How to Prepare for a Hurricane

This week’s blog post is coming out early. We at Procure Inc feel that knowledge can save lives and in times of emergency, the least we can do is spread useful knowledge to anyone in need. Everyone in the path of Hurricane Florence, stay safe and good luck.

 

How Bad Is The Hurricane?

The first thing to know about surviving a hurricane is to know what a hurricane is and just how bad things will get. In a sense, you can think of the hurricane as a tornado about the size of Texas. There will be extreme wind, rain, and flooding. The air is going to move so fast that it will literally rip the roofs off homes. Tree branches, parts of houses, and anything not tied down is going to become airborne. If the wind doesn’t directly hurt you, the debris will, and if the debris doesn’t, significant portions of the state will be underwater.

Hurricane Florence is expected to become a Category 5 hurricane. The steady wind speeds will exceed 160 miles per hour. If you had a small airplane, you probably would “hover” if you flew into the wind or even end up flying backwards. There is no stronger category of storm, though there has been consideration for a category 6 to be made.

Storms of this size are basically flying bulldozers. Homes will be demolished or washed away. Electrical service will be wiped out. Trees will come down. When the storm hits, it’ll hit with all its fury and blast inland. If you are 100 miles from the coast, you’re still in the danger zone. If you’re 400 miles from the coast, you’re still in the danger zone. States as far away as Virginia are declaring emergencies and evacuations. It’s safe to say the Carolinas are not safe.

As the storm approaches, you will begin to experience severe rain and wind. At some point there will be complete power failure across most of the state. There will not be repair crews dispatched until after the storm has passed. For the most part, there will be no emergency services available during the storm. The weather is too hazardous for fire, police, and ambulances to be dispatched.

At some point, the storm will take out communications as well. Cell towers rely on electricity and they can be vulnerable to damage from storms like this. ALL US cell sites have diesel back ups that provide a day, perhaps more of emergency operating power. When these kick in, most cell systems shut off resource intensive systems like the internet and instead optimize their ability to run longer and transmit phone calls and text messages.

In the aftermath of the storm, cell carriers will typically deploy portable cell sites. These are gigantic trucks that are meant to drive into the aftermath of a storm, pop up an antenna and get communications and emergency services back up and running as quickly as possible. Work crews will work to restore essential services, but it will probably take weeks til’ the entire state is back to looking normal.

 

What Should You Do?

If you’re in or even near an evacuation zone, back the car with anything valuable and anything you need to survive and run. Do not worry about where you’re going to stay, you just need to pack and run. Chances are at this point your home won’t be standing when you get back. Grab your cats, dogs, and pets, and run.

If you’re outside the evacuation zones and are going to remain at home, you need to stock up on some emergency supplies. You’re about to enjoy a very long camping trip. We asked around the office to get a list of essentials:

  1. Food and Water
    You need food that you can eat without cooking. Depending on what your kitchen is like, you either won’t be able to cook, won’t have water to cook with, and won’t have water to clean your dishes with. Things like Peanut Butter and Jelly, cereal (you can eat it dry, without the milk), and other shelf-stable foods are going to be essential. You won’t be able to refrigerate anything once the power goes out, so expendables like milk are going to be a challenge, even with a cooler and ice. Consider getting paper plates and plastic cutlery. If you have a camp stove, it will come in handy. If you have a propane grill, you could possibly bring it into your garage to cook (but you will need to open a window/keep it well ventillated, or else the CO2 will kill you).
  2. Batteries and Lights
    Power will be out for days, if not weeks or months in the hardest-hit regions. You’re going to be using battery powered lighting. You should check the run time on your lanterns (usually listed in the packaging or manual), make sure they work, and have enough batteries to run for days. If you have a smart phone, you should get a few Lithium Ion battery packs, 10,000 mAh or bigger. These battery packs can recharge your phone multiple times. Make sure you charge up the battery pack before the storm.
  3. Toiletries
    Stock up on toilet paper and any cleaning or hygiene supplies you might need. Once the storm hits, you won’t be buying any supplies. You should get a few large buckets to collect storm water in, this will be your only means of flushing the toilet once the power goes out. All toilets flush by putting more water in the bowl, which creates just enough pressure to flush the line. Use your storm-water-bucket to flush. Stock up on baby-wipes/wet wipes, these are about the only way you’ll be cleaning yourself once the power goes out. Don’t flush them down the toilet, they could clog and you’re not gonna get a plumber any time soon. Stock up on trashbags.
  4. First Aid
    Stock up on all medications, some painkillers, and other first aid supplies. You will not have access to ambulances or doctors. If you or anyone in your family is injured during storm preparations or over the course of the storm, it’s going to be a while before they’re treated. Get a first aid book, bandages, and possibly gauze pads. You should be ready for broken legs, cuts, bruises, and everything like them.
  5. Towels, Tarps (and string), and Sandbags
    You should stock up to keep the flood waters out. Even if you’re not in a flood zone, the rainfall will be so significant that it will flood streets just with the runoff alone. It would be a good idea to buy some sand bags and towels to block up any areas water can get into your first floor (your basement will flood, and that probably cannot be prevented). The tarps are dual-purpose. They can be used to signal for help with their brighter/shiny silver side up after the storm and they can be used to patch leaks. You need to stay as warm and dry as possible.
  6. Weather-Radio
    The NOAA transmits weather information at 160 mhz or so in the VHF (Very High Frequency) band. Most standard radios cannot tune in these stations. You should get an emergency weather radio (typically includes solar power and hand-crank options).
  7. Entertainment
    You, your family, and any kids around are going to be bored and scared. There’s nothing worse for you in times like these. You probably won’t be playing with a playstation any time soon, but you can get a few books, board games, or other entertainment.
  8. A Generator
    If you can get a generator, it’ll make the storm far, far more bearable. Make sure you check the output on the generator you get. You need something with more than enough wattage to power what you consider essential: fridge, entertainment, fans, etc. If you have Netflix, this means you could pre-download some movies and watch them during the storm, instead of reading by candle-light. You will probably need several cans of gas and you should try to ration when you run your generator to stretch the supply.

 

Do’s and Don’ts of the Storm

DO:

  1. Stay Inside
    The 160 MPH winds are more than enough to kill you. One tree branch or brick caught in the wind and you will probably die. Don’t even stand on your front porch. Shut the door and take cover inside. If your house has any rooms without windows, those are the safest ones. At some point, you may see the weather clearing up. Do not go outside, this may be the eye of the storm. When the eye passes over, everything will immediately clear up, then within minutes or hours, all hell will break lose without warning.
  2. Listen to Emergency Broadcasts
    Your best way of staying up to date on conditions will be the radio. Get an AM/FM /Emergency radio and listen in. Radio waves can be transmitted over hundreds of miles, thousands for the right band, and will be your best bet of tracking the storm’s progress. The NOAA weather broadcasts will require you to have a special radio that can tune their frequencies.
  3. Conserve
    Stretch your batteries and supplies as long as possible. It will be a long time before you can re-stock.
  4. Use Your Phone’s Power-Saving
    Most newer phones have various battery-saver modes. Samsung Phones in particular feature an “Emergency” mode which will disable most apps and games, but allow the phone to make calls and be in stand-by for days at a time. Other manufacturers may have similar emergency features. Ensure you have a full charge before the storm hits and enable emergency mode.
  5. Move Your Car
    Park somewhere high and away from water and flooding or get it in your garage and sandbag it in. Do NOT run your car inside your garage, the exhaust will build up and kill you.

DON’T:

  1. Enter ANY Body of Water
    You will likely be unable to determine the depth of the water and even run off with a little flow will be more than enough to wash you away. Do not drive through any water, you have very good chances of becoming stranded in the water in your car.
  2. Drink Standing Water
    Water from the storm will carry potentially toxic run off from the ground around you, including oils, fertilizer, pesticides, sewage, and other dangerous things. Don’t touch the run off and don’t drink it.
  3. Go Near Downed Power Lines
    The storm WILL take out electrical lines. You will probably hear explosions from some electrical equipment hitting the ground. There’s no good way to know of an electrical line is live or may become live. If you see a large wire, turn around and leave or find a safer route around it. The water will conduct electricity and fry you even from far away.
  4. Take Risks
    Above all else, be exceptionally careful. If you can safely shelter in place, then chances are you’ll make it through this. One of the biggest killers in these storms are medical emergencies. All it takes is one very bad slip up and you won’t make it. Don’t climb anything, don’t play roughly, and try to just be calm and relaxed. Broken bones and fingers can become deadly after a few days without treatment, it’s best to avoid the problem altogether. There is no one who can come to your rescue, assume you will not get help of any form, at all, until next week at the soonest.

 

Pessimistic Outlook

For storms like these, you need to hope for the best, but always act as if the worst possible scenario will happen. Stock up more supplies than you think you need. Protect those supplies as best as you can (waterproof bags and the like). Ration what you have as best as possible. And be prepared to leave if you’re living somewhere prone to flooding or if your house was not build to withstand these winds. If necessary, seek out the nearest shelters, typically schools and other public facilities that may have additional supplies, space, and nursing staff.

Stay safe out there.

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