Written by Noah Sanders, M.D./M.P.H. candidate at the Miller School of Medicine, with Julie Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H., and Oneith Cadiz, M.D.
As a Florida native, I understand the importance of respecting hurricanes and the massive impact that they can have. I still remember Hurricanes Katrina, Michael, and Charley and the devastating aftermath many communities faced. As a child during hurricane Charley, I remember our whole house losing power for a few days and our backyard and streets outside flooding. I even lost my turtle during that storm because our koi pond overflowed. Despite the craziness, I knew I was safe because my parents always had a plan.
The beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane Season has arrived. It runs from June until the end of November every year.
As Floridians, hurricanes are nothing new to us, but it is still always important to be prepared for the season. If you have never experienced a hurricane before, then remember it is essential to plan ahead.
Hurricanes can be one of mother nature’s most destructive forces.
They are storms of high-speed winds and rain that move in a large spiral. The faster the wind, the more dangerous they are. When they reach land, hurricanes are destructive because they cause fast winds, lots of rain (which causes floods), and sometimes even tornados. Thankfully, the weather reports help us know when these storms are coming our way. According to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, a hurricane warning is issued 48 hours before when a hurricane forming is possible. In contrast, a hurricane watch is issued 36 hours before a hurricane is expected. However, you can prepare for a hurricane far in advance of any storm.
At the start of hurricane season
It’s best to make a plan that involves the whole family. To prepare for the hazards of a hurricane, you should do these four things at the start of hurricane season well before a storm:
Know how your home might be at risk for damage from winds and flooding and prepare to strengthen it.
- For example, install hurricane-proof window covers or be ready to put up shutters or boards to cover any exposed windows and sliding glass doors.
- Find out if you live in an evacuation zone. If you do, plan ahead for where you would go in case of a storm. Know if you are in an evacuation zone and have an evacuation route planned.
Prepare your disaster kit with enough supplies to last at least a week. Kids can even help you put some of the hurricane supplies together. This can be a great way to teach them the importance of each part of the disaster supply kit. This should include:
- At least a gallon of drinking water per person, per day
- Nonperishable foods (canned/pantry food, peanut butter, bread, granola bars)
- Walkie talkies or solar-powered battery, charger, and smartphone
- First aid and any medications needed for specific family members
- Battery-powered radio
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Matches and candles
- One month supply of medications (stored safely away from other supplies and the reach of children)
- Supplies for your baby, such as diapers, formula, etc.
- Toys and calming items for your children
A more in-depth disaster supply kit can be found at healthychildren.org.
Write and review your Family Emergency Plan with your close friends and family before the storm hits. A good family emergency plan includes how to contact each other, where to go, what to do in an emergency.
This step is especially crucial for kids so they can learn important skills such as when to call 911 and also plan in the event that you get separated during a disaster.
For more information on creating an emergency plan, visit ready.gov.
Before the Storm:
Keep track of the storm from reliable sources like the FEMA app or your local television or radio station
- Fill up your car’s gas tank
- Remove loose objects, tree branches, and debris
- Board up any windows and sliding glass doors
- Check and replenish your disaster supply kit
- Store valuables and essential documents in a disaster-proof safe or outside your home in a secure location
- Evacuate if you are told to do so (Text SHELTER and a zip code to 43362 to find an open shelter near you)
- Have some cards and games or books ready. It’s important to have fun and have activities planned for your kids to do while sheltering at home.
During the Storm:
- Continue to monitor the hurricane progress (have a battery-powered radio/tv handy)
- Turn refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and remember only to open it when necessary, in case you lose power
- Close and brace all house doors and remain inside
- Be prepared for the possibility of losing electricity and running water
- Talk with children about any fears or feelings they are experiencing
After the Storm:
- Listen for updates through the local or federal news/radio for updates and instructions
- Avoid floodwaters. They can have dangerous debris and bacteria
- Check with your family on how everyone is feeling
- Once the storm has passed, begin cleanup and repairs
To learn about more pediatrician-approved ways to keep your family safe during this hurricane season, visit healthychildren.org or ready.gov or contact the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Miami, a program supported by The Children’s Trust, at 305-243-9080.
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