Tips for Staying Safe Before and After Hurricanes - Stewart Law Offices
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Tips for Staying Safe Before and After Hurricanes

At Stewart Law Offices, we want to make sure people take every precaution to keep themselves and their families safe this hurricane season. For that reason, we are providing this information as a resource so you can take the necessary steps to protect you and your family when a storm is looming.

What Are the Safety Precautions for a Hurricane?

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, and hurricanes are most active in September, according to Ready.gov, the official website of the Department of Homeland Security. Hurricanes aren’t just a threat to the coastline, as they are capable of affecting areas more than 100 miles inland.

Ready.gov instructs people to find safe shelter right away when they are under a hurricane warning. The website then breaks down recommended actions based on how long a hurricane is from arriving:

  • When a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving, you should restock your emergency preparedness kit and plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power.
  • When a hurricane is 18 to 36 hours from arriving, begin covering all of your home’s windows.
  • When a hurricane is six to 18 hours from arriving, charge your cellphone to get full battery power.
  • When a hurricane is six hours from arriving, close your storm shutters and stay away from windows.

The American Red Cross breaks down hurricane preparation into protecting your family, pets, and home. The organization recommends that you talk to your family about what to do if a hurricane strikes and find a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) radio station, which has a frequency of:

The American Red Cross recommends preparing a pet emergency kit for animals, which should include leashes, harnesses or carriers, food, drinking water, bowls, medications, a first-aid kit, and photos of your pet(s) in case they get lost. When it comes to protecting your home, the organization recommends protecting windows with permanent storm shutters or one-half-inch marine plywood pre-cut to fit doors and windows, as well as identifying a place to store lawn furniture or other objects likely to be thrown by high winds.

If you still have time after taking all of these steps, the American Red Cross recommends that you fill plastic bottles with clean drinking water, turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances, and fill up the car’s gas tank in case you are ordered to evacuate. If there is still time, you may want to move furniture and valuables to higher levels of the home in case of flooding and possibly turn off your utilities (although the Red Cross notes that shutting off the gas can require a professional to turn back on). People with livestock should consider a precautionary evacuation or at least moving the animals to higher ground, as it is generally more favorable to evacuate large animals sooner rather than later.

How to Stay Safe During a Hurricane

When you think or know that a hurricane is coming, there are many different steps you can take before, during, and after the storm. Most of these steps are outlined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Preparation Before the Storm:

  • Stock up your emergency kit with supplies to last you at least three days: food, water, medications, a flashlight, batteries, first-aid materials, a battery-powered radio, and cash.
  • To ensure you have enough water to bathe and flush toilets, fill your bathtubs and sinks. If the stores near you are out of stock on drinking water, you can buy 2 liters of soda or gallon jugs of other beverages to empty and refill with emergency drinking water.
  • Charge your cellphone and any other portable electronic devices fully.
  • Turn the temperature in your refrigerator down to the lowest setting to keep food as cold as possible in case you lose power. Put a thermometer in the fridge so you can tell if temperatures get too high for food to be safe.
  • Pack important paperwork and family photos in a waterproof container. Be sure to include your homeowners’ insurance policy. Also, make copies of important files on a USB device.
  • Take photos of the rooms and expensive items in your home to help account for all your property in case of catastrophic loss.
  • If you are concerned about flooding, move everything possible onto a higher surface or floor of your home.
  • Cover the windows in your home with half-inch marine-grade or exterior plywood or storm shutters. Note that tape is not effective protection for your windows.
  • Trim back bushes and trees near your home to make them more resistant to high winds and less likely to fall on your home.
  • Bring in any patio furniture, trash cans, flower pots, outdoor decorations, etc., to prevent them from becoming projectiles that could crash into your home.
  • Clear out your home’s gutters and downspouts.
  • Decide which room in your home is safest to stay in during the storm. Especially if you are unable to cover your windows, choose an interior room that has no windows to protect you from potential broken glass.
  • Know your evacuation zone and routes in case you are ordered to leave. Think about how to get to higher ground if flooding is severe. Make sure your family has a plan for where to go and the route you would take.
  • Make sure your car is ready in case you need to evacuate. Fill the gas tank and stock your vehicle with emergency supplies. Do not leave your vehicle parked under a tree.
  • Prepare for the evacuation of your pets, as well. Make sure you have a carrier and put together a box or bag with the animal’s shot records, food, medicines, and leashes. Also, make sure your pets are wearing collars with tags that include your contact information in case you are separated.
  • If you are ordered to evacuate, unplug all devices before you leave. Turn off the water in case of pipes break, and turn off the gas to prevent leaks.
  • Keep your television or radio on to stay up to date on emergency instructions in your area. With a severe storm, things can change quickly, so you should be on alert.
  • Talk to family members and friends about how you plan to communicate in case you lose power ─ most likely through text or social media.
  • Talk to your neighbors so you understand who is home and who may be evacuating. It’s important to know who will be nearby to help in case of an emergency.

During the Storm:

  • Listen to your radio or TV for emergency updates. Follow all orders.
  • Stay inside until the storm has completely passed.
  • Ride out the storm in a room away from windows and exterior doors.
  • If floodwaters are approaching your home, turn off the electricity at the breaker.
  • If your power goes off, unplug big appliances to protect them in case of a surge.
  • If your home begins to flood and you are trapped, move to the highest floor but do not get in the attic, where you may be unable to escape if waters continue to rise.
  • If your home is damaged or you are ordered to evacuate during the storm, go to the nearest safe place, whether that’s a shelter or a neighbor’s house.
  • Never try to walk or swim in floodwaters. And turn around if you encounter them in your car. Just 12 inches of water can carry away a vehicle.

After the Storm:

  • Stay tuned to your local authorities for updates and instructions. Watch for warnings on food and water safety to protect against contamination.
  • Only make a phone call if it’s an emergency, as the phone systems will likely be very busy. Stick to texts and social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Take extra safety precautions during cleanup. Watch for downed power lines and wet electrical equipment. Stay out of floodwater, which could carry dangerous and hidden debris. Always wear protective clothing and work with a buddy in case something happens.
  • If your home has suffered water damage, start repairs right away to prevent mold problems.
  • Never use generators or outdoor grills inside.
  • Take photos of all property damage to document for your insurance company.

You may want to consider having licensed professionals perform inspections of your home. Also, look for organizations in your area that may be offering assistance to hurricane victims.

At Stewart Law Offices, We Care About Your Safety

With offices in Rock Hill, Columbia, Spartanburg, Beaufort, and Charlotte, our law firm is concerned about the safety of the people in the communities we serve. To our friends and neighbors throughout North and South Carolina, we hope you and your family stay safe throughout this hurricane season.