Before The Storm
Every year, prior to hurricane season, your family should review your hurricane plan and make changes as necessary. It should include if you plan to evacuate, where you will go, the route you will take to get there, when you will leave and what supplies you will take.
If you plan to stay, make sure you have all of the supplies necessary to be on your own for at least 72 hours. If you are planning to go to an evacuation shelter, have your shelter supplies kit packed and ready. Make sure you have all the materials on hand to protect your home. You should also trim dead wood from trees. Don’t forget to make arrangements for pets. Print and save this page for future reference. You may not have power if a storm is approaching.
If the storm is threatening the area you should listen to local media for information and actions to be taken. In addition you should:
- Fuel your car. You will need it to evacuate and pumps don’t work without electricity.
- Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools.
- Install your storm shutters or cover windows with plywood and secure all doors. If you don’t cover our windows, remove your screens so they won’t blow away and you can reinstall them after the storm to keep mosquitos at bay.
- Prepare boats as appropriate.
- Turn refrigerators and freezers to the highest settings. Freeze plastic bottles of water (leave room for expansion).
- Turn off small appliances that are not needed.
- Turn off LP tanks.
- Call an out-of-town friend or relative to let them know of your plans. Then instruct other family members to call that person for information about your family after the storm.
- Fill sinks and bathtubs with water. Check them for slow leaks.
- Get an extra supply of cash. Banks and ATMs may not be operational immediately after the storm.
Tracking a Storm
Those of us who live along the Florida Gulf Coast should track every Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm. Many times, we will need to begin making preparations before the storm ever enters the Gulf of Mexico. When tracking a storm, remember that a hurricane is not just a point on a map. Usually the coordinates of the center of the storm are given so that you can track it on your map, however, hurricanes can have tropical storm force winds over 200 miles from that center and even hurricane force winds over 75 or 100 miles from the center. We must remember that hurricane forecasting is not an exact science and they don’t always go where predicted.
Tropical Storm Watch
Issued when tropical storm conditions are possible in the specified watch area, usually within 48 hours.
Tropical Storm Warning
Issued when tropical storm conditions are expected in the specified warning area, usually within 36 hours.
Issued when hurricane conditions are possible in the specified watch area, usually within 48 hours. During a hurricane watch, be prepared to take immediate action to protect your family and property in case a hurricane warning is issued.
Issued when hurricane conditions are expected in the specified warning area, usually within 36 hours. Storm preparations should be completed and evacuation under way.
Note: Due to the amount of time required for evacuation in Wakulla County, evacuation orders may be issued before a hurricane watch or warning have been issued by the National Hurricane Center.
If you plan to stay at home during a hurricane, you should have the following items on hand. It is a good idea to get these items at the beginning of the hurricane season because as a storm approaches, stores become very busy and stock is depleted quickly. Please remember that if you are in an area that is evacuated, it is important to leave when the order is issued.
Water should be stored in plastic containers – avoid using glass. Store one gallon of water per person per day – and plan on at least five days of need. Save your empty 2-liter bottles during hurricane season to fill with water the night before a storm may hit. Fill bathtubs and sinks with water for sanitation use. Check them for leaks before the storm, and if water is draining out, place a sheet of plastic wrap over the drain. Washing machines can also be filled with water to use for washing hands. Water purification agents such as bleach should also be on hand.
Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, cooking or preparation. Think about what kind of food you would take camping – those are the types of
foods that you need on hand after a storm. Many good foods come in ready-to-eat, non-refrigerated packaging. Small packages are a good choice because you won’t have refrigeration for leftovers. Make sure you have a good stock of Sterno, a full tank of propane for your grill, or plenty of charcoal. Never use propane or charcoal indoors.
First Aid Kit
It is a good idea to have two first aid kits. One for your home and the other for your car. Your kit should include things like bandages, scissors, tweezers, soap, latex gloves, lubricant, assorted size safety pins and any non-prescription drugs deemed necessary. Stock plenty of mosquito repellant and “bug bite sticks” for relieving the itch of insect bites and stings.
Tools and Other Supplies
You should have a basic tool kit with items you feel are necessary to make temporary repairs after the storm. Basics include: plastic sheeting, paper plates and plastic utensils, flashlights and a battery-operated radio with plenty of spare batteries (or better yet – a hand-crank radio), non-electric can opener, fire extinguisher (because of the candles), tent, matches, aluminum foil, plastic storage containers, plastic garbage bags, small shovel and insect repellent. A corded phone (not cordless – they require electricity) will help if you have phone lines but no power. Small, portable antennas will give you access to local television stations if you have power but no cable. Small televisions often have adapters for use in automobiles.
Clothing and Bedding
Clothing and beddings items should be protected by covering them with plastic drop cloths, placing them in waterproof boxes, plastic bags or other suitable containers. Be sure to have available: work boots and gloves, rain gear, blankets or sleeping bags, lots of towels, hats and sunglasses.
Always remember family members with special needs. For children you should have plenty of necessary baby formula, diapers, bottles and medications. Adults with medications such as insulin or other prescription drugs should have their prescriptions filled before the storm. Don’t forget any denture needs and eyeglasses or contacts. You may also consider asking your vet about a mild sedative for your pets if they are anxious during storms. You should also have some form of entertainment for everyone including books for adults. Keep all-important family documents safe and in a waterproof container. Items for consideration to keep safe are wills, insurance policies, bank account numbers, credit cards, your address book and a household inventory complete with serial numbers and pictures or video.
The Inland Danger
Storm surge is usually considered the most dangerous part of a hurricane. Recently though, inland flooding has been the big killer. It has been responsible for more than half of hurricane-related deaths. One quarter of those deaths from 1970-1999 were people who drowned in their cars.
Should You Stay or Go?
Have a good plan of action ready and stick to it. Don’t let the storm’s strength determine whether, or when, you evacuate. Storms can change strength and speed quickly. Leave early. Leaving too late puts you at risk of getting stuck in traffic as the storm moves inland.
If you live near the coast, in a low-lying area, in a flood plain or in a manufactured home, you should evacuate. If you live on high ground away from evacuation areas, then cover your windows and pick a small, interior room to ride out the storm with your hurricane survival kit. Tornadoes often develop as a storm approaches. It’s a good idea to pad your “safe room” with mattresses. All of Wakulla County is susceptible to Storm Surge during large storms. It is important that if your area is included in an evacuation order that you evacuate when the order is issued.
If you have any questions, you should call the Emergency Management Office (850-745-7200).
After A Hurricane:
- Do not try to return to your home until evacuated areas have been cleared of danger.
- Have your driver’s license or utility bill handy for proof of residence.
- Be wary of weak bridges, overpasses, porches, and decks – and of downed power lines and any pools of water that they may be in.
- Beware of broken glass and other sharp objects.
- Pay attention to the smells around you; they may warn you of broken gas lines.
- Watch out for poisonous snakes driven from their dens by flooding rains or saltwater intrusion.
- Do not drink tap water until emergency management officials pronounce it safe.
- TV and radio will be the best sources of information after the storm, but if you cannot “tune in,” go to the nearest disaster relief center. Relief centers usually are set up near the hardest hit areas and can provide you with information and disaster assistance such as unemployment compensation, food stamps, etc.
Going to an evacuation shelter? Here are some things you should know about going to a hurricane evacuation shelter. Hurricane evacuation shelters are provided for public use in the event a hurricane evacuation becomes necessary and if you have no other place to go. It is recommended that other arrangements be made with a friend or relative that lives in a well-constructed home, out of the evacuation area, and properly protected to withstand hurricane force winds. You will probably be more comfortable, certainly in a less crowded environment and among friends. Remember, alcohol, weapons and pets are not permitted in public shelters.Buildings used for evacuation shelters are normally public schools that are staffed by Red Cross volunteers. Shelters are always crowded, usually uncomfortable when the power goes off because there is no ventilation, have long lines to use restrooms and to get food, and are very noisy – making it difficult to rest or sleep. Keep in mind you may have to stay in the shelter for several days.
What About My Pets?
Only 38% of U.S. households have children, but 43% have pets! Take time now to plan how you will protect yours during a weather emergency.
If You Plan To Evacuate
All pet owners should make arrangement for their pets if they plan to evacuate. Public shelters will not accept pets. If you can’t take your pets with you, arrangements should be made with a clinic or kennel that is outside of the evacuation area. These arrangements should be made well in advance because available spaces fill up quickly as a storm approaches. If you plan to take your pets with you, you may want to ask your vet for a mild sedative (for the pet) and remember to take these items for their care:
- A secure pet carrier of appropriate size
- Food/water bowls
- A one week supply of dry food
- Water in plastic containers
- Medications and health records
- Leashes (muzzles if necessary)
- Newspapers and paper towels for cleanup
- A favorite blanket
Many hotels/motels will accept pets, especially in emergency situations. If you plan to go to a motel, determine in advance if pets are welcome and what, if any, special rules are applicable. It is also a good idea to photograph each of your pets and include these pictures with your health records. All pets should have current immunizations and ensure that they have a collar with proper identification.
Though pets are not allowed in public shelters, in compliance with 28 CFR Part 36, supporting the American Disabilities Act, service animals will be allowed in both general and special needs shelters.
If You Must Leave Your Pet At Home
If you have to leave your pets at home try to secure them in a safe area of your home. Otherwise, your pets may escape and become disoriented as a storm could alter landmarks and scent trails. Make sure the pet is wearing a collar with proper identification. Remember, don’t leave dogs and cats in the same space. Even if they normally get along, things may change as the storm approaches. Some other things to remember are:
- Place pets in ventilated safe rooms without windows
- Leave at least a three day food supply
- Leave plenty of water
- Leave access to elevated spaces in the event of flooding
Pet stores sell slow-release feeders for fish tanks if you evacuate.
After the storm, walk pets on a leash until they become reoriented to their home and surroundings. Downed power lines and other debris pose risks for you and your pets. Don’t let pets consume food or water which may have become contaminated.
During The Storm
If you stay at home during a hurricane you should take the following precautions in addition to those mentioned on the before the storm page as the storm approaches:
- Stay away from windows and doors, even if they are covered.
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, hallway or basement if available. If you live in a two story home, choose a room on the first floor.
- Close all interior doors and brace exterior doors if possible.
Lie on the floor under a table, or another sturdy object. Some protection is afforded by covering:
- with a mattress during the height of the storm.
- If the eye of the storm passes over, it will be calm for a short period of time. REMAIN INDOORS! As soon as the eye passes over, winds will increase rapidly to hurricane force from the opposite direction.
- Remain calm. It may take several hours for the storm to pass.
After The Storm
- Keep listening to your local radio or TV stations for information.
- If you evacuated, return home only when authorities advise that it is safe. Make sure you have plenty of gas, and bring any supplies you may need (batteries, water, non-perishable food).
- Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. Immediately following the passage of the storm, debris and downed power lines may be covering roadways making them impassible. Emergency crews will be working to clear roadways but it may take hours or even days to clear them all. Avoid sightseeing. Roads may be closed for your protection so if you encounter a barricade, turn around and go another way.
- Do not drive in flooded areas. Avoid weakened bridges and washed out roadways. If water is touching the span of the bridge, do not cross over.
- Stay on firm ground. Moving water only six inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from downed power lines.
- Beware of downed power lines. Lines may be charged and dangerous.
- Beware of snakes, insects or animals driven to higher ground by flood waters.
- Enter your home with extreme caution. Beware of fallen objects or damaged roof and wall sections.
- Remove shutters or plywood and open windows and doors to ventilate or dry your home if necessary. Replace screens if you removed them prior to the storm.
- Check gas, water and electrical lines and appliances for damage. Do not attempt to repair damaged gas or electrical lines. Call a professional.
- Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until you are certain it is not contaminated.
- Avoid using candles or other open flames indoors. The fire department may not be able to respond if you have a fire. Use a flashlight, glow sticks or battery-powered lighting.
- Use the telephone to report emergencies only. This includes cellular phones. An older “corded” phone can be used if your power is out but you phone lines are up.
- Be especially cautious when using a chainsaw to cut fallen trees. Ambulances may have difficulty responding to accidents, and roads to hospitals might be impassable.
- Never connect portable generators to your house. Use them only to run necessary appliances and plug the appliance into the generator.
Storm Damage Insurance Checklist
The following tips, provided by the Florida Insurance Council, Inc. may be helpful when settling an insurance claim following a disaster. Remember, you bought insurance to take care of emergencies and you should be satisfied with the way insurance companies honor their part of the contract.
Making the Claim
Contact your insurance agent as quickly as possible. Let them know about your losses. If you are relocated temporarily, provide the address and phone number. The claim process may begin in one of two ways. Your insurance company may send a claim form for you to complete or an adjuster may visit your home first, before you are asked to fill out any forms.
Most homeowner’s policies cover additional living expenses. Your insurance company should advance you money if you need temporary shelter, food and clothing because you can no longer live in your home and your clothes have been ruined. They will also advance you money if you need to replace major household items immediately to continue living there.
Keep receipts for everything you spend. Make sure the check for additional living expenses is made out to you and not your mortgage, the bank or other lender. This money has nothing to do with repairs to your home and you may have difficulty depositing or cashing the check without their signature.
Make only those repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your home or business. This must
include covering breaks or holes in the roof, walls or windows with plywood, canvas or other waterproof material. Your insurance company will reimburse you for the costs of your repairs, so keep receipts for any materials you buy. Do not have permanent repairs made without first consulting your agent. Unauthorized repairs may not be reimbursed.
Avoid using electrical appliances, including televisions and stereos, which have been exposed to water, unless a technician has checked them.
If your car was damaged and you have “comprehensive” coverage in your auto insurance policy, you should also contact your auto insurance company.
Preparing For The Adjuster’s Visit
An adjuster is a person professionally trained to assess the damage. The more information you have about your possessions the faster your claim can be settled. You should already have a complete inventory of the items in your home that includes a description of the item, model and serial numbers (if applicable) and the original cost and what it would cost to replace it.
Make a list of damaged items. Take photographs of the damage and put together a set of records for each item that includes any old receipts or bills. Don’t forget to list items such as clothing, sports equipment, tools, china and linens, etc.
Don’t throw away damaged furniture or other items because the adjuster will want to see them.
Identify the structural damage to your home and other buildings on your premises. Make a list of everything you want to show the adjuster when they arrive. In some cases, the adjuster may recommend hiring a licensed engineer or architect to inspect the property. You should also get the electrical system checked. Most insurance companies will pay for these inspections.
If possible, get written bids from reliable, licensed contractors on the repair work. This should make adjusting the claim faster and simpler.
Homeowner’s insurance policies usually don’t cover flood damage but they do cover other kinds of water damage. For example, they would generally pay for damage from rain coming through a hole in the roof or a broken window as long as the hole was caused by a hurricane or other disaster covered by the policy. You need a separate flood insurance policy to cover flood damage from any rising water. Contact your insurance agent regarding your coverage and the need for flood insurance.
If your home was severely damaged, you may have to rebuild sections in accordance with current building codes. In some cases, complying with the code may require a change in design or building
materials and may cost more. Generally, homeowner’s insurance policies will not pay for these extra costs. Some insurance companies offer an endorsement that pays for a specified amount toward such changes.
Most insurance companies will pay for removal of trees that have fallen on your home but they will not pay to remove trees that have fallen and haven’t caused any damage to your home. Neither will they pay to replace trees or shrubbery that have been damaged by the storm.
Now is the time you should get an “insurance checkup”. Contact your insurance agent and make sure what your policy covers and doesn’t cover. After a disaster is not the time for surprises and finding out that you are not covered for losses.