Hurricane awareness timeline: a chronological list of steps you can take starting now

Lisa Yates

Being prepared for a hurricane requires planning.

Some things you have to do well in advance and some things have to wait until the last minute. In any event, there is a daunting list of details to attend to when preparing for something as dangerous as a hurricane. You have to consider timing in the process.

When should I start preparing? What should I do first?

These are some questions we asked Richard A. Webre, director of Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Ascension Parish.

He said the time to prepare is now.

“People should be taking responsibility for their personal safety year-round,” he said. “They need to be vigilant to not only hurricanes, but other disasters as well.”

He said you can find information in the first 14 pages of the telephone book, or you can download a complete emergency preparedness guide on the parish’s Web site at www.ascensionparish.net;click on the link to the Office of Homeland Security.

To make it easy for you, we’ve taken some of these tips and presented them in chronological order.

Here’s what you can do, starting now:

Today

• Sign up for FirstCall Emergency Notification at www.alertregistration.com/ascensionperish/. This system alerts you to any emergency in your area. You can select to receive messages via voice mail, text message, e-mail, or even social media.

• If you believe you or a family member will require assistance because of a medical special need during a hurricane, call (225) 621-8360 and register on the special needs registry.

• Plug this number into your cell phone: 1-866-380-2303, to use as needed. It’s the Ascension Parish Community information line and it contains valuable information during emergencies, such as evacuation routes and road closures. Only call 911 to report an emergency.

• Sign up for first aid and CPR classes. These are great classes for the family to take in preparation for any emergency situation.

• Make sure you can put your hands on your family’s important papers, such as social security cards and birth certificates. Don’t forget about shot records for your pets. You’ll need these records if you have to evacuate.

• Don’t wait until a hurricane is coming, start stocking up on supplies now. You’ll want to have: a supply of water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, eye glasses, prescription medication for people and pets, a battery-operated weather radio, flashlights, extra batteries, a non-electric can-opener, special items for infants or disabled family members, and any other essentials to last your family three to five days.

• Put together a smaller version of your supply kit in a backpack, so you can grab it and go in a hurry.

• Create an emergency communication plan with your family. Ask an out-of-state family member or friend to be your emergency contact in case of separation.

• Identify places where you will go in case you need to evacuate.

• Understanding which evacuation routes you must use as law enforcement will be there to assist you as needed.

• Plan how you will care for your pets in case of evacuation. Pets are not allowed in American Red Cross evacuation shelters for health and safety reasons (service animals excluded). Contact your veterinarian or the Humane Society at http://hsus.org for information regarding sheltering procedures and resources for pets.

• Businesses of all sizes need a plan, too. Visit www.ready.gov/business to prepare your business for the hurricane season.

• Check into flood insurance through your local insurance agent.

72 hours prior to impact

• Monitor current news and weather bulletins on the Web, on social networking sites, on NOAA weather radio, on broadcast TV and cable, and on the radio.

• Fuel and service vehicles.

• Make plans to secure your property. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.

• Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well-trimmed.

• Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.

• Prepare to bring lawn furniture and other loose, lightweight objects inside.

• Store any recreational equipment, such as boats, RV’s and four-wheelers.

48 hours prior to impact

• Parish officials will hold their first press conference 48 hours prior to storm with specific directions for you to follow. So closely monitor online, radio and television for updates.

• Bring in pets.

• Board up windows.

• Remove all objects from around your home that could become dangerous wind-driven projectiles.

• Freeze water to create ice. Insure adequate supplies by storing extra supplies in large bags.

• Turn off propane tanks.

• Keep vehicles full of gas in case of evacuation.

Evacuate when directed by local authorities, or living in a mobile home, on a flood plain, in a high rise, or near an inland water way.

• Follow all directives by your local authorities.

• Use recommended evacuation routes to carefully drive to safe shelter.

•  Information concerning the opening of schools as emergency shelters will be announced on the parish cable TV emergency alerting system APTV channel 21, and the parish emergency alerting system radio station WJBO AM 1150.

• Initiate your contact list.

• Make sure to bring your emergency supplies and documentation.

• Have some cash on hand for food and other essential needs.

• Remember to turn off all the lights, household appliances, gas, heating, cooling and ventilation systems.

• Leave your refrigerator on.

• Secure your home and make arrangements for pets.

• Let others know when you leave and where you are planning to go.

If you are unable to evacuate

• Secure and brace all exterior windows and doors.

• Ensure that your emergency supplies are easily accessible.

• Use telephones only in case of emergencies.

• Don’t go sight-seeing. Stay off the streets and let emergency responders and public workers do their jobs.

24 hours prior to impact

• Listen to local news/radio updates via battery operated weather radio.

• Fill bath tubs and large containers with water to ensure you’ll have an abundant supply of clean water available for drinking, bathing and flushing toilets.

• Turn off all utilities if directed by authorities.

• Unplug all the electronics you were charging and unplug any valuable electronics like your television, stereo, desktop computer, etc. to protect them against surge from lightning strike (and stay off corded phones).

• Turn refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings to keep food cold should you lose power.

• Ensure essential items are available.

• Move to the lowest level of the structure or to an interior room.

• If possible, have a second cell phone battery available and fully charged.

Post landfall

• Plan to locate separated family members. All family members should make contact with their designated individual.

• Secure food and water.

• Find a place to stay.

• Return home safely once advised to do so. While traveling be watchful of any downed power lines, standing water, weak structures, and displaced pets and wildlife.

• Before entering your home, be careful of shifted furniture/appliances, roof or foundation damage, broken or frayed wires, and any standing water that could contain raw sewage.

• When opening doors or cabinets, be careful of any items that can fall.

• During cleanup, throw away any contaminated food or clothing and disinfect any items that can be salvaged.

 Visit these Web sites for additional information:

·      www.ready.gov

·      www.floodsmart.gov

·      www.citizenscorps.gov

·      http://cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes

·      www.fema.gov/hazard/hurricane

·      http://disastersafe.redcross.org

·      www.redcross.org