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Prepare for the Atlantic hurricane season with these tips

Hurricane Florence will bring "catastrophic flash flooding" to the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center says. Sustained hurricane-force winds are hitting North Carolina.
NOAA/STAR

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday, Sept. 18, causing devastating flooding, wiping out power across the island and marking a brutal point in this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. If you’re looking for ways to prepare for a storm traveling north, here are some tips.

Information compiled from Connecticut and New York's state disaster preparedness sites. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. For other non-emergency information and referrals, call 2-1-1.

Get informed

  • Make sure you’re aware of any areas near your home that could pose potential dangers in the event of extreme weather, like power plants, chemical storage facilities or bodies of water. These hazards may make your home an unsafe location for sheltering in place, so plan to stay at a safer evacuation area, like a friend or relative’s home, while you wait out the storm.
  • Learn emergency procedures for places outside your home, like your workplace, your child’s school or their childcare facility. In the event of an unexpected change in weather conditions, knowing you and your relatives are safe — and knowing where they are — is crucial.
  • Know how to turn off your home’s electricity, gas and water lines. In the event that infrastructure is damaged by a storm, shutting these utilities may be key to securing your home’s safety.
  • Learn the terminology used to indicate severe weather events. Generally, a hurricane watch means that conditions could possibly pose a threat within 48 hours, while a hurricane warning means the storm will pose a threat imminently. For a complete list of terms, visit the National Weather Service’s online guide.
  • If you intend to return to your home after a storm has passed, only do so once authorities say it is safe. Depending on damage and utility outages, mold, unmonitored carbon monoxide and other hidden structural issues may pose health risks if you return without taking precautions.
  • Know the contact information for emergency departments and services like utility companies to ensure you can reach them even if you lose access to the internet. Having these specific contacts on file can help reduce stress on 9-1-1 call centers so they can better respond to life-threatening emergencies.

Make a plan

  • Make a detailed emergency plan for you and those in your household. Be sure to consider disabled loved ones, small children and pets who may not be able to take action without help. Include which rooms to use in the event of flooding, multiple exits from your home and emergency contacts in and out of state.
  • In the lead-up to a storm, be in contact with neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled and may need assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation. Ensure that they have a plan and people to rely on, or incorporate them into your plan.
  • Make an emergency supply kit, including non-perishable foods, water, medical and paper products, extra clothes, battery-powered electronics, essential documents and other necessary items. For a complete list of supplies, see FEMA’s guide to assembling a disaster kit. 
  • Stockpile enough non-perishable food, bottled water and other goods to supply your household for 3 to 7 days. Follow this checklist for specifics.
  • Secure your home and surrounding property. Put away outdoor furniture or other times that could get blown by extreme winds, and close storm shutters on windows. Depending on the severity of the storm, you may consider boarding your windows shut to prevent breakage.
  • Check up on your insurance policies and make sure they cover the kind of hazards that may arise from hurricanes. If you are in a particularly susceptible area, you may need to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • In the event that flooding affects drinking water quality, look out for boil advisories. Examine your drinking water — if it’s muddy or cloudy, don’t use it until it is properly treated.

Resources

  • You can find emergency shelters or reach out for assistance through the American Red Cross’ website. 
  • If you’re in need of food assistance, this nationwide food pantry locator can help you find one nearby.
  • New York and Connecticut both have emergency alert services that can send updates via text, phone and email. 
  • Calling 2-1-1 will connect you with a local operator who can help you find food, shelter and other resources in the aftermath of a storm.
  • FEMA’s mobile app is a hub for disaster preparedness, with weather alerts, FAQs, planning guides and more. Their disaster distress helpline, available at 1-800-985-5990, can help those struggling with emotional distress caused by disasters.
Josh is a freelance reporter working with WSHU to produce explanatory journalism. He also designed graphics for WSHU's Higher Ground podcast. You can find his work at The Stony Brook Press, where he served as executive editor.