Weather forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say that this year’s Halloween most definitely will not be a treat for folks on the East Coast. What many are dubbing “Frankenstorm” — a winter storm mixed in with late season Hurricane Sandy —poses hazards including gale-force winds, heavy rains and snow, flooding, and electrical power outages along the mid-Atlantic and in New England.
Are you prepared?
While you shouldn’t panic or live in fear, if you live along the East Coast, you should take the storm seriously and take action now to prepare. Take advantage of the advance notice for this storm to be ready, to help keep yourself and your family safe.
1. Make a plan. If you don’t already have a family plan for weather emergencies, now is a great time to start. Your plan should include where you will go if you have to leave, and how you will get in touch with family and friends. If you need to evacuate to an emergency shelter, the best way to find a shelter is to visit the American Red Cross website (they have a shelter finder app for phones, too).
2. Stay informed. Monitor the weather and stay aware of what the forecast is for your area. Pay attention to National Weather Service advisories such as a Watch or Warning. Local radio and television, a NOAA weather radio, and the internet are all good ways to stay informed of changing weather conditions and hazards in your area. Pay close attention to messages from your local authorities. If local authorities tell you to stay off the streets, follow their advice, and evacuate if directed to do so.
3. Make a kit. Stocking up on a few basic items can make a big difference in your family’s safety, health, and comfort. Important basics are bottled water (three gallons per person), food you don’t have to heat to eat, flashlights or an electric lantern, a battery-powered or crank radio, warm clothes, a first aid kit, batteries, garbage bags, and a wrench or pliers in case you have to turn off your own gas or water. Make sure your kit has your family’s particular needs in mind. If there is a baby or toddler in your house, make sure you have diapers, wipes, and formula if your baby drinks formula. If family members take medications, make sure you have a supply for a week or more. If you have pets, don’t forget food and other items they need.
4. Get ready for the lights to go out. For many communities, the biggest hazard of a major storm like this is electrical power outages. Plan for your family’s needs if electricity should go off. Make sure you have batteries for flashlights and radio, and keep your cell phones charged and your car’s gas tank full. ATM machines don’t work when the power is out, either, so if you can, get some cash out in case you need it.
5. Play it safe. Never use a gas-powered generator or charcoal-powered grill inside your home or in a closed-in space like a garage. Both produce carbon monoxide, which is colorless, odorless—and a deadly poison. While candles can be romantic, an electric lantern is much safer for your family.
6. Try communication that works. Cell and land line phones often go down temporarily in emergencies. If you can’t reach friends and family by phone, try sending a text message, or use email and social media. Often those work when voice lines don’t. If you can’t reach a family member, try a friend or neighbor who can to pass a message along.
7. Secure your home before and after a hurricane. The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following steps:
8. Be ready to evacuate. While you may not have to evacuate, you should be ready to go if you are directed by authorities or if it becomes unsafe to stay at home. Get your emergency go-kit ready. Important papers that should be in your kit include copies of medication list, pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates and insurance policies. Be sure to take a charger for your cell phone, “hard copies” of contact numbers for friends and family, spare warm clothes, baby supplies, glasses and contacts, personal hygiene items, a toy or game for your children, pets (in a carrier), road map, medications, and medical devices you use.
9. Insurance information. Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. It’s important to have protection from the floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains and other conditions that impact the United States. For more information on flood insurance, please visit the National Flood Insurance Program Web site at www.FloodSmart.gov.
10. Let people know you're okay. If your community experiences a hurricane, or any disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through RedCross.org/SafeandWell to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-866-GET-INFO to register yourself and your family.
11. Help kids to cope. Disasters and other emergencies are scary enough for adults; for children they can be especially frightening. You can do a lot to help the children in your life feel safer and adjust better to the temporary stress of a hurricane or major storm. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Spend extra time with them, especially at bedtime. Try to maintain a normal routine schedule in their day. Monitor how much exposure to the TV news and other messages about the storm they get. And help them do something positive, like being part of the family’s preparedness efforts or helping others. For more help on talking with kids about hurricanes, this guide from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network may help: http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/natural-disasters/hurricanes.