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Hurricane Preparedness: What to do before, during and after a storm

Satellite image; courtesy of NOAA

Satellite image; courtesy of NOAA

Living in a coastal region has its perks, along with its own potential downsides. You can never predict exactly what may happen during hurricane season, but you can always prepare for it and handle worst case scenarios in a way that will the least impact on your loved ones, your assets and your day-to-day life.


Storm approaching Selby Bay; by Tracy Sweeney

Storm approaching Selby Bay; by Tracy Sweeney

Before hurricane season

Consider the following factors long before hurricane season hits.

Invest in insuring your home, property and vehicles properly at all times. Talk to your insurance agent about your assets and how they will be protected in the event of a storm. Not every company covers flood or water damage, so look into it beforehand.

Photograph all of your valuables and back them up on a thumb drive or memory card that you can keep in a safe or other hurricane-proof storage receptacle. If you own a boat, camper or other recreational vehicle, protect your investments by preparing a disaster-safe storage option before one strikes.

Make an emergency supply kit, whether you plan on staying home during a lighter storm or not. Prepare a go-bag in the event that you have to evacuate. You may want to consider preparing mini-emergency packs for your children to keep at school and for you to keep at work as well.

There are also a few extras that may be useful. Buy water purification tablets, or make a tiny alcohol stove so you can boil water if needed. Waterproof matches, feminine supplies and earplugs may all come in handy. If you wear corrective lenses, pack a spare pair of glasses (even an old, broken pair is better than having nothing in the event that they get lost or destroyed.) If you have pets, make sure to have food and water for them as well.

Natural Resources Police helping a Crisfield resident evacuate; department photo

Police helping a Crisfield resident evacuate; department photo

Pack spare chargers and batteries for your mobile devices, as well as a set of long-range walkie-talkies and a headset—it will help you hear better when trying to communicate over raging winds and barraging rain and free up both of your hands. If you have a family member with a disability or mobility issues, there are additional emergency preparedness factors to consider.

Hash out an emergency plan and keep it updated. Regularly discuss the plan with your family to guarantee they always know what to do. Assess the community resources closest to your home as well as those closest to work and school.

Lastly, you’ll likely want to safeguard your home (if there’s time.) However, you don’t want to be rushing for supplies in the wake of a disaster. You’ll risk long lines, dangerous crowds and stores running out of stock if you don’t purchase all the tools and hardware you need to safeguard your home well before a hurricane hits.


During a storm

If you don’t have time to finish boarding things up or closing up shed and garage doors, abandon it and get to safety.

If you are staying, retreat to the safest area of the building with all of your supplies. Stay away from doors and windows, and do not leave your home unless it suffers enough damage to become unsafe. Stay tuned in to the internet, radio or television for weather updates for as long as the technology holds.

If you are going to a community center or emergency gathering place, get there as early as possible to secure a spot.

If evacuation orders are issued, follow them. If you have time, unplug all electronics, turn off water and gas lines, and remove air conditioning fuses before leaving your home.


Vehicle in Patapsco River; by Stephen Badger

Vehicle in Patapsco River; by Stephen Badger

In the aftermath

First, make sure everyone is safe. If you and yours are all doing well, see if your neighbors need assistance. Check on your food supplies. Look for leaks before turning your gas and water back on, and check for damage to lines before using the power. Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet or damaged, and never use a generator or charcoal stove inside, even if there’s good ventilation.

While assessing the damage, take pictures of what you can, and remember to be patient with insurance companies, repair services and long lines at supply and hardware stores. Much of the community may be in the same situation you are. If you are in the process of buying or selling a home, or if you make extensive repairs after a hurricane, another appraisal may be necessary. If your home is not livable, staying with a friend or relative may be more comfortable than a hotel.

Getting back to your normal life will hopefully only take a few days, but being prepared is the best way to ensure that you get there smoothly and quickly.


Article by AJ Earley—guest writer and natural disaster safety and preparedness expert.
Appears in Vol. 19, No. 4 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, fall 2016.