count on batteries to keep multiple flashlights and a radio active.

suits save the documents of all family members, and any other role of importance, in a plastic bag, to prevent water from affecting them. The list includes identity documents, passports, medical records or medical indications, property or rental contract, etc.

It is key to verify before the storm that there is a Sufficient supply of all medications of people and pets. Also of the necessary personal or hygiene items.

A stock of non-perishable food is essential to get through the days after the hurricane.  (REUTERS/Bing Guan)
A stock of non-perishable food is essential to get through the days after the hurricane. (REUTERS/Bing Guan) (BING GUAN/)

If you have needs that require special attention, call the hospital, the public health department or the police of the municipality where you are. Seek help early if you or your loved ones are elderly or have a disability that prevents you from getting around quickly.

Do not expect that you will find ATMs: have cash.

Specific issues for the cyclone

Make sure you have all kinds of flashlightsfrom the small ones that are kept in the kitchen to the large ones that light up patios or go camping: you will need emergency lights.

get one battery-operated, solar-powered, hand-cranked radio: without electricity there is no internet and to keep informed about the evolution of the cyclone and the announcements from the authorities you will need this old and effective method.

Hand out the fire extinguisher. It is important that all adults in the family know how to use it. When there are electrical problems (downed wires, for example) due to a storm, there are also fire risks. Also check the battery of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.

Protect doors and windows closing storm shutters; if you don’t have them, you can nail plywood sheets (plywood) on the outer frames. This way you will avoid getting hurt by pieces of broken glass and you will protect the interior of your house against the winds.

Room with emergency light with storm visible in the window
A generator or any type of emergency lights, with their batteries, help to face the power outage that happens with hurricanes.

Known where is the nearest shelter to your home. Study a couple of alternative routes to the most direct to get there.

When the battery of the phone runs out, you will not have access to the contacts, but after several hours without news from your loved ones you will want to call them if you manage to access another charged mobile. Write down all the numbers on a piece of paper. of the people and also the emergency telephone numbers that you may need.

You may want your pet not to be with you in these circumstances. There are local animal shelters, or maybe you have a friend or relative in an area that isn’t at risk of flooding and you’d rather leave her with that person.

Distinguishes a surveillance alert and a warning alert (watch Y warning, respectively), the two types issued by the weather service and repeated by local authorities. Watch alerts are used when there are strong winds, over 74 miles per hour (118 kilometers per hour) in a given area. The warnings, instead, imply something more serious: stronger winds, with hurricane force.

Prepare your car (or let us know if you don’t have one)

Make sure your car is ready before the storm hits: fill the gas tank starting now because the longer you wait, the harder it will be to find fuel and the longer the lines will be.

If possible, you vehicle should be under roof to prevent any object from hitting it. If other family members have vehicles, also make sure they are in a garage or indoors, especially if they won’t be needed in the event of an evacuation.

Miami hurricane evacuation route sign
If the authorities order the evacuation of an area, it is very important to pay attention to them. (NOAA)

Check that you have the car emergency kit. At you can get information on what to include in the kit.

If you don’t have a car, try to make plans with friends or family. in case you need to evacuate your home or neighborhood. You can also call the authorities to pick you up in those circumstances.

when the hurricane comes

Review the emergency plan with your family. Continually check for updated information. You can watch TV, listen to the radio, or search for information online to stay in the loop, at least until the power goes out. Then you will have to appeal to the emergency radio.

Put pets (and other animals, if you’re in a rural area) in a safe and closed place.

If you live in a house, check that there are no objects that could fly away and do damage, either to your property or to that of your neighbors, in open areas. Clear the garden and patio. Put bikes, outdoor furniture, grills, propane tanks, and building materials in storage.

Covering the windows, with shutters or plywood panels, helps reduce the damage caused by a cyclone.  (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)
Covering the windows, with shutters or plywood panels, helps reduce the damage caused by a cyclone. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif) (ADREES LATIF/)

Stay away from windows so you can avoid getting hurt by broken glass or flying debris during the storm. Stay in a room that doesn’t have windows, or go inside a closet, bathroom, or other room that doesn’t open to the outside.

Even if it seems quiet, stay inside if the authorities have ordered it. Do not go out until you see an official message announcing that the hurricane has passed. The weather can calm down and turn severe again quickly.

If your house is flooded, if you see downed power lines or if you have to leave your house, cut the electricity. You need to know in advance where the fuse box is.

If you have to evacuate

Listen to the authorities to know whether you should evacuate or stay home. If you receive an evacuation order, do not ignore it. No matter how strong your home is, it might not withstand the force of a hurricane. It’s not worth risking your safety and that of your family.

You may also be ordered to stay home. If conditions are dangerous to drive, staying home may be safer than leaving. But if you have to evacuate the area where you are, take your emergency kit and only the essentials: phone, charger, passport or driver’s license, medicines and cash.

If you have enough time, unplug appliances and turn off gas, electricity and water.

Follow evacuation routes recommended by emergency workers, even if there is traffic: the others could be blocked or flooded. Never drive through a flooded area: water currents as little as 15 centimeters deep have the ability to stop or drag cars.


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