Are You Ready?

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What You Can Do to Prepare for a Hurricane or Flood

The District of Columbia experienced an earthquake on August 23, 2011 and within the same week Hurricane Irene struck the region. As many residents were still in shock about the earthquake, many more were shocked and worse, unprepared for the hurricane. Flash floods occurred across the city and many homes and businesses were destroyed.

Last month was deemed preparedness month, an initiative instituted after 9/11. The Ready Campaign was instituted and launched in February 2003 as a public service advertising (PSA) campaign to educate and empower citizens on how to prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters.

As the District continues to experience unusual weather The Capital News has decided to inform our readers about preparing for emergencies.

What is a hurricane?

• A hurricane is a massive storm that is created over really warm water of 80°F or higher. It can be as wide as 600 miles across and have strong spiraling winds that reach speeds of 75 miles to 200 mph.
• Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clock wise direction around the “eye” of the storm. The calmest point of the storm is the center or “eye.” If you are in the center of the storm, you will experience only light winds and minor weather conditions.
• Hurricanes which touch upon land can result in heavy rain, strong winds, big waves that can damage trees, property, and cause floods

Check it out!

• A hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible in your area. Check your emergency supply Kit (more on this below) and be prepared to move.

• A hurricane warning means a hurricane is coming to your area. You should evacuate immediately if instructed to do so.

• In the District of Columbia, you can generally dial 311 or dial 202.727.1000 from your home or cell phone and speak with someone in the Mayor’s City Wide Call Center for help (move to new section?)

• Or call Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency 202.727.6161 (Move?)

Check with your local authorities such as the fire and/or police department.

• In the District of Columbia, you can always call 311 from your home or cell phone to speak with someone in the Mayors’ City Wide Call Center for help.

How can I protect my family in the event of a hurricane?

Step 1. Build a Kit of emergency supplies. You and your family should be prepared to make it on your own for at least three days. Concentrate on the critical items such as fresh water, food, and clear air.

Consider the following items for your Basic Kit:

• At least one gallon water per day for each person, for drinking and other needs
Non-perishable Food for a minimum of three days and for each member of your family. Remember to supply fresh water and food for your pet too!
Manual can opener
Radio and extra batteries or hand-crank radio
• A flashlight for each family member with extra batteries
• First Aid Kit
Medications and other necessary items for family members with special needs, diapers, formula, cane, hearing aid, etc.
Wipes, trash bags, hand sanitizer, bleach and other items for personal hygiene and sanitation.
Visit www.fema.gov for more suggestions.

Step 2. Create a Family Emergency Plan

You may be separated or become separated from family members when an emergency occurs. Therefore, it is important that everyone in your household know what to do in the event of a crisis. Each member should know who to call and where you will meet up. Also, call your daycare provider, child’s school, your employer and any other place where you and your family spend significant time to find out what their protocol is in the event of a hurricane or other emergency situation.

In addition you can:
• Select an out-of-town family member as the contact person in the event of an emergency. This individual can convey information to separated family members.
• Provide each family member with a cell phone or pre-paid phone card
Teach family members to text message, especially seniors and. A text message will sometimes go through when networks experience difficulty.

Step 3. Protect Your Home. Buy Flood Insurance.

The best way you can protect your home or apartment is to purchase flood insurance. Most insurance policies do not include home flood protection coverage. Without this coverage, if your home is flooded, any damage it costs very little, generally a few dollars more per month to add flood protection coverage to your existing policy. Check with your insurance company to find out more or go to www.floodsmart.gov for more information.

In addition to insurance, you can also:
• Cover all of your home’s windows with ply wood to protect from strong winds
• Bring in all outdoor furniture and anything else that cannot be tied down or secured
• Keep trees and shrubs well-trimmed
• Turn off gas and electric if instructed to do so (Warning: If you shut off your gas, you must have a professional come out to cut your gas back on.)
• Turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed
• Turn off propane tanks
• Install or purchase a back-up generator for emergencies
• Have enough water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets
• Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
• Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency by visiting www.FoodSafety.gov

Finally, remember that being prepared for an unexpected emergency could save your life, your family, or someone in your community. Get informed and stay safe!

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