Floodwaters and standing water are often contaminated, posing several risks, such as infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries.
Here are six sicknesses you should beware of in the aftermath:Diarrheal diseases
Drinking or eating anything that has come in contact with floodwaters can lead to cryptosporidiosis, E. coli or giardiasis. While cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are brought on by parasites, E. coli is caused by bacteria.
Symptoms from each include diarrhea, gas, nausea and vomiting. Cryptosporidiosis, however, can even be fatal for those with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS or cancer.Wound infections
Open wounds and rashes that are exposed to floodwater can cause tetanus or Vibrio vulnificus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection, and it can enter the body through breaks in the skin like a cut.
Vibrio vulnificus, another bacteria, can be contracted the same way. Many people become infected by consuming undercooked shellfish or exposing an injury to brackish or salt water.Other illnesses
People affected by flooded areas can also get trench foot. It occurs when your feet are wet for long periods of time. It can cause pain, swelling and numbness.
You should also be aware of chemical hazards from materials that may have spilled into the water. And be cautious of electrical hazards, since there are puddles that may be electrified due to fallen power lines.
Curious about other diseases you can catch? Take a look at the full list at CDC’s official website.
The East Coast is no stranger to hurricanes and the destruction that follows. The Saffir-Simpson scale was developed to help determine damage and flooding before it strikes.
What is a hurricane?
A hurricane is a rotating low-pressure weather system that converts the energy of warm air into winds and waves. Hurricanes have “warm core” centers, meaning the center of the storm is warmer than the surrounding air. Warm ocean temperatures and wind patterns that spiral air inward are necessary for a hurricane to form.>>How to use the internet during the storm when your internet is down
The “eye” of the storm is produced as the warm air rises in the storm’s center and a center of low pressure is created. When the pressure in that area drops, more air is pulled in, creating a sort of heat-pump effect that causes the storm to repeat the process and grow in intensity. The storm will continue to do so until it’s supply of warm water is interrupted.
Thunderstorms spiral out from the eye and the water is pushed ahead of the storm, building what is called a "storm surge." The storm surge forms to the east of the eye.
When a system has sustained winds of 39 mph, it is classified as a tropical depression. When the winds reach 39 mph or higher, the depression becomes a tropical storm and is given a name.
At 74 mph, the system is a hurricane.
What is the Saffir-Simpson scale and what does it have to do with hurricanes?
The tropical system is assigned a category depending on its wind speed. Here are the categories, the wind speeds and what those winds will likely do once the system makes landfall:
Category 1 -- 74 to 95 mph: Very dangerous winds will produce some damage. Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to the roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
Category 2 -- 96 to 110 mph: Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly-rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
Category 3 -- 111-129 mph: Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes. Category 3 storms and above are considered major hurricanes.
Category 4 -- 130-156 mph: Catastrophic damage will occur. Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Category 5 -- 157 mph or higher: Catastrophic damage will occur. A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and walls collapsing. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Here is a video that shows the increasing level of damage in each category.
A hurricane leaves a path of destruction and many are left trying to figure out how to begin the chore of cleaning up and repairing their property.
Insurance companies will send claims teams to the affected areas after the event so that customers can get the process of filing a claim started and get the money to repair their property in a timely manner.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to file an insurance claim following a hurricane or flood:
1. It is important to file the claim with your insurer as soon as possible. Thousands of people will be filing claims, and you want to get yours as high as you can on the list.
2. The Insurance Information Institute, an organization that provides information on insurance issues, suggests you make temporary repairs to your home if they are needed to protect it from further damage. Save the receipts for supplies so you can turn them in for reimbursement.
3. Once you are able to speak to an insurer, you will need to ask these questions:
4. This step is very important: Once you make the claim, be sure to write down the claim number. Again, insurers will be dealing with thousands of people -- make it easy for them to communicate with you about your claim by having the claim number written down where you can find it.
5. When you speak to your insurer, record the day and time of the conversation and with whom you spoke. Take notes about what is said and if any monetary amounts are mentioned.
6. You need to be ready to provide an accurate description of damages to your insurer. If you can safely do it, walk around your home and make notes on what was damaged.
7. After you contact them, your insurance company with send you a “proof of loss” form to complete or will send an adjuster – a person trained to assess the damage to property – to your home to get the information on your losses. To speed this process along, start gathering information about your property and the items that were lost or destroyed. A proof of loss form will ask you to describe the items damaged or destroyed, provide the approximate date of purchase and estimate the cost to repair it or replace it. If you happen to be able to produce receipts for items, that would be a help as well.
8. Another step you can take to document what was damaged is to photograph or videotape the damage. Be sure to point out structural damage in the photos or video.
9. Do not throw out damaged items. You want an adjuster to see them first.
10. If you are unable to live in your home and must stay elsewhere, keep all receipts for any living expenses – hotel rooms, food, and other costs of evacuation. Most homeowner policies that cover windstorm damage will cover those costs.
11. Be wary of anyone who comes to your door offering to do repairs or claiming to be insurance adjusters.
12. If you have no insurance, you can register for federal disaster relief at DisasterAssistance.gov. You do that by downloading the FEMA mobile app or by calling 1-800-621-3362.
Disaster assistance can help with temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses, including crisis counseling and legal assistance. Click here for more information on FEMA aid.
Water vs. wind: What is covered?
Hurricanes cause wind and water damage. Homeowners insurance covers these hazards in a different way.
Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage – including flooding that is caused by storm surge. You would have needed to have flood insurance to pay for damages caused by water beforehand. Structures or belongings that were damaged by flooding are covered only by flood insurance.
Wind damage is not covered in some coastal states. You would have had to purchase a separate windstorm policy in advance, which is a common thing in those coastal states. Both North Carolina and South Carolina are states where insurance companies can charge special deductibles for wind damage.
Damage to your car is generally covered by your automobile insurance.
Finally, be patient. It may take a while for someone to get to you and assess your damages.
Refill special medications.
Get cash (ATMs may not work for days after). Don’t charge credit cards to the limit; you might need extra cash after the storm.
Get supplies. Follow instructions in this guide for food and water.
Don’t fill gasoline cans until right before the storm; they are a fire hazard.
Fill vehicle fuel tank. Gas stations could run out and some will not have power to run pumps. Check your car’s battery, water, oil. Make sure you have a spare tire and buy aerosol kits that fix and inflate flats.
Check fire extinguishers.
If you own a boat, make necessary preparations.
Prepare your pool. Don’t drain it.
If you own a plane, have it flown out or secured.
WHEN THE STORM IS APPROACHING:
Get shutters, storm panels or plywood in place on windows. If you haven’t installed sockets, attach with wood screws; they’re better than nails and do less damage.
Don’t tape windows; tape can create daggers of glass and in the heat can later bake onto panes.
Remove swings and tarps from swing sets. Tie down anything you can’t bring in. Check for loose rain gutters, moldings.
Move grills, patio furniture and potted plants into your house or garage.
If you do any last-minute pruning, take clippings inside so they don’t become hazards in the wind.
Disconnect and remove satellite dish or antenna from your roof.
Check your mailbox. If it’s loose, secure or remove it.
Remove roof turbines and cap holes with screw-on caps. Unsecured turbines can fly off and create a large hole for rain to pour through.
Prepare patio screening. It usually is built to sustain tropical-force winds, but with higher winds, it can separate from the frame. Officials recommend you remove a 6-foot panel on each side to let wind pass through. Pull out the tubing that holds screening in frame to remove screen.
Secure and brace external doors, especially the garage door and double doors.
Move vehicles out of flood-prone areas and into garages if possible. If not, park cars away from trees and close to homes or buildings.
Don’t turn off your natural gas at the main meter. Only emergency or utility people should do that.
Do a trial run now to make sure your shutter system is functioning properly.
If you have removable panels, get them out to see if any are missing or bent.
Make sure you have enough mounting fasteners. If not, hardware stores often carry extras. Make sure mounting tracks are clean and debris-free.
Apply some light machine oil to lubricate parts and deter rust.
Permanently applied shutter systems, such as roll-up, Bahama or accordion shutters should be serviced yearly (twice yearly, if you live on the beach) by a professional, especially if the system is motorized. If rollers are accessible, they can be sprayed with aerosol “white grease,” according to Bill Feeley, president of the InternationalHurricane Protection Association. All motors should be professionally serviced.
Owners of newly built homes with shutter systems should make sure their builder demonstrates how to use the system and that all parts are provided before moving in. Missing or wrong-sized components are common, according to Feeley. “The homeowner assumes they fit and then when the storm is bearing down, they find out they don’t,” he said.
— Barbara Marshall
International Hurricane Protection Association: (844)516-4472, www.inthpa.com
American Shutter Systems Association: 800-432-2204, www.amshutter.org
Least expensive option: Plywood
Shutter orders and backlogs rise near the height of storm season. So the time to choose your coverings, if you haven’t already, is now. The least expensive option is plywood.
Plywood does not meet Florida Building Code specifications unless it’s installed according to code.
To ensure code compliance, you’ll need a permit from your local building department.
However, if a storm is close and survival is the goal, follow instructions in the accompanying graphic for correct installation.
Age and improper installation caused most roof failures in the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes.
Which kinds survived?
When was your roof installed? Roofs installed after the mid-1990s, when building codes began to change statewide after Hurricane Andrew, survived better than those installed earlier.
How old is your shingle roof? Shingles become brittle and lose adhesion in the Florida sun after about 12 years even if they were properly installed. Has your shingle roof been re-roofed on top of old shingles? If so, beware. Large segments of those newer layers flew off in the high winds.
How was your roof tile applied? Tiles applied with only concrete or foam adhesive fared better than nailed-on or screwed-on tiles, which can begin leaking after seven to 10 years. As with shingles, age affects performance.
How many layers or ‘plys’ make up your flat roof? A three- or four-ply interlining (under the roof coating) is generally better than two. Expect a multi-layered flat roof to last 15 to 18 years.
Is your metal roof properly attached? Metal roofs are the most expensive but also proved to be the most hurricane-resistant.
If the roofers used the correct attachment method, either screws or clips, the wind will have a difficult time getting underneath metal roof panels.
Do roof sealants and coatings help protect roofs from high winds? “I don’t recommend them,” says Joe Byrne, a roofing industry consultant and owner of Byrne Roofing in West Palm Beach, who says sealants can make shingles more brittle, affecting adhesion.
Where to verify a roofer’s valid license:
— Barbara Marshall
Trees should be trimmed by early June, before storms threaten. Many municipalities have “amnesty” weeks before storm season, when you can deposit more than the allowable limit of yard debris. Call municipalities for more information.
Call a professional. Trees trimmed by a professional arborist are far less likely to go down in a storm.
Thinning a tree allows wind to blow through its canopy, offering less wind resistance in a storm. Prune young trees to create a single leader, which will grow into a strong trunk.
To minimize damage to a mature tree, eliminate weak branches and reduce the length of limbs at a tree’s sides. Don’t remove interior branches, as this can make a tree unbalanced.
Hatracked trees become sails. Removing a tree’s canopy encourages bushy growth, which makes a tree top heavy and wind-resistant. Some hatracked trees “sailed” directly to the ground. Hatracking is illegal.
‘Lifted’ trees mean broken branches. “Lifting” is a common practice where the lower branches are removed to provide clearance underneath. Lifting contributes to branch breakage and makes the tree top heavy.
Don’t wait until the storm is threatening to prune. If the trash pickup doesn’t get to your curb before the storm strikes, you’ve created a pile of potential missiles.
Coconuts behave like cannonballs in high winds. Remove them well before a storm hits. If trees are too tall for you to reach, hire a tree trimmer.
Tips for your yard
Take in hanging pots and baskets. Secure or take in pots from shadehouses.
Secure young trees with additional stakes.
Don’t remove fruit. If you put it in a trash pile and the pile isn’t picked up, the fruit may fly around in the wind.
Tree-dwelling bromeliads, staghorn ferns and orchids can be secured with fishing line.
Take in or tie up any piles of yard or construction debris.
Take in all garden furniture, grills, tiki torches and other outdoor items. (Do not sink furniture in swimming pool.)
Consider removing gates and trellises.
Palms, native trees fared best through 3 hurricanes
In high wind, palms will bend but not always break. Since they originated in the tropics and subtropics, their supple trunks have adapted to hurricanes.
Plant palms in clumps around the edge of your garden (not near the house) to block the wind and protect more fragile plants inside. Although fronds will be damaged in a storm, most of these palms will recover.
Ficus trees come down easily in storms
Ficus trees are not meant for residential yards. They grow to 70 feet with a massive span of shallow roots, and come down easily in high winds.
If you already have a ficus, have it professionally trimmed before hurricane season begins. (If you have Australian pine and ficus in your yard, consider removing them.)
Stake small trees as a storm approaches with stakes driven at least 8 inches into the ground.
Trim large masses of vines so they don’t pull down fences.
Lay arches and trellises on the ground and anchor with rope.
Fast-growing, brittle trees should never be planted in hurricane country, no matter how quickly you need shade.
Gumbo limboCocoplumCypressDahoon hollyGeiger treeButtonwoodJamaica caperMasticIronwoodLive oakSand oakRed bayRed mapleCypressSea grapeStopperStrangler fig
BRITTLE TREES(Consider removing these trees from your yard.)
Australian pineEarleaf acaciaFicus (ficus benjamina, weeping fig)Bishopwood (Bischofia)CarrotwoodHong Kong orchidTabebuiaLaurel oakMelaleucaScheffleraBlack oliveJacarandaJava plumNorfolk Island pineRoyal poincianaSilk oak
Cabbage palm (sabal palm)Canary Island date palmChristmas palm (adonidia)Coconut palmFlorida thatch palmFoxtail palmRobellini palm (Pygmy date palm)Royal palmMajesty palmPaurotis palmThatch palms
Note: Queen palms are the exception. They have a very low wind tolerance.
Boat insurance: Coverages vary widely
See if your policy covers you for moving your boat out of danger when a storm is approaching.
Boats are a unique line in the insurance industry, one that is not regulated. It is insurance for watercraft, whether a powerboat, a sailboat, a yacht or some other marine vehicle.
What does boat insurance cover? Insurance needs differ depending on the type of watercraft that you own. Your policy will explain what is covered and what is excluded.
It is getting easier to find limited coverage, for example the amount of the loan the vessel secures if it is less than book value and liability coverage. By limiting coverage, insurance can be more affordable.
Check with your agent.
Most policies cover physical damage to the hull, sails, machinery, furniture, and other equipment normally used on board. Most perils are covered, including vandalism, malicious mischief, even damage from latent defects of workmanship.
Policies also cover damage to another boat or dock, and injury or death to another person as a result of your negligent operation or ownership of the boat. Most policies cover boat trailers against physical loss or damage from any external cause.
If you, your guests or family are injured while on board, the policy provides payment for incidental medical expenses.
The policy coverage provides compensation liability for injury to persons employed by you who may work on your boat, but are not crew members. To be covered, they cannot be employed by your boat yard.
Most importantly, understand what your insurance includes when you purchase it.
Make sure you have contractual liability coverage, which many marinas now require.
Boats out of water fare better in storm
Don’t ever consider staying on your boat in a storm. Make arrangements now for how you will store your boat. Here are the types of places you should try:
Note: State law lets marinas, at the owner’s expense, remove or secure vessels left at their docks when a storm is approaching. It also helps marinas and municipalities clean up wrecked or abandoned boats.
Finding a secure spot for boat on land
Remove outboard engine if possible. An engine might help weigh down a lighter boat but could cause a heavier boat to damage its trailer.
Pick a site away from trees and power lines. Do not park between buildings, where wind tunnels can develop. Remove electrical equipment and strip all loose gear.
Use wooden blocks at the trailer’s wheels. Deflate tires. If your boat is on a trailer, lash it to the trailer and tie trailer down to something secure. Ground anchors are best.
If you don’t have a trailer and your boat is small (does not have electrical gear and carpeting), fill it with water and tie it to the most secure thing you can find in your yard. If the boat is very small, turn it upside down and lash it to the ground or put it in the garage and leave the car outside.
If you are taking the boat out of the area, leave well before the storm. Once an evacuation is ordered, bridges may be locked down.
Don’t anchor or tie up near a floodgate. When the gate opens to allow water out, your boat will be crushed or sunk.
Use lines on both sides. Use double bow and stern lines. Use spring lines fore and aft. Don’t tie up too close to the sea wall. Water level could rise 10 feet to 20 feet above normal.
If in a canal or waterway, run at least eight lines to the shore. Set them so the lines form an X. Wrap the line several times around cleats or pilings before tying off on the ground anchor. Your boat should look like a spider in a web. Use oversized lines, as large as cleats can handle, but no more than two lines per cleat to spread the tension. Anchor only to pilings and deep-rooted trees (low on tree to avoid rope slipping off if top of tree snaps.)
Install fenders or even tires to protect boat from collisions.
Leave just enough fuel in your boat to get it back to its normal berth after the storm.
Set bilge pump on automatic. Leave cockpit drains open.
Close all intake valves below the water line. Seal hatches, ports, windows, doors and vents with duct tape.
Remove all gear affected by wind.
Disconnect shore power to your boat.
For a free guide to securing boats, contact the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatU.S.).
Don’t drain water from pool
Leave water level alone. Draining, so it won’t overflow, is pointless. If you drain it more than a few feet below normal and the ground gets saturated, the pool’s shell could pop out of the ground (even with concrete pools). Water provides weight to hold the sides and bottom in place.
Turn off power to the pump motor, lights and other equipment at circuit box. Disconnect gas from heater; if possible, have your gas supplier or pool service disconnect it to be safe.
Consider removing diving boards or slides if you fear they won’t be secure in high winds; if you decide to remove them, try to have a professional do it.
If the motor is exposed and you live in a flood-prone area, remove the pump and store it indoors. Otherwise, try to wrap it up with a waterproof cover and tie securely.
Remove automatic pool cleaners, pool blankets and covers, and take inside.
Super-chlorinate or double chemicals you normally add to reduce contamination and infestation by insects.
Stock up on chemicals to “shock” pool after storm.
Don’t throw patio furniture in pool to keep out of the wind; pool chemicals will harm the furniture and can mar the pool finish.
After the ‘all clear’
Call gas company or a pool company to reattach gas line to heater.
Don’t reconnect electrical equipment until you’ve removed debris from the pool with a net and power has been restored. Make sure electrical equipment is dry.
Do this as quickly as possible before bacteria starts to grow. Don’t use your vacuum; debris will clog it and the pump. Then, if the area around the pool is dry, start the pump. When draining the pool to proper level, remove cartridge filter or bypass the filter system. Super-chlorinate again.
Remove vegetative debris before treating water. Add 5 gallons of chlorine (based on a 15,000-gallon pool) and start pump after inspecting electrical equipment to be sure it’s dry. Reset timers, if necessary.
Closely watch the pump system through complete cycles for any problems.
Wait 24 hours to see whether water clears and turns blue. If it does, test water and follow instructions. If water is darker or black, pool may need to be drained, or partially drained, treated and refilled. Call a professional
Balance pool chemicals and monitor a few days.
More resources: Florida Swimming Pool Association
Is your door rated for wind? For debris impact? If you don’t know, most likely it isn’t. Look for indications a door will perform poorly.
Older, weaker doors and doors that aren’t up to code can buckle or twist off tracks in strong winds or when struck by debris. Winds can push them in or pull them out.
Once a door is compromised, winds and missiles can threaten your cars, your home’s interior, and your roof.
Backing your car against the door might help brace the bottom panel from inward pressure, but will do nothing to protect from outside forces and will only to expose the car more should the door fail.
Even if you brace the door, debris can still knock out panels and create a large opening for wind or rain.
Don’t adjust or replace springs yourself. They are very strong and under intense torque.
Every week, consumers take their portable generators to local stores hoping for good news.
They swear they’ve been performing the recommended monthly maintenance on the machines so loud, but so valued when the power goes out following a storm. But the tell-tale thick brown sludge in the generator’s carburetor gives them away.
It’s OK, say local generator store owners. There’s no need to lie — especially now that we’re in the height of the hurricane season.
The important thing, they add, is to bring in that unused generator to be serviced before a storm is on the way.
For fees typically ranging from $65 to $125 — depending on the amount of work to be done — local generator “specialists” say they can get that neglected piece of equipment back on track.
“I get a couple of generators a week that come in for maintenance,” says Justin Suggs, general manager at Stuart Lawn & Garden. “They won’t start. People have left gas in them, or they are not doing the monthly run on the engine.”
His standard generator maintenance advice: Once a month, put a half gallon of gas in your generator and run it for at least a half-hour. A month later, do the same thing.
Even a generator that’s out of gas still has vapors that create a blockage in the carburetor, says Suggs, whose also owns and operates Suggs Lawn Equipment in Royal Palm Beach.
There are easily hundreds of portable generators idled in garages and storage sheds that haven’t seen the light of day since Wilma left town four years ago. What’s more, the current recession has moved generator maintenance to the back-burner for many owners.
Still, in one week last month, customers dropped off five generators to be brought up to snuff at Blast Off Equipment Inc. in West Palm Beach, co-owner Felix Finnegan Jr. says.
He said that’s a sign that despite the recession, the storm season is making folks recognize the need for maintenance.
“People have … left gas in them and gummed up their carburetors,” Finnegan says, which can lead to a generator mechanic having to remove the fuel completely and dry out the system with an air compressor.
One area of generator sales that has jumped during the recession is “whole house” or stand-by generators.Jon Andio, co-owner of 1 Stop Generator Shop in Palm Beach Gardens, said since people can’t sell their homes, they figure they might as well install a generator.
He says while the store sells portable generators, sales of stand-by units — which start at $8,000 — are up 65-70 percent over 2008 and make up the bulk of his business.
But, he warns that the stand-by generators, which operate automatically and start instantly in the case of a power outage, also require maintenance.
“The big ones are car engines,” he says, “And just like a car mechanic tells you to change your oil, you should change the generator’s oil every six months.”
Power stationGenerator neglect is common, say mechanics. But there are some basic maintenance tips to avoid a bill that could easily top $100.
Running the basicsGenerator size: 5,000 wattsPrice: $1,000 (average)What it will run:
Neglect vs. proper careCost of generator: $1,000Cost of proper do-it-yourself maintenance: a half gallon of gas ($1.50) for 12 months = $18Cost of neglect: A dead generator that takes $65-$125 in service. And if it requires parts …
- Susan Salisbury
Gas storage requires caution
If you plan to stock up on gasoline before the storm, follow these critical safety rules:
Don’t smoke near it!
Store in an approved, properly labeled metal or plastic, tightly capped safety container made specifically for gasoline. Never store gasoline in glass or in non-reusable plastic containers such as milk jugs.
Keep out of children’s sight and reach. Children should never handle gasoline.
Never store in your home. Store outside, in a garage or lawn shed.
Don’t store near a grill or a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage.
Do not store near possible ignition sources such as electrical devices, oil- or gas-fired appliances, or devices that contain a pilot flame or a spark.
Fill containers outdoors only. Place container on the ground before filling. Never fill containers inside a vehicle or in the bed of a pickup.
Always keep cans tightly closed.
Clean up spills promptly and discard clean-up materials properly.
If a fire starts while handling gas, it’s best not to try to put it out. Leave the area immediately, and call for help. If you do try to extinguish a small fire, do not throw water on it. Try to smother it with sand or cat litter.
Don’t fill cans until right before the storm. Stored fuel will grow stale and is unsafe in a hot garage.
Sources: Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Fire Protection Association
Follow these steps in your home prior to the storm:
WHEN A STORM THREATENS
WHEN A STORM IS APPROACHING
Outlets may not be safe if they get wet
Outlets must be properly grounded. Professionally installed outlets are grounded, but install-yourself units might not be.
But if outlets get wet, they might be unsafe, regardless of grounding.
You need a surge protector, not just a power strip, to protect your electronic equipment. Check the label to see if it is UL (Underwriters Laboratory) listed and complies with 1449 TVSS (Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor) standard.
Battery backup: Use an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) with a built-in battery to power your computer in case of a short power outage. Never plug laser printers into a UPS.
Do not rely on general purpose battery back-ups (UPS) to power critical medical devices during an electrical storm. Check with your doctor or pharmacy to obtain approved systems for that purpose.
If you evacuate: Computers and other electronics equipment should be unplugged and stored in high cabinets or interior closets away from windows. Cover the equipment with strong trash bags. Copy important computer files onto two sets of CDs. Keep one with you and have another in a separate location. Take the CDs if you have to evacuate.
Getting reconnected: If outlets or electrical equipment have been exposed to water or moisture, replace items or have a professional inspect and give the OK before you use them. Don’t just wait until the equipment has dried; it might be damaged and unsafe. Some appliances’ motors or circuits boards are near the bottom and can get wet in even minimal flooding. If in doubt, throw it out!
More safety tips: www.UL.com/consumers
Plan for trouble with your cellular service for at least a day or two after the hurricane. Before the storm, charge phones and cellphone batteries. Get a charger that can be plugged into a car’s utility outlet.
If you find regular phone service is unsatisfactory, try your cellphone’s text messaging or walkie-talkie features.
Invest in an inexpensive phone that connects right to the wall jack, since you’ll be out of luck if you just have cordless phones, which need electricity.
Make sure the camera is charged and has fresh batteries and the media card has enough room to store your post-storm images. You might not be able to download photos to your computer, to clear space on the card, if the electricity is out.
Consumer tips from AT&T
Here are AT&T’s recommendations for consumers in preparation for hurricane season:
Have a family communications plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain that all family members know whom to contact if they become separated. Most importantly, practice your emergency plan in advance.
Be sure you have a “hurricane phone.” It’s a good idea to have a wireless phone on hand and at least one corded (landline) telephone that is not dependent on electricity in case of a power outage. Cordless telephones usually have receivers that are electrically charged, so they won’t work if you lose your power.
Program all of your emergency contact numbers and e-mail addresses into your mobile phone. Numbers should include the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as your family members.
Keep your wireless phone batteries charged at all times. Have an alternative plan to recharge your battery in case of a power outage, such as charging your wireless device by using your car charger or having extra mobile phone batteries or disposable mobile phone batteries on hand.
Keep your wireless phone dry. The biggest threat to your device during a hurricane is water, so keep your equipment safe from the elements by storing it in a baggie or some other type of protective covering.
Forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of an evacuation. Because call forwarding is based out of the telephone central office, you will get incoming calls from your landline phone even if your local telephone service is disrupted at your home. In the unlikely event that the central office is not operational, services such as voice mail, call forwarding, remote access call forwarding and call forwarding busy line/don’t answer may be useful.
You can track the storm and access weather information on your wireless device. Many homes lose power during severe weather. Services are available that allow you to watch weather reports, if you have a wireless device that provides access to the Internet.
If you have a camera phone, take, store and send photos — even video clips — of damaged property to your insurance company from your device.
Take advantage of location-based mapping technology. Services help you seek evacuation routes, avoid traffic congestion from downed trees or power lines and track a family member’s wireless device in case you get separated.
Buy supplies early. Don’t wait until a storm threatens. Lines will be long and supplies short.
Assemble this now. Put aside in a special box. Keep heat-sensitive items inside home and rotate stock throughout season:
Get enough nonperishable foods now to last two weeks. Then put them in a box and leave them alone. Note: Canned and other prepared foods that are salty or dry or high in fat or protein might make for good provisions, but they’ll also make you thirsty.
Drugstores will be mobbed just before a storm and closed for days after. Keep a two-week supply of prescription drugs. Your first-aid kit should include:
Basics: Enough for 1 to 1.5 gallons of drinking water per person per day, for one-week minimum (a two-person household would need 14 to 21 gallons).
Water for two weeks is ideal. Also figure 1 gallon per person per day of water for washing hands, flushing toilets and for pets.
Special needs: Without air conditioning, the body is susceptible to heat stroke and dehydration. Have extra water for infants, youngsters, nursing mothers, and the elderly.
Water in bulk: You can buy 5- and 10-gallon water bottles, but they’re hard to lift or move. Or sanitize a large garbage can with lid to store drinking water. Pour 1 cup of regular, unscented household bleach to a full 30 gallons of water; let stand overnight, drain and rinse well. Fill with tap water and replace lid. Buy a long-handled ladle, keep paper cups nearby. Freezing jugs of water also helps keep foods frozen, to and provides chilled drinking water.
For washing and household needs, sanitize the bathtub by scrubbing well, then rinsing with 1 cup bleach to a tub of water. Let stand overnight; drain and refill. Use primarily for flushing toilet but, if necessary, for bathing or washing.
Keep water clean! Contaminated water can cause diarrhea, leading to dehydration. If drinking water is compromised, use for washing up or flushing toilets. After a storm, do not use tap water for drinking unless you boil it for three minutes first or use purifying methods.
Wait until utility or local government say water is safe to drink.
Freezing water jugs: Buy 1-gallon containers of drinking water (21/2 gallons, if your freezer will accommodate them), drain out about 1/2 cup to leave room for expansion, seal tightly, and freeze.
Keep the jugs in the freezer even after the power goes out; they last longer than in coolers. Once thawed, the water is drinkable.
Rebottle it into smaller bottles to carry, or use it from the larger jugs, but keep it clean and uncontaminated.
Buy block ice if possible (available from ice companies, boat supply stores and some grocery stores). It lasts up to three times as long as bagged, cubed ice.
Make your own blocks. When a storm approaches, clean freezer and fill it with stackable containers of water. Large mixing bowls or small buckets work. Freeze, and when frozen, transfer ice blocks to sealable bags.
Buy extra coolers. Smaller areas are easier to chill. Once the power goes out, and foods begin to thaw or warm, pack them, tightly, into the bottom of coolers, then top with ice.
Try the bathtub. If not using for water, use for ice. Buy huge blocks and load up tub. Cover with tarp. Fill with cubed ice; cover with newspapers and heavy tarp, then a layer of plastic to keep cold in. Put drainplug in to save the water for other uses.
Put foods under or below ice, not on top of it.
Place blocks in bottom of cooler.
Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, usually produced in 10-by-10-inch blocks weighing about 55 pounds.
Dry ice blocks usually retail for about $1 a pound, so a block should cost $50 to $60. Some places have a minimum purchase.
Dry ice can keep food in a cooler frozen solid for a few days. Ten pounds typically will last one to two days in a cooler.
Dry ice also is available in cut blocks, nuggets and small “rice pellets.” The smaller sizes are more convenient but dissipate at a faster rate.
To keep a product frozen, place dry ice on top of it, not under it. Dry ice will not harm wrapped frozen food.
To keep food cool (but not frozen), place dry ice in bottom of an insulated cooler, cover with regular ice or insulating material, then place foods on top. Fill in remaining space with a towel or crumpled newspapers. Open cooler only when necessary.
Do not place dry ice in a freezer with running power. It will shut down the thermostat. Use in a freezer only if the power is off. Do not place dry ice directly on a glass shelf; it can crack it; line the shelf with thick newspapers first.
Use 1 1/2 pounds of dry ice per cubic foot in a freezer.
Regular ice is best for refrigerated foods. Dry ice can freeze them.
Do not touch dry ice! It can cause severe burns. Use tongs, cloth gloves, a pot holder or some other separator.
Do not put dry ice in an airtight container or vacuum-style cooler (never in glass) — it can cause an explosion.
Do not inhale. Heavy carbon dioxide vapor released may cause suffocation.
Leave salty favorites, sodas and alcohol off shopping list
When you’re hot, stressed and thirsty, certain foods are a bad idea; some speed up dehydration. Here are foods that should be a last resort for storm preparation:
Salty chips, salted nuts and snack foods: These add little nutrition, and your body is going to be stressed. They cause immediate thirst.
Crackers and peanut butter are convenient, but they’re salty and can cause extreme thirst. Peanut butter is a good source of protein, but it’s generally salty. Use it sparingly.
Candy: Most candy has high sugar levels, which contributes to thirst.
Sodas: Your body needs liquids, more in extreme heat and humidity. Better choices are vegetable and fruit juices that can supply needed vitamins.
One caveat: Fruit juices should be given sparingly to infants — they can cause diarrhea, leading to serious dehydration.
Moderate your intake of sports drinks, which have extra sodium.
Alcohol: Don’t run for a cold one. In a situation with downed power lines, broken glass and flooding, wait to celebrate the storm’s end when things have settled down.
Essential foods to make meals palatable
Boiling water will be a best method for cooking with many of these items; remember to use clean water.
1. Couscous and five-minute rice. Pour boiling water over these packages, cover, and let stand.
2. Salsa, chunky pasta sauce
3. Ramen noodles. Pour boiling water over them and voilà!
4. Shelf-stable bacon, hard sausages. Make BLT’s, add to baked beans, bean salad. Keep in cooler once opened.
5. Single-serve condiments (individual packets of mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and relish)
6. Pouches of cooked tuna, salmon and chicken. Grill chicken or fish fillets briefly for a “real” meal.
7. Shelf-stable milk. Add to canned soup and heat it up on the grill for substance. Put it in coffee, use it for cereal or make chocolate milk for kids.
8. Shelf-stable cheese. Processed cheese (Velveeta) and sliced cheeses made with oil are shelf-stable.
9. Canned potatoes, canned beans and veggies.
10. Individual puddings, fruit cups
How to pack up your kitchen
Must-haves for before a storm and for keeping foods safe afterward.
Heavy-duty plastic bags: “Contractor bags” are the strongest ones out there, and are available at home warehouse stores and Publix. These hold sticks and bricks without tearing; good for packing boxes of food, countertop appliances, and things with sharp corners. They come in 30- and 50-gallon sizes. (They can be slit apart and used as thick plastic tarps for countertops or protecting big items.)
Permanent markers: Use them to label jars and cans that might lose their labels in high humidity or floods. Write contents of cans on their bottoms or tops and date them; label plastic bags or bins to identify items packed within.
Food-sized storage bags or containers: Empty all open packages of foods into these airtight bags or bins to keep them fresh.
Extra water jugs: Preferably 2.5 gallons or larger. Buy the biggest size your freezer will hold.
Heavy-duty plastic garbage cans with lids: Can be used for water storage, packing foods, packing valuables — or storing trash.
Extra coolers: Buy metal ones with foam/plastic inserts for maximum cooling (see ship’s stores or online sources). Buy large Igloo-type coolers that can stack and are on wheels. Buy foam ones to have on hand, but note these are not meant for long-term ice storage. Consider investing in a small cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter of the car, or a mini-fridge to plug into a generator.
Waterproof storage bins: Flooding during a storm can be more of a problem than winds. Packing everything in plastic, waterproof bins can save the items. For already opened foods, use bins with airtight seals. Use large, clean garbage cans for additional storage.
Preparing for flood conditions
When the kitchen floods, even canned foods can be compromised; those in boxes or cellophane surely are. To prepare your kitchen for flooding:
Emergency travel bin
Secure your building, equipment and inventory. Keep an extra stock of vital supplies and backup files of records at an off-site location.
Review your insurance coverage. Inventory, document and photograph equipment and offices. Have copies of policies and contact numbers.
Plan to work with limited cash, no power and water for two weeks after the storm. Consider a backup generator. Store emergency supplies at the office.
Develop a contingency plan to operate from another site if your office is unusable. This backup site should be at least 50 miles from main headquarters and should have phones and computer access.
Make a list of key phone numbers, computer passwords and other critical information. Establish a system for contacting employees after the storm.
Contact customers and suppliers in advance of storm and share your recovery plans. Keep a list of backup vendors in case yours are disabled in the storms.
Compile records in case you need to apply for emergency funding (expenses, sales, payroll and tax returns).
Business tips from AT&T
Here are AT&T’s recommendations for small business owners for before the storm:
Set up a call-forwarding service to a predetermined backup location. Set up single or multiple hot line numbers for employees, employees’ families, customers and partners, as appropriate, to call so that all parties know about the business situation and emergency plan. For this to be most effective, maintain an updated contact list, including mobile and home phone numbers and e-mail addresses, for all employees.
Protect hardware/software/data records/employee records, etc. Routinely back up these files to an off-site location. Use a generator for supplying backup power to vital computer hardware and other mission-critical equipment. Prearrange the replacement of damaged hardware with vendors to ensure quick business recovery.
Outline detailed plans for evacuation and shelter-in-place plans. Practice these plans (employee training, etc.). Establish a backup location for your business and meeting place for all employees.
Assemble a crisis-management team and coordinate efforts with neighboring businesses and building management. Be aware that disasters affecting your suppliers also affect your business. Outline a plan for supply chain continuity for business essentials.
You must evacuate if you live on a barrier island, in a low-lying area or in a mobile home.
Otherwise, your first choice should be to stay put.
If a major storm threatens South Florida, it could take up to 99 hours to get everyone out, studies show.
That’s more than four days for perhaps millions of evacuees from Miami-Dade and Broward counties to go through Palm Beach County and northward. But authorities typically don’t know a storm’s power or direction that far in advance.
Four days before landfall, Hurricane Andrew was an ill-defined, weak storm far out at sea. Emergency managers don’t want motorists stalled in bumper-to-bumper traffic as the hurricane comes ashore.
You should not stay home if you live in an evacuation area.
IF YOU STAY HOME
Make sure your home is as reinforced as possible.
Consider the house’s condition and whether your family is healthy enough.
IF YOU STAY WITH FRIENDS, RELATIVES
Make arrangements far in advance. Check again as the storm approaches to make sure your hosts aren’t on vacation or renovating.
Take same things that you’d take to an emergency shelter.
IF YOU USE A SHELTER
Shelters should be used only if you’re ordered to evacuate and have nowhere else to go.
Use this site now to find the nearest shelters. Some will fill up quickly, and some won’t open at all.
If you need transportation or special help, make arrangements now.
IF YOU LEAVE THE REGION
No place in Florida is safe from a storm. It could envelop much of the state or march up the coast and turn toward your destination. In 1995, Erin threatened Miami, and thousands fled to Orlando, where Erin struck.
Decide your destination and get a hotel room before you go. Rooms fill quickly.
Flying may not be an option. Airports will close well in advance of the storm.
Trains will fill quickly and will stop running once conditions deteriorate.
Check your car. Fill tank, check tires, fluids and brakes. Get a current map of backup routes.
If roads are already jammed, go back home or to a shelter. If the storm is 24 hours from landfall or closer, it’s too late to try to leave town.
Tell someone where you are going. Leave a phone number.
Before a hurricane strikes, don’t forget to consider your health and medical needs.
Talk to your doctor before a storm to help you develop a hurricane plan. Some medical conditions, such as those on dialysis or people needing refrigerated medication, require special provisions to avoid complications brought on by the storm.
Make sure you have at least a two-week supply of your medications when the storm hits so you will have enough should pharmacies be closed. Health insurers typically lift their restrictions on refills when a hurricane warning is posted 48 hours before a storm.
You also might want to consider buying a 90-day supply of drugs to coincide with the peak of hurricane season, which is usually August to September. Hospitals are generally not able to dispense medication to the public following a storm.
General health information
An oxygen-dependent patient will need backup electrical power for his or her concentrator, otherwise backup oxygen cylinders will be needed. Be sure to ask your oxygen vendor what its plan is to replenish your oxygen following a storm.
Insulin-dependent patients will need backup electrical power to keep insulin refrigerated.
Pregnant women — those at high risk or at 36 weeks or beyond — should talk to their doctor about whether they should seek shelter at a hospital.
Dialysis patients will need to receive dialysis just prior to the storm and pre-schedule an appointment for post-storm dialysis.
Check whether your dialysis center has a generator to operate after a storm.
Hospitals are not an option for those seeking general shelter during a hurricane, with the exception of pregnant women with a doctor’s referral.
If constant electrical power is a requirement for your medical needs, you might want to consider staying somewhere that has backup electrical power from a generator. This may mean leaving the area in the path of the storm.
One possibility is staying in a special needs shelter. All patients need to be pre-registered and must meet certain eligibility requirements.
Storms can be especially distressing for seniors. In addition to the preparation described elsewhere on this Web site, here are some important tips for seniors.
If you are a senior
If you have a relative or friend who’s a senior
CARING FOR ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS
Some policyholders mistakenly think they need to insure their house for its resale value. You should be insuring your house for its replacement value, which is the amount it will take to rebuild the home if it is destroyed by a covered peril.
Your insurance agent will provide you with an estimate, but experts also advise paying a contractor, engineer or a trained appraiser to place the right replacement amount on a house if you do not agree with your agent or company replacement cost amount. Be aware that these expert expenses could be the responsibility of the homeowner.
In the event your home is destroyed, your policy will pay up to the limits on your policy to rebuild your home. Some insurers have what is called an inflation guard contained in the policy. This will increase the amount of insurance on your home by a small amount each year to keep up with inflation.
Some insurers pay only the replacement value stated in your insurance contract, while others will provide a cushion of up to 25 percent. The replacement estimate may not take into account a surge in demand after a storm that could increase the cost of supplies and labor.
Florida homeowners are allowed to waive coverage for furnishings and other contents. Some companies also allow consumers to pick the level of contents coverage. Insurers used to give consumers coverage pegged at a certain value of their structure — 50 percent was common — even if their furnishings and belongings were minimal.
Florida statute 627.712 allows homeowners to exclude coverage for wind events in some cases. Most mortgage holders, however, require wind coverage.
To waive wind coverage, a homeowner must provide a letter from their lender that says it is all right with the lender if the insured drops the coverage. The savings from a policy by dropping windstorm coverage could be substantial, up to half of the total premiums paid.
Even so, use caution before dropping the coverage, because it comes with a high risk. It’s not just hurricanes that it covers, but any wind scenario. That would include a tree falling on your house if it did so as a result of a strong wind and not just a hurricane.
An option that could offer substantial premium savings is raising your deductible. Your mortgage company might be able to veto such a move. Most insurers offer hurricane deductible of $500, 2 percent, 5 percent and 10 percent.
Florida Statute 627.701 allows insurers to offer deductibles beyond the 10 percent, but not all insurers offer larger deductible options. To have a deductible in excess of 10 percent, the home must be valued at less than $500,000 and the policyholder must provide to the insurer a letter, written in his or her own hand, saying what amount in deductible they are willing to pay.
Permission must also be obtained by the mortgage company if applicable. Calculate whether you could make repairs yourself in the event of a catastrophic event. Do you have $30,000 on hand, the amount you would pay if you took a 15 percent deductible, and your house suffered $200,000 worth of damage?
You will want to check your state's current laws before the storm hits to make sure you are covered after the storm.
Activities help kids stay busy
Children can be the most vulnerable individuals in a hurricane. Here are some ways to help your kids cope during and after a storm.
SIGNS OF STRESS
FEMA Kids page: http://www.ready.gov/kids. It includes preparation tips and Scavenger Hunt forms.
FEMA publishes storm preparation books for kids, in age-appropriate versions. Click here to download before a storm.
What if you have to file a claim?
Take photos or video of your home to document your belongings for insurance adjusters. A free computer software program, www.insurancevault.net , will walk you through what are the key images to take. Make sure images are easily accessible immediately after the hurricane — not solely stored on a computer.
Save copies of receipts, purchase dates and serial numbers.
Start a disaster savings account so that money is available in a worst-case scenario.
Write down the name, address and claims telephone number of your insurance company, which may differ from your agent’s contact information.
Keep this information in a safe place and make sure you have access to it if you are forced to evacuate.
Keep materials such as plywood on hand in case you need to make temporary repairs after a storm. Take photos of the damage before you make repairs. Finally, keep receipts from your repairs so that your insurance company has documentation to reimburse you.
Also, document any repairs you make to your house after previous hurricanes. If you don’t, and suffer new damage in the same place, an insurance company could dispute that you ever used the money they paid you to make repairs.
Help adjusters – and others – find you
If you have to leave your home following a storm, it is helpful to leave a phone number where you can be reached somewhere on the outside of your home.
You can spray-paint the number on a piece of wood or on the side of your house. Paint your address and the name of your insurance company on the damaged part of your home for adjusters cruising neighborhoods.
There is the rush to prepare, the nervous anticipation, the unsettling period during the storm, the loss of property, scavenging gas, or just living without power for a few days.
A hurricane experience can be incredibly stressful. In the weeks after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, nearly 1,000 people called a state mental-health hot line looking for help with problems such as depression and anxiety.BEFORE THE STORM
Prepare early to avoid the stress of panic buying.
Storms are unpredictable, and their twists and turns can be maddening. Just prepare as if the storm will hit, and hope it doesn’t. Stay up on media reports and follow the instructions of local authorities so you’re not blindsided by developments.
Don’t go into denial. Don’t have a wild party. Storms are serious business.
If you live alone, plan to ride out the storm with friends or relatives, or consider volunteering at a shelter.
Try to exercise to burn off the nerves.
Now is the time to have a plan for how you will survive and recover after the storm so you aren’t overwhelmed by the task ahead.YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Take the time now to get to know your neighbors. Share ideas about how you as a neighborhood will work together after the storm. Find out who has special physical or medical needs, who might need help preparing their house, and who might need assistance following the storm.
If you have a homeowners’ group, consider developing a plan or even holding neighborhood meetings in advance of the season. Consider following “Crimewatch” models.
Find out who might be out of town so you that can keep an eye on their place.
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