More than one million people have been ordered to evacuate regions of the Eastern seaboard today as Hurricane Florence steams her way toward Virginia and the Carolinas. The category four hurricane is expected to make landfall Thursday evening, at which time it may escalate to a category five storm.
Evacuating from the path of a hurricane is a daunting task for anyone. But some people with disabilities face extra hurdles that can make that evacuation extra challenging. If you live in the path of hurricane Florence, please take some time to make sure you’re stocked up on supplies, that you’ve prepared yourself and your family with adequate information regarding your plans, and that you’ve made accommodations for any mobility issues that may hinder your safe evacuation.
Have a Plan
Getting out of the path of a hurricane is never as simple as hopping in your car and driving. Evacuations are prone to accidents and traffic jams as people scurry toward safety.
You can’t really anticipate what roads might be closed, and if you’re running behind and evacuating as the storm begins to make landfall, there are other considerations, too, like flooding, downed trees, etc.
Some people plot out a a single route for their evacuations. And while that’s better than having no plan at all, it’s even wiser to have two to four different routes you can take to reach safety.
It also helps to have some broad idea of where you’re going. Most of us stay with family or friends during natural disasters, but you’ll want to look at the storm’s path and be sure your destination isn’t inside that path.
It’s also a good idea to clearly mark out directions to hospitals, alternative destinations in case you can’t reach the one you’re hoping for, and to try and gather whatever information you can on accessibility issues you might face where you’re going if mobility barriers exist.
If you’ve ever been in a grocery store during a disaster, chances are you’ve seen people buying a lot of random supplies. People tend to panic when storms are approaching. They’ll go to the grocery store and end up buying a lot of useless stuff, because they don’t take a few moments to prepare.
Take some time to write a sensible list of items you need. Keep it relatively simple and stick to the basics. The government’s ready.gov site suggests the following basic disaster supplies:
- One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days
- A three day supply of non-perishable foods. Examples of non-perishables include canned goods (veggies, fruits, tuna, soup, chili, etc.), applesauce, fruit cups, granola bars, crackers, peanut butter, trail mix, powdered milk, etc.; food that won’t go bad quickly)
- A battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert
- A first aid kit
- A whistle to signal for help
- Dusk masks
- Moist towelettes, hand sanitizer, garbage bags and zip ties
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener
- Local and regional maps, on paper
- Cell phone chargers and a battery backup for them
- Books, comics, games, or something else that can keep yourself and your children occupied while waiting out the storm
You will also need to make sure any and all prescriptions are filled and ready to be taken with you, and it’s always wise to stock up on non-prescription meds — painkillers, antacids, cold and flu meds, laxatives, etc. — as well.
The “Bug Out Bag”
If you’re not currently sitting in the path of Hurricane Florence, you should note that there’s no better day than today than to prepare yourself and your family for a natural disaster.
It’s highly recommended that you create a “bug out bag.” This is a backpack or duffel bag containing many of the aforementioned supplies, which is kept in a safe, cool, dry, and easily-accessible place. Avoid the temptation to keep this bag in your vehicle, as it may not be accessible in an emergency. It should be kept in your home, preferably somewhere close to an exit if possible.
The idea behind a bug out bag is simple: It contains emergency supplies and is always ready to go, so if there is an emergency, you can simply grab the bag and leave, and everything you need is already packed and ready for use.
If you decide to create a bug out bag, it’s important to set reminders for yourself so that it can be updated at least once or twice yearly. batteries and other supplies will eventually go bad and need replacing, and your needs may change over time as well, so it’s a good idea to get into the yearly habit of reviewing the contents of your bag and seeing what supplies need replacing.
It’s also recommended that each member of your household have their own clearly-labeled bags. Each individual will have their own needs in an emergency.
Should your household become separated, it’s also good to discuss rendezvous points — places where everyone can meet up should a natural disaster occur without warning. You may want to plan for multiple contingencies, too, with multiple rendezvous points. Make sure everyone understands the order of these points, too. Order them to make this easier, and say “If we can’t all get to A, we’ll meet at B, and if we can’t all get to A or B, we’ll meet at C.”
Are You Prepared?
Whether or not you live in an area projected to be affected by hurricane Florence, it’s always a good idea to take some time to be sure you’re ready for a natural disaster. Most of these preparations can be taken care of with a single visit to a store and a family discussion on preparedness.
You shouldn’t wait for a natural disaster to get ready for one. Spending a few hours on preparedness today can save lives tomorrow. It’s impossible to really know when disasters might strike. It’s better to waste your time preparing for a disaster that never happens than to find yourself woefully unprepared when one does occur.
To all of our readers in the path of hurricane Florence, we hope you stay safe, stay dry, and get prepared!