Be Prepared for the Next Big Storm
Do it now. "It's too massive of a project to take on in 24 hours," Salvation Army Disaster Services Director Kevin Smith says.
Tropical Storm Debby showed the Bay area just how much trouble residents would be in if a hurricane hit the area directly, Florida Director of Emergency Disaster Services for the Salvation Army Kevin Smith said.
"We are so ripe for a bad hurricane to hit this area," he said.
So now is the time to prepare. Smith suggests taking the following steps to ensure your family is ready for the next big storm.
Come Up with a Family Reunification Plan
The number one request the Salvation Army gets after a storm is "Can you help us find out if our family is OK?," Smith said.
Having a reunification plan in place will help family members who are not in the area find you in the event you are without power or cell service. Decide what procedure you will follow to notify family as to where you will be in the event of a disaster, whether it's via Facebook, phone tree, email or other means, and let loved ones know your plans now—that way they know where to look for information if they can't reach you.
Plan To Be Without Power
If your home was without power during Tropical Storm Debby, you should assume you will be without power during future storms, Smith said. Ask yourself, "How do I live without power?," Smith said. Figure out how you will deal with a multi-day power outage before you're faced with it.
If you plan to stay in your home without power, spend a night in advance with the power shut off to see what it will be like and assess what you might need, Smith said. Newer homes heat up faster than older homes because they are less drafty, so keep that in mind, he said. Stock up on battery powered fans, plenty of gas for the grill for cooking without appliances, extra coolers that you can put food from the refrigerator and freezer in, and other items that will make it easier to stay in your home without power.
Identify and Organize Important Documents
Take inventory of your home now, Smith said. Every homeowner should have either photos or a list with serial numbers of all major items. This will help you make a claim in the event your home is damaged or destroyed in a storm, he said.
There are tons of free tools to help people organize this information, Smith said. He recommends the Insurance Information Institute's free Know Your Stuff home inventory software.
In addition to your home inventory, you should have all of your important records, such as insurance information, birth certificates, titles and deeds. You can scan and store your inventory on a jump drive to make it easy to grab and go. Documents and important photograps should be stored in a waterproof container that is easily accessible, Smith said.
Without taking steps to get organized in advance, people faced with leaving their home will look at a file cabinet and think, "I can't take that with me," and just leave it all behind, he said.
"It's too massive of a project to take on in 24 hours," Smith said.
Put Together a Food Box Kit
"This is usually the only thing people think of when they think of disaster preparedness," Smith said.
Put together enough nonperishable food to last your family at least 72 hours, he said. And have a plan for how you will prepare that food without electricity.
Plan for Your Pets
If you must evacuate, where will your pets go? Have a plan in place in the event shelters do not accept animals.