Those of us who live in areas vulnerable to hurricanes tend to think we know all about preparing for a major storm. However, the frequency and severity of damage and disruption from recent hurricanes have raised the bar on what it means to be prepared. With a steep rise in major hurricane-related disasters in both 2017 and 2018, this year hurricane preparedness has taken on a new level of urgency.
The start of hurricane season is the best time to start developing an effective action plan, according to experts from the American Red Cross — before a storm is imminent. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.
“Preparing a kit with must-haves like water, food and batteries is a great first start, but it’s only the first item on the list,” said Tim Downey, division philanthropy director for the national headquarters of the American Red Cross.
From 2017 to 2018, the American Red Cross responded to 18 major hurricane-related disasters across the country - more than the previous four years combined, Downey said. The Red Cross defines major disasters as Level 4 storms and above resulting in costs of at least $250,000.
For 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a “near normal” hurricane season. That means “a likely range of nine to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).”
With 300,000 volunteers who respond to more than 60,000 disasters on average each year, the American Red Cross is the leading authority on disaster response and recovery.
Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross received its Congressional charter in 1900. It is tasked by the federal government with providing disaster relief as well as communications and other support to the US Military.
Where do many of us go wrong when preparing for a major storm?
“I think the single worst mistake we see over and over is the failure to plan or to execute a plan,” says Joanne Nowlin, Regional CEO of the American Red Cross South Florida Region. “Florida residents know they run a high risk of experiencing the effects of a hurricane and yet they may wait until the last minute to stock up on supplies, get cash, fuel up vehicles, evacuate, plan for family members or pets. All of those failures can quickly add up to a serious problem at least affecting their quality of life or putting themselves or their family at risk.”
Nowlin’s American Red Cross chapter is part of a network of nearly 270 local Red Cross chapters across the country.
After making sure you have the basics in your emergency kit, the organization recommends additional life-saving strategies:
- Get trained in First Aid and CPR, and know where the closest defibrillator is located. Emergency response mechanisms may be overwhelmed in the aftermath of a hurricane. Being trained to care for someone in medical distress while waiting for professional help, could be lifesaving
- Be sure to make individualized preparedness plans for family members or neighbors who need extra assistance.
- Create a personal support network that can help you plan and provide assistance if a disaster happens. Remember not to depend on just one person – include a minimum of three people in your network.
- Practice your disaster plans with your personal support network at least twice a year. Keep a map in your car. You may not have access to maps on your cell phones or computers during a disaster.
- Make plans for your pets or service animals. In your pet’s emergency kit, include food, water, identification tags, and other necessary supplies.
- Secure important documents including insurance policies and house deeds in a waterproof container. Make sure you have enough cash on hand to meet expected expenses. Remember, ATMs and credit/debit machines may not work.
Finally, American Red Cross employees and volunteers have plans in place to secure their homes when they are away, responding to a disaster elsewhere. If you travel for business or are taking a vacation, make sure you have a plan to secure your family, home and property in your absence.
“We all know the risk is there,” Nowlin said. “Get a plan and execute it.”
Ryder and the Ryder Charitable Foundation have been partnering with the American Red Cross for decades. However, we began a major sponsorship in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami, leaving $25 billion in damage in its wake. As a Disaster Responder Member of the organization’s Annual Disaster Giving Program, Ryder provides funding, expertise and transportation to support Red Cross relief efforts. Ryder is part of a national coordinated effort to help people recover from disasters. Ryder employees work with the Red Cross, deploying trucks to assist with recovery efforts.
Written by Sydney Morton, American Red Cross and Kitty Dumas, Ryder Charitable Foundation