Regardless of when they form and the geographic location they hit, hurricanes leave a path of destruction for everyone to repair. In situations like these, the only thing we can do is make sure we prepare for the hurricane before it arrives.
Preparedness Includes Emotional Health
As survivors of Hurricane María prepare for the height of hurricane season, many may be experiencing stress from the suffering of last season.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or anxious about your family’s safety. Some common reactions to disasters are disbelief and shock, fear and anxiety, sadness and depression and feeling powerless. Sometimes the emotional toll can be even more devastating than the financial strains caused by the damage or loss of property.
Every person’s healing process is different and most of these reactions are temporary. Focus on your strengths and abilities to keep the process moving forward. Here are some tips that can help.
- Prepare for any disaster-related emergency.
- Help others if you can.
- Talk about your experience.
- Stay connected with family and friends.
- Find a support group.
- Recognize your and your family’s emotional history.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Set priorities.
- Start or restore routines.
- Engage in healthy behaviors.
- Maintain a hopeful attitude.
If your emotional health gets worse or persists for prolonged periods of time, it might be helpful to seek assistance from a counselor or get professional help. On the other hand, people who have existing mental health problems should check in with a mental health care professional. You can also seek help calling Línea PAS at 800-981-0023, TTY 888-672-7622.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline provides crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
- 24/7 Phone: 800-985-5990 (multilingual) - For Spanish, press “2”
- Text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 (Spanish speakers text “Hablanos”)
- From Puerto Rico or U.S. Virgin Islands, text to 212-461-4635
- The deaf, hard of hearing or people with speech abilities can utilize the texting option, connect with a DDH counselor via TTY at 800-846-8517.
- Website: www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline
Plan to Improve Your Safety
Safety should be the first priority during a disaster. Don’t wait until an emergency to make plans.
From having a plan to checking your surroundings, there are many easy ways to prepare. Here are some examples that may help you be prepared and safe.
- Remove objects that obstruct or block doors, hallways or exits to avoid falls.
- Plan what to do in case of an evacuation; practice the evacuation routes and know your closest shelters.
- Have a family emergency kit with essential supplies, such as water and food for at least 10 days for each member of the family; make sure it’s easy to find.
- Have a first aid kit with bandages, sterile gauze, thermometer, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
- Understand options to purify drinking water. For more information go online to www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/pdf/make-water-safe-sp.pdf for Spanish or www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/pdf/make-water-safe-H.pdf for English. Print the instructions in case communications fail.
- For the elderly or individuals with disabilities, remember to wear a medical alert tag or bracelet and pack healthcare information and medical devices.
- If needed, register at the Functional Access Registry to get help in case of emergency. Your information will be shared with FEMA and Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau. Register at: registros.salud.gov.pr/RegistrosPublicos/PoblacionesEspeciales/FunctionalAccessRegistry
- Don’t forget to have important items for infants and children.
- Know how to shut off utilities.
- Know whether your property is flood-prone.
- Identify levees and dams near the area and determine if they are a hazard.
- Prepare a safe room, such as an interior bedroom or bathroom, and put an emergency kit there.
- Buy permanent shutters or plywood panels to protect windows and sliding doors.
- If your house is made of wood, check its structural connections. The roof, walls, floor and foundations must be joined by metal anchors. If you can’t use anchors, then install straps, tensioning cables or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame.
- If you have to evacuate, lock all doors and windows and don’t leave house keys in obvious places such as the mailbox.
- Trim the trees and shrubs around your house.
- Remember to bring all outdoor furniture inside.
- Park your vehicle in a safe area and, if necessary, take it to another location away from possible flooding and falling debris.
- Secure all solar panels, satellite dishes, antennas and water systems with appropriate anchors.
Equipment and Portable Generators
Install surge protectors to avoid overloading electronic equipment and protect it from power fluctuations.
When using portable generators, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Consider where to store a portable generator outdoors. Keep it as far away as possible from gathering spaces, work areas, windows, doors or open vents.
Use a heavy-duty extension cord and ensure the cord’s wattage rating exceeds the total wattage of all appliances connected to it. Inspect the cord to make sure it’s not damaged.
Install battery-powered carbon-monoxide detectors inside your home.
Don’t store fuel inside your home. When refueling, consider using high-quality, small gas cans to avoid spillage and overfilling.
If you use medical equipment that requires electricity, plan to have a backup system. You can also contact your medical provider and ask if they have an alternative or emergency plan.
Preparedness in the Classroom
There are never too many efforts to share lifesaving information. Educators play an important role in helping students learn about hurricane preparedness this school year.
When talking with children about disasters it’s important to allow them to express their feelings. Teachers must listen for misinformation, misconceptions, and underlying fears or concerns and then address them.
It is important to answer their questions simply and directly. Being informed may help them feel better. The amount of information that will be helpful to children will depend on their age and developmental level. Like adults, children are better able to cope with a crisis if they feel they understand it.
Here are some general recommendations that teachers can consider when returning to the classroom:
- Create a safe environment. Children should feel safe talking about past experiences and their worries about this hurricane season. Participation on sharing their experiences should always be voluntary.
- Listen to children’s fears and concerns. Take their fears seriously and try to answer their questions simply and honestly. Pay attention to any sign of serious emotional distress.
- Share some your own experiences. This creates a connection and helps them realize they are not alone.
- Focus on the positive. Share ideas on preparedness and how they can help others in need.
- Keep daily routines as normal as possible. Routines give children confidence, help them establish good habits and offer stability during times of stress.
- Engage students in creative activities. Playing games or letting them write stories or draw pictures gives them opportunities to express their feelings.
- Give them tools they can share with their parents. Talk about preparedness and how they can help their family be ready in case of a disaster.
- Motivate them to participate in preparedness activities. For example, empower students by discussing what they may need in an emergency kit.
For the benefit of Puerto Rico educators and students, FEMA prepared several materials and graphics that teachers can use in the classroom to stimulate the preparedness conversation. With the help of characters Pablo & Paola, children can learn about hurricane preparedness in fun and useful ways.
Some of the materials are:
- Tools for Educators brochure with ideas for teachers to develop with their students at preschool, primary and secondary levels.
- Fact Sheet with important information on how to address some of the student’s emotional needs.
- Several graphics to help students participate in a more active way.
- Have a Family Plan
- Let’s Talk… Hurricanes
- Word Search - Hurricane Season
- Word Search - Before the Storm
These materials can be downloaded on the following links:
Other resources that can be very useful in the classroom are:
Let Children Participate
Disaster planning should be a family affair. Making every member a part of the plan is an opportunity to talk about a difficult subject in a less stressful environment.
Good plans reduce decision-making during an actual crisis so it is a good idea to prepare in advance.
Children can be particularly vulnerable to stress as a result of disasters and might even suffer from anxiety because of the disruption of family routines. When children feel safe it gives parents peace of mind.
Here are some tips that can help families prepare children for hurricane season.
- Encourage them to talk. Let them talk about the disaster and ask questions. Address their doubts as best as you can.
- Understand their fears. Take their fears seriously. Tell them that it’s okay to be scared.
- Keep them informed. Explain what is needed in simple words. Don’t overwhelm them with repeated news updates and limit their access to graphic media.
- Include them in the crafting of the family emergency plan. Making plans ahead of time will help everybody in the family feel more prepared when disaster strikes.
- Help them build their emergency kit. Teach them about what they should include. Let them choose some of the things they want to put in their kit like their favorite stuffed animals, board games, books and crayons.
- Teach them what to do in case of emergency. If your kids are old enough to use a phone, teach them how to dial 9-1-1 and when they should do so. Also teach them that for other situations it might be better to send a text message because a call might not get through.
Health and Nutrition:
- Think of a balanced menu when buying supplies. Stock up on non-perishable food that is also nutritious like nuts, dried fruit, cereal, cereal bars, applesauce, canned fruit, etc. Have plenty of potable water.
- Introduce them to new food now. Start introducing them to non-perishable foods that may be new to them now. That way they don’t have to struggle with too many dietary changes after the emergency.
- Talk to your pediatrician. Speak to your pediatrician or other medical professionals about their emergency plans. Ask them to recommend an alternate pediatrician for emergencies and ask for copies of your children’s medical records, just in case.
- Prepare them for the experience. Explain what it means to evacuate to a shelter.
- Bring some comfort. It is important for your children to bring their favorite blanket, stuffed animal or toy to the shelter.
Children with Special Needs:
- Consider the special equipment needed. If your child uses medical equipment such as a ventilator, consider having a backup generator if the power goes out and fuel to power the generator.
- Remember details that make a difference. For children and individuals with autism, it may be helpful to include a fidget toy, squishy ball or similar item in their emergency kit.
- If needed, prepare a sensory kit. A sensory kit for children can include weighted vests, wrist/anklet bands and blanket, chew toys, fidget toys, sensory brushes, squishy balls, picture exchange communication systems, sound blocking head phones, pop-up tents and crawling tunnels.
These materials can be downloaded on the following links:
|Graphic: My Emergency Kit||Gráfica: Mi Kit de Emergencia|
Some Resources Available:
Create Your Family’s Hurricane Preparedness Plan
Planning ahead can help survivors feel better prepared. Having what we need to take care of ourselves, our loved ones and homes reduces the amount of stress in the emergency.
Get your family prepared in three key steps:
Build a Kit
Families and individuals need to consider their specific needs to ensure they have the right supplies to manage by themselves during the first 10 days following a disaster.
- Store a gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation. In case your water supply runs out, pre-identify safe sources of water, use water filters or boil water if you are unsure about its cleanliness. Have disposable cups available and remember to clean the water containers after using them.
- Gather a 10-day supply of non-perishable foods for each person in the household. Individuals with special diets and allergies will need particular attention as will babies, toddlers and the elderly. Nursing mothers may need liquid formula. Part of the grocery shopping for the 10 days of supplies should include cleaning products for our homes as well as ourselves.
- Canned dietetic foods, juices and soups may be helpful for ill or elderly people.
- Have enough hand sanitizer, antibiotic ointment, hygienic products, diapers and wipes available for children and older adults.
- Make sure to have food and water for your pet. Be sure your pet is wearing a collar with updated identification tags with the pet’s name, owner’s name, address and phone number.
- Have at hand a favorite toy, stuffed animal, books and coloring book and crayons for the younger members of the family.
Make a Family Communications Plan
As roads may be impassable and cell phone service may be disrupted, identify alternate ways of staying in touch with loved ones.
- Choose an out of town friend or relative as a point of contact.
- Decide on a meeting place in case you cannot return home.
- Keep important documents and phone numbers with you at all times.
- Ensure children are included in preparedness conversations and make sure they have emergency contacts memorized or saved in a secure place.
- Identify the closest shelter in case you are ordered to leave your home, and let your family know its location.
Listen for the most up-to-date information before, during and after a disaster.
- Local media will provide evacuation orders, details about evacuation routes and shelter locations.
- Make sure your battery-powered radio is working and you have extra batteries.
- Download the FEMA App at fema.gov/mobile-app to receive severe weather alerts, safety tips and much more. Stay updated with weather-related alerts from the U.S. National Weather Service.
This is the time to inform ourselves and prepare to act. When we have everything that we need we are ready, and that helps us maintain our well-being. If you or someone in your family is experiencing issues with disaster-related stress, call Línea PAS at 800-981-0023, TTY 888-672-7622.
Have 10 Days Worth of Supplies
Survivors should prepare with essential supplies for at least 10 days. That means having enough food, water and other commodities to sustain the household.
Puerto Rico residents are encouraged to consider the areas where they live and their family-specific needs when gathering supplies. People with disabilities or special healthcare needs should consider those unique needs in their planning.
A basic emergency supply kit includes:
- Water – a gallon per person per day, for drinking and sanitation, or 10 gallons per person
- Food – at least a 10 day supply of non-perishable food per person
- Non-electric can opener
- Pet food and extra water
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and paper towels
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
- Propane gas
- Flashlights or solar lamps
- Cash in large and small bills
- Important family documents
Keep Your Pets in Mind
When preparing for an emergency, keep in mind: What’s good for you is good for your pet.
Hurricanes Irma and María revealed that vaccinations and identification tags are important measures to keep your pets safe. Keep their vaccinations updated to reduce their risk of contracting potentially deadly bacterial diseases. Also keep your contact information up-to-date, including having a microchip with your information implanted in your pet.
When preparing pets for hurricane season, consider the following:
Make a Plan
- Arrange a safe room at home for your pets. It should be clear of hazards such as tools, debris or toxic products.
- Seek out a nearby shelter. Ask about the type of pets they accept, any limits on size or other pet-specific restrictions.
- Designate someone to take care of your pet. Consider a trusted person who has interacted with your pet.
- Get a proper pet carrier. Look at this as an investment, not an expense.
Prepare an Emergency Kit (for 10 days or more if there are no basic utilities.)
- Food and water
- Basic first-aid kit. Include latex gloves and antibiotic ointment.
- Medicine and important documents.
- Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash. Pets should wear their collars at all times.
- Sanitation. Keep newspapers and trash bags handy.
- Familiar items. Favorite toys, treats and bedding can help reduce stress.
- A picture of you and your pet together. It can help document ownership and identify your pet.
Other Kinds of Animals
- Horses. Move hazardous and flammable materials from the barn exits and walkways.
- Birds. Keep leg bands on for identification and transport them in proper travel cages.
- Small animals. Guinea pigs, hamsters, mice and gerbils should have enough bedding materials as well as food and water.
- Farm animals. Plan ahead for a possible evacuation.
Other General Recommendations
- Always bring pets indoors when disaster threatens.
- Never leave a pet chained, whether outdoors or indoors.
- Attach an emergency sticker to your door or window, indicating there are pets in the house. Remove the sticker when you evacuate with your pet.
- If you must travel by air with your pet, call the airline for specific requirements.
Some available resources
Secure Your Home
Evaluate the risk if you decide to stay in your home. Are you in a special flood hazard area? Can your home withstand strong winds?
- Re-evaluate our homeowners and flood insurance policies
- Secure or reinforce windows and doors
- Seal and secure the roof and make sure it is in good condition
- Trim branches and trees
- Store flammable materials in a secure place
- Secure solar panels, satellite dishes and water systems with anchors
- Check and clean drain system
- In case of storms, move car to higher ground if in a flood zone
- Remove any debris around the house
- Secure outdoor furniture, tools and equipment
Hurricane Preparedness for Apartment Dwellers
Living in an apartment community poses some unique considerations for hurricane preparedness. Sharing your walls and communal areas mean some actions are your responsibilities, while others depend on your neighbors and management.
The following tips will help apartment dwellers be prepared in case of a storm.
Protect your Home
Make sure the apartment is in good repair and safe for you to shelter-in-place.
- Bring inside any outdoor furniture, planters and other items from patios and balconies.
- Get shutters or panels for your sliding glass doors and windows. Ask the building’s management or landlord if a specific style is required. If you’re a renter, ask if your landlord provides them and who will put them up before the storm.
- Identify your safest room, probably an interior bedroom, bath or hall, and stay there when windy conditions become threatening.
- Consider sheltering in an apartment on the lower level if you live on a higher floor.
Store your 10 days’ worth of supplies
Storage space in apartments is often limited so storing your supplies may be challenging. If your kitchen is small, find space in a closet, under the bed or even behind the couch. Fill bathtubs and the washer with water that can be used to flush toilets and for sanitation needs.
Steer clear of windows
Don't stand near windows during a storm, and keep your curtains drawn. The National Hurricane Center advises against using tape since it can cause a false sense of security and also lead to larger, more dangerous shards of glass blowing through your apartment.
Check your insurance coverage
Confirm with your apartment’s administration what is covered by its insurance. Contact your agent to insure your personal property and to buy flood insurance, if it is not included.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
It’s important to know who may need or can lend a helping hand in an emergency. Residents will likely gather in communal areas, and working together helps everyone get through the emergency.
Suggest an emergency fund
Establishing an emergency fund or redirecting monies for maintenance fees may help cover items like generators and other emergency repairs in common areas.
Park your vehicle in a safe area
Assess your assigned parking spot and, if necessary, take your car to another location away from possible flooding and falling debris.
Contact your building administration or residents’ association
Whether you live in a condominium, co-op or walk-up complex, the manager or condo board administers the by-laws, information and funds to manage the building. Check to make sure the preparedness plan includes:
- Assigning captains to help share information and check on residents with special needs.
- Gathering residents’ emergency contacts.
- Providing administration and management contacts for residents.
- Informing residents how access gates will operate in case of a power outage.
- Making a communications plan for residents in case phones are down.
- Ensuring the generator maintenance is up-to-date with extra supplies available (filter, oil, fuel).
- Scheduling waste pickups and sewer cleanups.
Assess Your Sheltering Needs
Recovery work is steadily progressing. However, the next storm could cause another prolonged disruption of vital services like water, power and phones.
Local emergency responders will be available to provide assistance as soon as weather and road conditions allow. In the meantime, families and individuals need to ensure they have the right supplies to manage by themselves during the first 10 days following a disaster.
In Puerto Rico, flooding and mudslides from Hurricane María reached areas never affected before. As a result, FEMA encourages Puerto Rico residents to re-evaluate their sheltering needs. People with disabilities and special healthcare or access and functional needs should also make shelter plans a priority.
Sheltering in place – If you plan to ride out the storm in your home:
Make sure it is in good repair and meets local hurricane building code specifications. Have the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up windows and doors.
Check your home’s flood hazard zone in FEMA’s updated Advisory Base Flood Elevations map, when published. This can help determine what preventive steps to take.
Store at least 10 days’ worth of supplies including one gallon of water and non-perishable foods per person per day, special diet meals, medications and medical devices.
Keep pets inside the house or take them to a pre-identified safe location.
Review your family communication plan.
Identify several places you could go and several evacuation routes, in case evacuation is mandatory.
Sheltering out of home – If you decide to stay with friends or neighbors:
Inform your family of your sheltering location and review your communications plan.
Take along your supplies including food, water, medications and medical devices.
Identify a kennel and secure a spot if you have a pet.
Mass care sheltering – If you need to stay at an official shelter:
Pre-identify your closest shelter. If local officials call for an evacuation, don't hesitate. Leave early.
Keep the gas tank at least half full in case you need your vehicle to leave the area. If relying on public transportation, contact your local emergency agencies about evacuation procedures before a hurricane.
Inform your family of your sheltering location and review your communications plan.
Plan to take a disaster supply kit with you. Include special dietary meals, medications and medical devices. Have a copy of your prescriptions in a sealed plastic bag in case you need to refill them.
Coordinate with neighbors, friends or relatives to make sure someone is available to care for or rescue your pets if you can’t.
Pack a kennel, leash, ID tag and vaccination certificate for your pet. Pets will be taken to a reserved space. Certified service pets are allowed to stay with their owners for emotional support.
Despite where you are sheltering:
Listen to local media for storm-related updates.
Make sure your battery-powered radio is working and you have extra batteries.
Download fema.gov/mobile-app to receive severe weather alerts, safety tips and much more. Stay updated with weather-related alerts from the U.S. National Weather Service.
Sign up for alerts from your local emergency management office so notifications, including evacuation orders, go directly to your phone and email.
Collect and update your personal and financial records and documents.
The time to prepare for a hurricane is before the season begins—when you are not under pressure. Being prepared can mean the difference between being a hurricane victim and a hurricane survivor.
How the Elderly Can Prepare
When a hurricane comes along, elderly people can be especially vulnerable. They are more likely to have diminished awareness, health problems, access and functional needs and various other limitations.
Puerto Rico is home to more than 640,000 residents 65 and older, and nearly half of them live with a physical disability or functional need. They often need help from family and neighbors to prepare for a storm.
Whenever possible, seniors should find shelter with family or a caregiver. Older folks in a nursing home or adult-living facility should speak with the administrator about the specific hurricane/evacuation plan for that facility.
Preparedness Kit for the Elderly
- One gallon of water per day. Electrolyte beverages are a good source of hydration.
- Foods ready to eat and not perishable, preferably rich in B12 vitamin and low in sodium. Vitamin supplements can help prevent nutritional deficiencies.
- Blankets, extra clothing and comfortable shoes.
- Spare eyeglasses, catheters, batteries, oxygen systems, etc.
- First-aid kit, medical insurance and Medicaid/Medicare cards.
- Prescription medicines and copies of prescriptions that can be refilled for up to six months.
- Medical-alert tags or bracelets with information about healthcare needs.
- An emergency-contact list to reach family and friends.
- Plenty of extra cash, since access to banks and ATMs may be limited.
- Copies of family records and other important documents such as birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, passports, wills, deeds, and financial, insurance and immunizations records — all stashed in a sealed, waterproof bag.
- A battery-powered radio and/or a NOAA weather radio.
- A solar or battery-operated flashlight.
- A whistle to call for help and a small mirror to reflect sunlight in case you have to signal rescue teams.
Tips for Staying at a Shelter
- Take what you can carry from your readiness kit.
- Notify management of any needs you may have.
- Let your family and out-of-town contacts know where you are sheltering or where you will be staying during the storm.
- Make arrangements for your pets’ care.
Healthcare Continuation for the Elderly in Case of a Storm
Disasters have shown that older adults are particularly vulnerable, especially if they need ongoing healthcare.
Seniors taking medicines should consider the possibility of prescription refills for up to six months and keep a copy of prescriptions as well as dosage information. If undergoing routine treatments administered by a hospital or receiving regular services such as home healthcare, treatment or transportation, older adults should talk to their service providers about their emergency plans.
Family members who have a relative in a nursing home, assisted living facility or retirement community, should inquire about the facility’s emergency preparedness plan.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What is the evacuation and sheltering-in-place plan?
- How is the plan coordinated with volunteers, the community and the municipality?
- Are staff trained for emergency evacuations procedures?
- Does the facility discuss the emergency plan with the residents?
- What is the main phone number or contact to call for information?
- How will the facility contact family members if communications are down?
- Does the facility have a backup power system or generator?
- Are there extra supplies of water, food and medications stored onsite?
- How are the residents’ medical records and supplies secured?
Reminders for older adults with diabetes
Alternate your insulin stockpile, using first the ones with the earliest expiration date.
Have extra glucose monitors, batteries and test strips with long expiration dates.
Insulin contained in vials or cartridges supplied by the manufacturers may be left unrefrigerated at a temperature between 59 degrees Fahrenheit and 86 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 28 days.
Cooler pouches and packs can keep insulin cool for a few hours and up to a few days.
Whenever possible, purchase a generator to keep the insulin refrigerated.
Do not leave the person alone. Even those who aren’t prone to wandering away may do so in unfamiliar environments or situations.
If evacuating, help manage the change by bringing their pillow and blanket.
When at the shelter, try to stay away from exits and choose a quiet corner.
During an episode of agitation, respond to the emotions being expressed. For example, say "You’re frightened and want to go home. It’s ok. I’m right here with you."
Register with the MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®, a 24-hour nationwide service that can help first responders return the person home safely. For information call 888-572-8566 or visit www.alz.org; Spanish assistance available upon request.
Tips for managing medical equipment:
- For seniors living in a condominium, an evacuation or escape chair allows for quick and safe transportation down the stairs.
- Make an inventory of any specialized items and model numbers, such as extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters and eyeglasses.
- If oxygen is needed, check with the supplier about emergency plans.
Older adults may hesitate to ask for help for fear of appearing vulnerable. It never hurts to reach out and offer assistance to seniors, even if they don't show a need.
Preparedness for People with Disabilities
Planning may mean stocking up on hearing-aid batteries or keeping an emergency supply kit in a walker or wheelchair. For a child or person with autism, it may mean packing a computer game or headphones to help ease stress. It could mean showing others how to operate a wheelchair.
Caregivers play a critical role in hurricane preparedness for those with disabilities.
Here are some tips to help everyone prepare:
- Talk with friends, family or a support network about how to stay in touch.
- Keep phone numbers for doctors, aides and family in a sealed waterproof bag.
- Pack eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and dentures in an emergency kit.
- Ask neighbors or someone in your support circle to help keep you informed.
- Plan ahead for accessible transportation in case evacuation becomes necessary.
- Identify the closest shelter in case you need to leave your house.
- Identify which medical facilities are close to your house or shelter.
- Wear medical alert tags or bracelets with information about healthcare needs.
- Plan and practice for an evacuation, and remember to take your medical devices in a waterproof bag.
- Have at least a 10-day supply of prescription medicines along with copies of prescriptions; list of all medications and dosage; list of allergies; list of dietary restrictions.
- Make plans for a pet, including a note for emergency responders: I have a service animal named ____, who must evacuate with me.
Tips for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Get a weather radio with text display and a flashing alert.
- Stock up on extra hearing-aid batteries and protect them with a plastic bag.
- Carry pen and paper to help communicate with someone who does not know sign language.
- Have access to TTY and/or VRS.
Tips for people who are blind or have low vision
- Carry a picture of your family members to help connect you with them in an emergency.
- Mark emergency supplies with Braille labels or large print. Keep a list of emergency supplies on a portable flash drive or make an audio file and keep it in a plastic bag and where it’s easy to find.
- Keep a Braille or deaf-blind communications device in an emergency supply kit.
- Practice your evacuation route and be comfortable getting to your family’s meeting point.
Tips for people with a mobility disability
- Make sure all assistive devices that depend on electricity or batteries are working and keep your batteries in a waterproof bag.
- Keep an emergency supply kit in a backpack attached to your walker, wheelchair or scooter.
- Show others how to operate your motorized wheelchair, and have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup.
- Keep an extra cane or walker for emergencies.
- Keep an extra seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance, and take it along if evacuation becomes necessary.
Tips for children and adults with autism
- Familiar items will help children adjust to new surroundings and ease the stress of the transition. Remember to pack their favorite toys, movies and computer games.
- Headphones or earplugs can dampen the noise in unfamiliar settings. Consider bringing duct tape to mark the perimeters of your family’s assigned space in a communal shelter.
- Children with autism often wander away. Work with teachers, police and community members as you develop safety plans to help protect children from dangerous situations.
Tips for people with a mental health condition
- The stress that comes with an emergency can be hard to manage. Be ready to provide important information specific to your situation, or write it down and keep it with you. For example: “I have a mental health condition and may become confused in an emergency. Please help me find a quiet place. I will be okay shortly.”
The range of needs runs wide and effective planning runs deep. Be ready for the hurricane season and help those who may need neighborly assistance.
Survivors at all income levels have experienced the challenges of rebuilding their lives after hurricanes Irma and María. Financial preparedness is an essential part of 2018 hurricane season planning.
Being financially prepared means you should:
- Consider the costs associated with disasters such as insurance deductibles and evacuation costs, and plan for those costs. Anticipate initial out-of-pocket disaster expenses for lodging, food, gas and more.
- Check your insurance coverage. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, contact your agent to ensure you’re adequately covered and understand exclusions. Don’t forget coverage for your car and remember that standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood insurance which requires 30 days to take effect.
- Download FEMA’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit at www.ready.gov/financial-preparedness. The kit is a flexible tool designed to help you collect and secure the documentation you would need to get on the road to recovery without unnecessary delays.
- Keep some cash handy. Banks and ATMs may be inaccessible if there are power outages or curfews.
- Set aside money in an emergency fund. This can be difficult to do on a tight budget, but can be well worth the effort. Start by saving a few extra dollars each week and spread out your 10 days’ worth of supplies shopping to avoid a one-time large expense. Keep your emergency funds in a safe, easily accessible account.
- Set aside an emergency-only credit card. If possible, designate one credit card for emergency use only. It should have enough available credit to accommodate purchases of food and supplies for a week or more. Making purchases on a credit card will help you document disaster-related expenses.
- Flood-proof important papers. Place photocopies of important documents in a plastic bag and double wrap them to protect against water damage. You could also upload digital copies of important documents to the cloud.
- Get your benefits electronically. A disaster can disrupt mail service for days or weeks. If you depend on Social Security or other regular benefits, switching to electronic payments is a simple, significant way to protect yourself financially before disaster strikes.
Take the time now to identify, collect and update your personal and financial records and documents. It will help you be prepared ahead, rather than get caught up in the rush of events.
Preparedness on a Budget
When it comes to hurricane preparedness, planning ahead and strategic shopping can help save money.
Here are a few tips to build a preparedness kit for less:
- Create a list of essential items: Considering your family needs, and any items you ran out of after Hurricane María, list the essentials that fit your needs and budget.
- Spread out your shopping: Avoid waiting until the last minute. Look for bargain sales and separate items for immediate use from emergency ones.
- Use coupons and discounts: Make good use of coupons and mobile savings applications. Redeem loyalty program points for items for your preparedness kit.
- Get used and discount items: Certain emergency supplies such as radios and flashlights don’t need to be purchased new.
- Choose generic products: From medicines to everyday items, these are usually less expensive than name brands.
- Buy in bulk: Make bulk purchases of emergency kit items with neighbors, friends or coworkers.
- Check out the dollar and discount stores: They offer items at a low cost, from crayons and coloring books for the kids to cleaning products.
- Save some cash: Have a money box in a safe place and add a few extra dollars to it every week.
- Stay in to save money: A trip to the movies for a family of four can cost upwards of $50. Instead, having a movie night at home can help fund your emergency kit.
- Give the gift of preparedness: Consider giving electronics chargers, solar lamps and other emergency kit items to friends and family to help them be more prepared. Ask for preparedness-related gifts for yourself for birthdays or holidays.
- Store water: Purchasing commercially bottled water is recommended but not always economically feasible. Use two-liter soda and soft drink bottles for potable water storage. Water that has not been commercially bottled should be replaced every six months.
Recommendations on how to protect your home without spending a lot:
- Pay insurance in installments: Pay your property and flooding insurance policies in monthly or quarterly payments rather than the full premium upfront.
- Make a video inventory of your home: Use your smartphone or camera to take photos and a video of your property. This will help simplify your insurance claim.
- Install surge protection: Add a power surge protector to your electrical panel and use power strips with built-in surge protectors to help protect your property.
- Stock up on plywood: Plywood is an affordable solution to protect shutterless windows from projectiles.
- Seal windows and doors: Leaky windows and doors can let water in so make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed. Plastic bags between panes will ensure water stays out.
- Remove area debris: Remove or secure anything surrounding your home that could become a projectile. That includes lawn furniture, toys and low-hanging branches or limbs.
- Clean out your gutters and drains: Keep your gutters and downspouts clear. They prevent water from collecting on the roof and around your home.
How to Make Your Business Hurricane Ready
Employers and business owners should consider the impact a hurricane could have on their facilities and their relationships with customers, their own employees and their bottom line.
Through continuity planning, businesses can assess how the company functions, both internally and externally, to determine which staff, materials, procedures and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep the business operating. Taking small steps now could help ensure business continuity and employee preparedness.
General Business Preparedness Tips
- Anticipate water, electricity, telecommunications and other utility disruptions. Speak with service providers and identify backup options.
- Make sure your facilities are in working order and meet local hurricane building code specifications.
- Develop a preparedness program to help identify ways to protect facilities, physical assets and electronic information. Be sure to engage people with disabilities and access and functional needs in your emergency planning.
- Create a communications plan to keep in contact with customers, suppliers and employees during and after a storm. Be prepared to provide employees with information on when, if and how to report to work following an emergency. Consider those instances where telecommuting would be an option.
- Determine what parts of your business need to be operational as soon as possible and plan how to resume those operations.
- Check insurance policies to ensure you have enough damage coverage. Additional business disruption insurance could help cover loss of income after a storm.
- Go to FEMA’s Map Service Center, enter your address and choose “Interactive Map” to see your flood zone. Speak to your insurance agent about how to protect your home and/or business with flood insurance.
- Keep copies of important records such as building plans, insurance policies, employee contact information, bank account, computer backups and other priority documents in a waterproof container. Store a second set of records at an off-site location.
- Develop professional relationships with more than one company in case your primary contractor cannot service your needs.
- Identify and prepare for any support your employees, clients and communities may need.
- Businesses interested in joining the National Business Emergency Operations Center to share information and situational awareness during hurricane response activities should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
- Stay informed by listening to local officials.
- Download the FEMA App at fema.gov/mobile-app to receive severe weather alerts, safety tips and much more. Stay updated with weather-related alerts from the U.S. National Weather Service.
- Business continuity planning can help your business keep moving forward and recover faster from any disruption. Businesses interested in participating in FEMA’s Continuity of Operations workshops (COOP), may email their request to email@example.com. COOP is a United States federal government initiative that ensures state/federal agencies are able to continue performance of essential functions under a broad range of circumstances. For more information on Puerto Rico’s recovery and hurricane business preparedness, visit www.ready.gov/business
Manage Your Utilities
Hurricanes Irma and María stressed how important it is to prepare for power
outages, water service interruptions or communications failures.
Here are some actions you can take to plan ahead during this hurricane season.
- Install surge protectors. They help avoid overloading your electronic equipment and protect it from power fluctuations.
- Learn where and how to shut off your house’s electricity. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure this out. Shutting the power off can prevent dangerous situations.
- Develop a plan for medical equipment. If medical equipment is provided by a hospital or health provider, ask them about an emergency plan or alternative.
- Plan for rain water collection. You might need it for non-drinking purposes like flushing toilets, washing clothes or cleaning.
- Make a Family Communications Plan. Decide on a meeting place and choose an out-of -town friend or relative as a point of contact. Neighbors can get in touch to identify potential needs.
- Download the FEMA app and other weather or emergency apps.
- Write down important phone numbers. Have a written list with personal contacts and emergency phone numbers in case your phone is not working.
- Consider installing a landline phone. Traditional phones might be the only ones working in case of emergency, but make sure they don’t rely on electric power to operate.
- Back-up your computer. Scan important documents and pictures and make a back-up in a jump drive or in the cloud to avoid loss.
Here are some things you might need.
- Have enough flashlights and extra batteries. Store them in an easy-to-find place.
- Have one or more beach coolers. They can help keep food fresh.
- Get a small gas stove and buy extra propane gas. You can heat food and cook small meals.
- Consider non-electric technology. Solar lamps and chargers can be useful.
- Safely use portable generators. Use them only outdoors and observe the manufacturer’s instructions and take proper precautions. Stock up on oil and filters for a few days.
- Have enough water for at least 10 days. Estimate the consumption of water for your family, including pets. At least one gallon per person per day.
- Store water properly. Keep water in glass, plastic or fiberglass containers to avoid corrosion. Keep containers and water tanks clean, disinfected and sealed.
- Understand your options to purify drinking water.
For more information go online to
www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/pdf/make-water-safe-sp.pdf for Spanish or
www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/pdf/make-water-safe-H.pdf for English.
- Have a crank or battery-powered radio or portable television. Some solar-powered or hand-cranked radios may also be used to charge cell phones.
- Store extra batteries for devices and keep a portable phone charger in your vehicle.
- Waterproof devices. If your phone is not waterproof, consider a waterproof case or a thick, sealable plastic bag to place your phone into.
In the event of an announced storm:
- Turn the refrigerator to its coldest setting before a storm. Use a cooler to avoid opening the refrigerator or freezer doors.
- Know about oasis locations. Stay tuned to the media and follow instructions from your municipality.
When and Where to Go
- Leave immediately when told to evacuate by local officials.
- Check with your local emergency management office for info on evacuation routes.
What to Do
- Check with neighbors who may need a ride.
- Take your pets with you.
- Bring essential supplies like water, food, medications.