Setti D. Warren, Regional Director
Federal Emergency Management Agency
The recently released movie, "The Perfect Storm," dramatically depicts the October, 1991 Halloween Nor'easter that took place in New England and caused millions of dollars in disaster damage. Most people do not remember that a major element of the weather system that led to the formation of the Perfect Storm was the remains of Hurricane Grace. In recent years, New England has been fortunate to avoid serious hurricane damage. But it is not IF a major hurricane will strike
Have we New Englanders done enough to prepare ourselves and our communities for the severe damage these storms can cause?
Here are a few things you can do to help yourself before a hurricane strikes:
- First, assess your risk from the coastal and inland flooding that hurricane rains can bring. Determine whether you live in a flood area, as identified on your community's Flood Insurance Rate Map. Standard homeowners' policies do not cover floods, having flood insurance is important.
- During the course of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 24+ percent chance that a house located in a 100-year flood zone will experience a flood loss. (The chance of experiencing a fire loss during that same period amounts to less than one percent).
- Assess your vulnerability to wind damage. During Hurricane Hugo (1989), hurricane force winds damaged homes 300 miles inland! To protect your home from wind damage, you can strengthen roof connections with hurricane clips or straps; brace the gabled end of the roof; and pre-cut plywood shutters for all windows. An ounce of prevention will save you thousands in damages. Before you begin these projects, contact your local building official for advice and any permits that may be required.
- Develop a family disaster plan. Know what you and your family will do when a storm approaches. Contact your local officials to determine if you are in an evacuation zone. If you are, know your evacuation routes. When told to leave, know where you will go and which route you will take. Remember that public shelters are just that - shelters. They should be the last option after staying with family or friends or in a hotel. If you are not in an evacuation zone and plan to ride out the storm in your home, determine how and where you will do that. The best option is the basement or a small interior space or closet.
- Plan on being on your own for a minimum of 72 hours. Stock up on canned food (and have a non-electrical can opener), prescription drugs, eye glasses, baby necessities (baby food/formula/diapers/wipes) toys for children
And water. Have flashlights (not candles, which are a fire hazard) and a battery powered radio (with extra batteries). Fill the bathtub or a garbage can with clean water for flushing toilets in the event of a loss of water pressure or loss of power to a well pump. Be sure to fill car(s) with gasoline.
- Nationwide effort to build disaster-resistant communities. Just as there are things you and your family can do to mitigate against natural hazards, there are also actions your community can take to become more disaster- resistant.
FEMA has launched a national initiative called Project Impact just for that purpose. Through Project Impact, the community-civic leaders, business leaders, elected officials, local government officials and concerned citizens-are given the tools and support to proactively manage the risks it faces from natural hazards such as hurricanes.
By assessing what is most at risk (e.g., high school roo...