June 1 once again marks the start of hurricane season in the United States, a half-year period that continues through the end of November. While the “official” season doesn't begin until June, in recent years we've seen more hurricane activity in May, strengthening the need for early awareness. In an effort to minimize property damage, injuries and loss of life from these dangerous storms, each Spring the National Weather Service (NWS) schedules its “National Hurricane Preparedness Week.” This year, the NWS has slated National Hurricane Preparedness Week for May 9 through May 15, 2021, even including a social media element to its week of activities. The week is designed to raise awareness of the upcoming season, the potential ramifications of the storms and how businesses and residents can better prepare. Last year, in 2020, you may recall there were a record number of named storms.
National Hurricane Preparedness Week is broken down, day by day, to address various aspects of hurricane preparedness including hurricane safety tips, critical hurricane supplies to have on hand, how to create a hurricane preparedness checklist and other tips. Here are the elements of focus you should note to prepare yourself and your business for the season.
Day 1: Determine Your Risk
The risks you face from a hurricane will likely largely be based on your location. Coastal communities like Miami for example, face a greater risk from the highest winds and storm surge. While the risks generally diminish the further your property is located inland, it can still be subject to damage from strong winds and flooding. Inland locations can also be susceptible to lightning and high winds associated with thunderstorms and potential tornadoes. Falling limbs and power outages are likely in even the weakest of hurricane force winds. The closer you live to the Gulf or Ocean and the further south you live the more critical your hurricane prep plans will be.
Day 2: Develop an Evacuation Plan
Human safety should be a priority in any hurricane prep strategy. Businesses should plan to close in time to allow for preparation of the facility for minimal damage and to allow employees time to prepare individually for evacuation.
Hurricane prone areas have government established hurricane evacuation routes to help citizens travel to safer locations. Your family's hurricane evacuation plan should not only include these established routes but how and where your family will gather in a storm and if you have any predetermined destination plans. Pre-plan how you will communicate and choose an out-of-area family member or friend to communicate through should you be unable to reach each other. Safe sites may include the homes of family and friends in safer areas or even a list of pet-friendly hotels (if necessary) that may facilitate a safer evacuation. It is also a good idea to keep fuel levels in your vehicles near full during hurricane season.
Your evacuation plan should include shutting off utilities to your structure(s) prior to evacuation to minimize the threat of fire and flooding from broken water pipes.
Day 3: Assemble Disaster Supplies
While hurricanes may be only a hours long event, the ramifications from one can last much longer. You should be prepared with water, food and other hurricane supplies for at least a week. These supplies should include non-perishable foods, drinkable water, batteries, propane gas and sufficient cash on hand. Foods like canned tuna, canned chicken, noodles and spaghetti sauce, canned vegetables and peanut butter and jelly are great foods to start with. Propane grills and a generator can be invaluable in the days following a hurricane. Make sure there are flashlights, a battery powered radio and charged external cell-phone power packs available. A car charging cord can help keep cell phones operating. A hurricane safety kit should include bandages, cotton, scissors, prescription medicines and over-the-counter pain medications. Assembling supplies can be an ongoing process and may even become a part of your weekly shopping list.
If you are wondering “What should I have in my hurricane preparedness kit?” start with the basics. A radio, flashlight, batteries, bandages and food. Your kit will expand as your knowledge grows, and you have more time. Your hurricane survival kit will also likely become more customized to your family and/or business and time passes.
Day 4: Get an Insurance Review and Checkup
Will your homeowners or business insurance policy sufficiently cover you from hurricane related wind and water damage? The time to find out is now. You simply can't wait until storms are imminent to get coverage for flooding or high winds. Policies will have 30-day or longer waiting periods to go into force. Most basic homeowners and business policies do not cover flooding, so seek out additional coverage. Make sure you have policies in a safe place if you were to need to file a claim. It is also a good time to make sure your coverage limits on your policy are sufficient.
Day 5: Strengthen Your Property
Make sure your property is ready for hurricane season by inspecting the roof for loose or missing shingles or raised areas. Make sure gutters are clear to allow proper drainage of heavy rains. Have trees trimmed and eliminate branches that may hang over structures. If you rent or lease property, communicate early each year about protocols for hurricane safety and preparedness for the facility. In an approaching storm you'll also want to secure outdoor items like patio furniture, grills, etc. and inventory and secure any loose items that can become missiles in high winds. Consider hurricane shutters or at least board up windows, and sandbags around entrances and sliding doors can help prevent interior water damage. Make sure all structures are locked and secure prior to the storm's arrival.
Don't forget company or personal vehicles. If possible, vehicles should be stored indoors, against garage doors to help strengthen them. Do not leave vehicles under trees, power lines or in low-lying areas if possible. And as a general reminder, don't drive through streets covered by water no matter how shallow it appears.
Day 6: Commit to Help a Neighbor
Get to know your neighbor, so you can help monitor their property and their well-being during and after a storm. Neighborhoods have been known to pull together in post-hurricane situations to assist in clean-ups and to monitor the safety of its residents and businesses. Time and time again we have seen communities gather to help each other and rebuild following a disaster. It is one of the true and few bright spots following a hurricane.
Day 7: Complete a Written Plan
Create a written plan to share with staff and family members. This written plan can be particularly important for businesses with large investments in equipment and inventory at risk and a number of employees who can assist in executing the plan. A written plan for businesses should include what records need to be secured or moved, which items can be raised above floor level in case of minor flooding and how to secure the building's utilities. This written plan should include protecting important customer data and paperwork too. For families, a written plan should include provisions for medicines, any pets, insurance papers and financial resources. Many people will include an inventory of needed supplies in their plan and work to maintain a minimum level of those supplies throughout the hurricane season.
Remember, hurricane season lasts a full 50% of the year. It is worth preparing for and staying prepared for.
Be Aware. Be Prepared.
Now is the time to get ready for hurricane season and the team at ServiceMaster DSI is here to help. With decades of disaster preparedness and property remediation experience and expertise, we can help you minimize potential damage and quickly assist in the resolution of damage should it occur. While the immediate damage from a hurricane can be severe, the long-lasting damage from water and the resulting mold can even be more problematic. It must be addressed promptly to minimize losses.
See how we can help you be better prepared and get cleaned up and up and running quickly following a hurricane or any disaster. Visit the SMDSI Hurricane Preparedness Center and learn more.
2021 SMDSI Hurricane Preparedness Center