Fall is arguably the best season of the year. But unfortunately, in some parts of the country that means it’s hurricane season. Hurricanes can be one of the most destructive natural disasters to ever occur; with raging winds, rising flood waters, and heavy rains.
Last year, my brother Zac and his small family found themselves in the middle of Hurricane Harvey. Living roughly 50 miles off the coast, Zac and his wife Tara didn’t realize just how much their lives would be turned upside down.
They were only given a voluntary evacuation notice. But as they watched the water start to rise, they began gathering all their valuables and placing them as high as they could. They packed bags for themselves and their daughter, grabbing only the essentials.
Due to the number of people getting evacuated, they couldn’t escape the city entirely. Luckily, there was a vacancy at a hotel just north of them. But that wasn’t enough. As they woke up the next morning they went downstairs to find the first floor starting to flood.
Eventually, they were evacuated again and this time they waded through the chest-high, murky water, carrying their daughter and only one allowed bag above their heads to the rescue boat which took them to a safe place.
They came back to a devastating scene. Their apartment had flooded with about four to five feet of water which destroyed most of their belongings. Their vehicles were totaled, all the furniture was lost, and a majority of everything else had perished.
I tell you this story because my brother and his wife didn’t expect so much damage to occur to them. Tara said, “I thought that because we were off the coast we were safe, and assuming you’re always safe is setting you up for failure.” She also warned: “Don’t think it can’t happen to you.” It happened to them and it could happen to you whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, fire, or any other natural disaster.
“Don’t think it can’t happen to you.”
If you live in a hurricane zone, here’s how you can stay safe before, during, and after the storm. Also, learn how you can help those affected by a hurricane.
Be Prepared: Before the Hurricane Hits
You’ve heard it time and time again, “Be Prepared.” And being prepared for a hurricane can determine what level of devastation the hurricane will cause to you and your family.
Below are a few suggestions on how you can prepare for a hurricane:
- Protect Valuables: Invest in a fireproof, waterproof safe to store important items such as legal documents, sentimental items, hard drives, etc.
- Get Insured: Invest in full coverage insurance. This includes homeowners, renters, flood, gap, etc.
- Document Belongings: Make filing an insurance claim easier by documenting all your possessions. Insurance companies need proof that you owned items so take pictures, videos, or even hold on to copies of receipts.
- Pack Emergency Kits: Pack an emergency kit for each member of your family. These should include extra clothes, copies of legal documents (drivers licenses, medical forms, emergency contacts, etc.), water, first aid kit, blanket, food rations, prescription medicines, flashlight/batteries, and more. Many stores have pre-made kits that you can then personalize per person.
- Evacuation Plan: It’s important to have an evacuation plan. Have multiple evacuation routes as some may already be flooded. As a family, decide on a plan if you’re separated before or during a hurricane. You can teach your children who to seek for help if they get lost.
Also, it’s best to be prepared year-round. Yes, hurricane season is typically during fall and that doesn’t mean one will happen. However, you shouldn’t wait until there is a hurricane. Don’t wait until the last second to stock up on items such as food, water, and clothes, as stores could be sold out or inflate prices. Always be prepared no matter the time of year.
Stay Safe: When the Hurricane Hits
Whether you’re at home or a hotel, when the hurricane hits it’s crucial to be aware of all the safety procedures. Here are three best practices to stay safe during a hurricane:
- Listen to Alerts – If you haven’t already, sign up for your community’s warning system. Emergency alerts are a reliable and timely form of communication for officials to inform citizens.
- Stay Indoors – After securing your home, stay indoors to avoid flying debris.
- Avoid Flooded Areas – Do not try to drive, swim, or walk through any type of flood. On top of water being a powerful force, the flood can be carrying dangerous debris or even hazardous chemicals.
Aftermath: How to Help
When the storm passes the aftermath can be overwhelming. Within a day, Zac and Tara went from having a home to being homeless with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
The Clean Up
Tara explained that when they got back to their apartment complex it was like a wasteland. They had to scavenge through their stuff to see what they could and could not save. Eventually, they had to throw almost everything out. The cleanup process after a hurricane is difficult, tedious work that should be done with caution and knowledge such as:
Want to assist in hurricane relief? Below are resources on what you can do to support those affected:
- Donate Intelligently – If you want to donate money, first try donating directly to the victims. If not, then do your research on relief organizations before choosing one that you trust. Many religious organizations have charity funds. Check with yours to see if you can donate through them.
- Contribute Supplies – Send items such as toiletries, animal food, new blankets/bedding, non-perishable foods, first aid kits, cleaning supplies, etc. Click here for more ideas on what to donate.
- Get Involved – Want to serve directly? Humanitarian organizations are always looking for volunteers. Depending on where the hurricane has hit, you’ll need to research which organization serves that particular area.
After Hurricane Harvey, my bother and sister-in-law were very blessed. They were one of the thousands who received the most damage but were able to recover quickly because of everyone’s support. “It helped us to function even with nothing. Helped us feel normal,” said Tara. “All of it was very overwhelming and appreciated.”
“All of it was very overwhelming and appreciated.”
Any natural disaster is terrifying. They will bring chaos, leaving communities and families feeling helpless and scared. Be prepared and educate your families and Scouts on being safe before, during, and after a hurricane.
Listen to what emergency personnel tell you. They are trained to protect communities from potential harm. If you receive an evacuation notice, do it promptly. Their guidance can and will save your life.
Doing your good turn to those who are affected by hurricanes will make a difference. Because of this, my brother and sister-in-law are back on their feet.