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Staying Safe in Hurricane Season

We’re right in the middle of hurricane season, and even though the weather service might not be issuing a warning for your area today, it’s a good idea to prepare in case that does happen in the coming weeks.

Hurricanes often strike without much warning, and preparing can make a big difference in how well you and your family get through the storm. Here, the federal Centers for Disease Control offer some tips on what to do in every stage of hurricane readiness.

*Listen for National Weather Service alerts on TV or radio or check for them online. There are two kinds of alerts. A hurricane watch means that there’s no storm yet, but weather conditions could cause one. Experts will announce a hurricane watch 48 hours before they think dangerous winds will start. A hurricane warning is more serious. It means a hurricane has already started or is just about to start.

*Write down emergency phone numbers and keep them near every phone in your house or on the refrigerator. Put them into the family’s cell phones.

*Buy a fire extinguisher and learn how to use it. Family members should know, too. The CDC recommends the National Fire Protection Association’s tips for using fire extinguishers. Visit www.nfpa.org.

*Find out where the nearest shelter is and the different routes you can take to get there. Family members should know what a warning siren sounds like in your area, and what they should do if they hear the siren.

THE RIGHT SUPPLIES

During and after a hurricane, the CDC says, you may need supplies to keep your family safe and healthy. A hurricane could cut off power and water, and you might not be able to drive for a number of reasons, including damage to your car and flooded or blocked roads.

To deal with these conditions as best as possible, the CDC recommends that you have:

*Clean containers for water; at least five gallons of water per person (which should be enough for three to five days); enough perishable food for three to five days; baby food or formula; prescription medicines; a first-aid kid and instructions; a fire extinguisher; a battery-powered radio; flashlights; extra batteries; sleeping bags or extra blankets; supplies such as iodine tablets to make drinking water safe; hand sanitizer; wet wipes; soap; toothpaste; tampons and pads; and diapers. Keep these supplies together in an easily reachable spot in your house.

ON THE ROAD

In case you need to leave quickly during a hurricane, you’ll need the supplies mentioned above as well as flares; jumper cables; maps; a roadside emergency kit that includes pliers, screwdrivers and wrenches; and a car charger.

GET YOUR FAMILY READY

Review your emergency plan with family members, the CDC says. Don’t forget pets or animals. Put them in a safe place. Remember that many shelters may not let you bring in pets. You can ask your local public health department about specific regulations. You can also get tips for animal safety from organizations like the ASPCA (www.aspca.org).
Pack important documents (like wills or passports) to take with you.

You should also think ahead if you or a loved one is older or disabled and won’t be able to leave quickly. Call the hospital, public health department, or the police for suggestions.

GET YOUR HOUSE READY

*Clear your yard. The CDC emphasizes making sure that there’s nothing that could blow around during the storm and damage your home. Move bikes, lawn furniture, grills, propane tanks, and building material inside or under a shelter.

*If a storm is imminent, cover up windows and doors outside. Use storm shutters or nail pieces of plywood to the window frames to protect your windows. This can also keep you safe to protect you from shattered glass.

*Be ready to turn off your power if you see flooding, downed power lines, or you have to leave your home.

*Fill clean water containers with drinking water in case you lose your water supply during the storm. You can also fill up your sinks and bathtubs with water for washing.

*Lower the thermostat in your refrigerator and freezer to the coolest possible temperature. If your power goes out, your food will stay fresh longer.

GET YOUR CAR READY

*Fill your car’s gas tank. You may also want to consider making plans with friends or family to get a ride.

*Check your car’s emergency kit.

*Move cars and trucks into your garage or under cover.

EVACUATE OR STAY

If You Need to Leave:

*When a hurricane is coming, you may hear an order to evacuate. Never ignore an order to leave your home. Even sturdy, well-built houses may not hold up against a hurricane.
*Only take what you really need, like your cell phone, medicines, identification (like a passport or license), and cash.
*Make sure you have your car emergency kit.

*If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water, and unplug your appliances.
*Follow the roads that emergency workers recommend even if there’s traffic. Other routes might be blocked.

If You Need to Stay Home:

*Keep listening to the radio or TV for updates.

*Stay inside even if it looks calm. Wait until you hear or see an official message that the hurricane is over. Sometimes, weather gets calm in the middle of a storm but then gets worse again quickly.

*Stay away from windows. You could get hurt by pieces of broken glass during a storm. Stay in a room with no windows, or go inside a closet. You can even protect yourself by getting in a bathtub and covering it with a sheet of plywood.

*Be careful. Winds can blow debris — like pieces of broken glass and other objects — at high speeds. Flying debris is the most common cause of injury during a hurricane. You’re also at a higher risk of breaking a bone or cutting yourself on loose nails, metal, or other objects.

Reprinted from the Centers for Disease Control. For more information, visit http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes.

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