Whether you live along the eastern or southern coasts of the United States, along the Gulf or whether you’re hundreds of miles away and witnessing nature’s fury from a safe distance, there are lessons all of us need to learn about what to do when Mother Nature gets her ire up. There are basic realities of preparation and storm weathering to master that are involved enough when it’s just your immediate family that’s being protected. But when you’re a caregiver and responsible for someone who can’t otherwise help him or herself, the ante’s up considerably, if not in physical labor, then certainly in emotional toil and psychological angst.
Much of the time, those for whom we are caregivers live in our home, and so the physical act of preparing for a storm’s onslaught is not noticeably different than if that person were not present; however, it’s the intangibles that add to the stress. The worry and anxiety of how to help someone who can’t help themselves and of how to transport a disabled person to a shelter or into a car for evacuation should that become necessary can be overwhelming. But since knowledge is power, let this article serve as a tick list to help you check off the things that must be done to ensure your safety and the safety of those you love.
There are certain decisions that must be made ahead of time. Possibly the most critical is whether or not you will choose to stay in your home or evacuate, should the decision be optional. If you choose to stay, it is critical that you have everything on hand that you could possibly need. Also, you must determine the safest place in your home and have a plan in place so that each person will know where to go and what to do when the time comes. Windows and doors must be protected, loose objects like boats and outdoor furniture must be secured or stored and a plan must be in place for your pet. If you decide that leaving is in your best interest, you must make certain that your car is filled with gas, that someone else knows your evacuation plans and route and that all needed supplies are in a central location for easy access.
Let’s face it; if you live in a hurricane-prone area, chances are that you will, at the very minimum, face the real threat of a hurricane at least once during the season. Since the best time to plan for an emergency is when there isn’t one, take time on a beautiful, sunny Saturday to gather most of the supplies you’ll need should a hurricane be imminent. Know, of course, that being prepared in advance requires vigilance. You’ll need to check the contents of your various kits when their use seems at hand to ensure that nothing has expired or gone bad. And it goes without saying that there are some things you simply can’t do until the last moment, so use those precious minutes just before the storm hits to accomplish those. Here’s what you can do ahead of time:
- Make sure you’e got a well-assembled first aid kit. it should include sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes, boxes of two- and four-inch sterile gauze pads, hypoallergenic adhesive tape, triangular bandages, several rolls of two- and three-inch sterile roller bandages, scissors, tweezers, needles, moistened towelettes, antiseptic, a thermometer, tongue blades, petroleum jelly or other lubricant, assorted sizes of safety pins, a cleansing agent or soap, latex gloves and sunscreen. In addition, the kit should include the following non-prescription drugs: aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, an antacid, syrup of ipecac (so that vomiting can be induced if the Poison Control Center so advises), a laxative, activated charcoal (again, for use as indicated by the Poison Control Center), hemorrhoid medication, cough/cold/allergy medication, denture supplies (if applicable) and sanitary/incontinent supplies. Be sure that medicines for all the various age groups in your family are included so that everyone from children to senior adults will be protected.
- A hurricane suitcase should be assembled with enough contents for each person in the family. A suitcase or large plastic tub should be packed with cash (een though its inclusion will be probably be a last-minute addition), a first aid kit like the one mentioned above, a flashlight & batteries, a battery-operated radio & batteries, a personal list of medications for each person, large towels & washcloths, blankets & pillows, paper towels, a change of clothes, sturdy shoes (closed toe/heel), socks, a manual can opener, large and small trash bags & ties, a plastic bucket with a lid, bar soap, liquid detergent, a toothpaste and toothbrush, toilet paper, tissues, disinfectant, rubber gloves, insect repellent, sun block, protective clothing/hat, wet wipes, cards, board games, toys and books.
- Non-perishable food should be assembled and should include crackers, jelly, nuts, canned vegetables, canned juice, canned fruit, powdered milk, bread, peanut butter, honey, canned & fully cooked meats, protein snacks, dried fruits and other non-perishable foods.
- A minimum three-day supply of water per person and/or pet should be purchased. Each person will require one gallon of water per day, and each pet will require one quart of water per day. Additionally, kerosene, gasoline, wood, pet food, pet medications, charcoal and matches should be gathered into one central location. If you hae a charcoal grill, it might come in handy for cooking if the electricity is out during or after the storm.
- Deelop a plan for your pet. If you’re leaving and taking the pet, make sure you have a pet carrier. If you’ll be flying, be aware that only certain pet carriers are airline-approved. Also be aware that hurricane shelters do not accept pets.
- Put together a list of releant phone numbers and put this in your hurricane suitcase. As a caregiver, know how important it is to have a central location where important information and medication concerning the person for whom you are caring is kept. This will be helpful to you not only in times of stress but will be extremely helpful should others have to step in and help out.
The following things really can’t be done ahead of time, so use this list as a reminder of last-minute musts. Some of these tasks can be done during the hurricane watch, the 36-hour designated timeframe before a hurricane is due to hit. Some can’t be done until the warning period, the 24-hour designated timeframe before the hurricane is due to hit.
During the Watch Period:
- Obtain cash or travelers checks. Withdraw as much money as you’re comfortable carrying since it’s possible that, should the hurricane hit, ATMs won’t be working. Additionally, merchants may not be able to authorize credit card usage if the electricity isn’t working, and personal checks may not be accepted.
- Make sure your car has a full tank of gas and that oil/tire pressure has been checked. Be aware that in emergency situations like these, gas stations sometimes run out of gas and there can be long lines. Time yourself accordingly.
- Store all outside furniture and items that could be picked up by the wind. If you have a boat, make sure it is secured.
- Fasten all doors and windows, protecting them with hurricane shutters or plywood if possible.
- Gather important paperwork like wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, social security cards and insurance policies and place them inside a waterproof container that should be put inside your hurricane suitcase.
- If you’ll be leaving your home and going to a hotel, make sure you have a reservation as well as a reservation number. Know the best and safest route to take. A hotel can be a good solution for many who are caregivers since most have emergency generators. On the other hand, hurricane shelters are also good options, though not as comfortable. Those for whom you are caring may be inconvenienced in such crowded surroundings where beds are simply sleeping bags or mattresses on the floor. Regardless of where you plan to stay, make sure that someone else knows where you will be.
During the Warning Period:
- Put all prescription medications and their instructions in the first aid kit. Make sure they are readily accessible.
- Lower blinds and close curtains and shutters. This will protect you if the wind blows in.
- Move important items away from the windows.
- Fill up the bathtubs with water.
- Fill any spaces in the freezer and refrigerator with milk jugs full of frozen water.
- Turn up the refrigerator to maximum cold, opening it only if necessary.
- If the power goes out, turn off appliances and lights so that the system is not overburdened when it comes back on.
- If you’re leaving, post the phone number and address of your destination prominently on an interior wall. Let neighbors and friends know where you are going.
- Leave your car radio on, tuned to a local station for news and updates.
All by themselves, hurricanes are a formidable force of nature. Coupled with the complexities of caregiving, weathering them becomes an unenviable feat, though one navigated by multitudes of people each year. In the midst of the storm, though, it is wise to remember the rainbow, for storms do pass.
There’s an old Irish blessing we can all take to heart: “May God give you…for every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.”
Storms: Learn the Facts
- A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with wind strengths that exceed 74 miles per hour and circulate counter-clockwise. While they are formed from simple complexes of thunderstorms, the water in which they are located must be at least 81 degrees. It is the heat and moisture from the warm water that creates the energy of a hurricane, and without this, the hurricane will not survive.
- A series of thunderstorms in very warm water that reach a strength of 23-39 miles per hour is called a tropical depression, the first stage in the life cycle of a hurricane. A hurricane can live for two to three weeks.
- When sustained winds hae reached a strength of 39-73 miles per hour, the tropical depression becomes a tropical storm. It can take from a half day to a couple of days to grow to this stage.
- A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach a sustained level of 74 miles per hour and there is a pronounced rotation around the central core.
- The dark spot in the middle of the hurricane is called the eye. The eye is the focus of the hurricane and the point around which the rest of the storm rotates.
- Surrounding the eye is the eye wall, the area of most intense rain and wind. Large bands of clouds and precipitation spiraling from the eye wall are called spiral rain bands.
The Saffir-Simpson Scale is used to categorize the strength of hurricanes.
A category one hurricane exhibits winds ranging from 74 to 95 miles per hour. These storms produce minimal damage. Power lines can come down, flooding can occur, and a four to fie foot storm surge often accompanies the storm.
A category two hurricane exhibits winds ranging from 96 to 110 miles per hour. Inflicting moderate damage, these storms produce flooding and can bring tree branches down. A six to eight foot storm surge can accompany the storm.
A category three hurricane exhibits winds ranging from 111 to 130 miles per hour. Extensive damage occurs with minor damage to buildings. Flooding can wash away smaller structures on the coast and can occur up to eight miles inland. The accompanying storm surge is nine to twelve feet.
A category four hurricane has winds ranging from 131 to 155 miles per hour. Extremely dangerous, almost all doors and windows are destroyed in a storm of this magnitude. There is sometimes wall and roof failure. Lower floors of oceanfront buildings sustain major damage. Evacuations are ordered as far as six miles inland. Storm surges range from 13 to 18 feet.
A category five hurricane has winds that exceed 155 miles per hour. Inflicting catastrophic damage, buildings, roofs and structures are destroyed. Flooding occurs up to ten miles inland and the area is evacuated. Storm surges exceed 18 feet.