Hurricane/tropical storm preparedness

HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

Hurricane/tropical storm preparedness

By Joanne Romero / Special to the Star-Advertiser

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 26, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 11:20 a.m. HST, Oct 15, 2014

STAR-ADVERTISER

The key to successfully weathering a hurricane or tropical storm is being prepared. Here is what you should do:
ONLINE RESOURCES

American Red Cross, Hawaii State chapter. Lots and lots of great information about survival kits, planning for an emergency, and how to register for Red Cross classes and training on disaster-related topics. You might even become a Red Cross instructor! www.hawaiiredcross.org

American Veterinary Medical Association Disaster Preparedness
http://www.avma.org/disaster/default.asp

State Civil Defense
http://www.scd.hawaii.gov

Hawaii County Civil Defense
http://www.hawaii-county.com/directory/dir_defense.htm

Kauai County Civil Defense
http://www.kauai.gov

Maui County Civil Defense
http://www.co.maui.hi.us/departments/CivilDefense/

City and County of Honolulu Department of Emergency Management
http://www.oahuDEM.org

Emergency Preparedness
http://www.heco.com

Emergency Preparedness Resources for Maui County Residents
http://www.mauiready.org

Federal Emergency Management Agency
http://www.fema.gov

National Flood Insurance Program
http://www.floodsmart.gov

National Weather Service, Honolulu Forecast Office
http://www.weather.gov/hawaii

Pacific Disaster Center
http://www.pdc.org

Ready America
http://www.ready.gov

From HECO’s “Handbook for Emergency Preparedness.”

» For police, fire and ambulance, dial 9-1-1.

» Charge mobile phones and subscribe to public service alerts (http://www.nixle.com), newspaper and television apps. Star-Advertiser app: iOS/iPhone/iPad and Android.

» Know the warning signals and where shelters are located. See list of public emergency shelters at http://www.hawaii-newspaper.com/shelters/ and www.scd.hawaii.gov

» Always have a home survival kit ready.

» Tie down or store all loose objects. Bring all potted plants into the house.

» Remove and store lanai furniture.

» Throw deck furniture into the pool.

» Unplug electric appliances you may not need or use.

» Cover all windows and door openings with boards, shutters or other shielding materials. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8-inch marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Other alternatives include replacing existing glass with impact-resistant glass, and covering existing glass with a protective film. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.

» Wedge sliding glass doors at the top. Wedge a dowel or a piece of broom handle into the track of sliding glass doors to prevent them from coming loose when the wind blows.

» Properly secure propane tanks. Remember that propane tanks should never be stored indoors. Fuel containers, including propane tanks, should never be stored near appliances, gas water heaters, and source of fire. Make sure storage areas are cool, dry and well-ventilated to allow any gas leaks to safely dissipate.

» Assemble insurance documents and place in waterproof containers.

» Secure elevators on the top floor of your condominium.

» Fill up the gas tank of your car.

» Care for pets.

Source: Adapted from HECO’s “Information Handbook for Emergency Preparedness.” Visit http://www.heco.com for more information.

What Is A Hurricane?
A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, the generic term for a low-pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. The hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.

Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 mph. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.

How Are Hurricane Categories Determined?
Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure and damage potential (see chart to the right). Category 3 and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories 1 and 2 are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Category Sustained Winds (mph) Damage
1 74-95 Minimal: Unanchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs.
2 96-110 Moderate: All mobile homes, roofs, small crafts, flooding.
3 111-129 Extensive: Small buildings, low-lying roads cut off.
4 130-156 Extreme: Roofs destroyed, trees down, roads cut off, mobile homes destroyed. Beach homes flooded.
5 More than 157 Catastrophic: Most buildings destroyed. Vegetation destroyed. Major roads cut off. Homes flooded.
Source: Information gathered from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.

Dos and Don’ts
When the sirens sound and the warnings blast that a hurricane is imminent, the best-case scenario would be for you to have been prepared—disaster kit and all. But what do you do when you’re not ready and the storm is upon you? Here are five dos and don’ts to follow:

Dos
DO fill your tub(s) with water. If the water is shut off, you don’t have to give up using your toilet. Fill the back tank of your toilet and flush as needed.

DO charge your phone. You should have some time between the warning and the power outage, if it occurs.

DO sign up for emergency alerts. Your cell phone may be your only avenue for staying abreast of any updates regarding the storm. Sign up at nixle.com.

DO protect electronics. Guard TVs and computers from water damage by covering them with plastic bags. Turn off and unplug any unnecessary electrical equipment to keep them safe from power surges.

DO pack your fridge and freezer. A tightly packed space stays better insulated than an empty one. Fill in the gaps with containers of water and turn the thermostat to the coldest setting.

Don’ts
DON’T drive unless it is an absolute emergency. With hurricanes come flying debris and flooded roads. This does not mean you should stay if you are in an evacuation zone. If local authorities direct you to evacuate, follow their instructions and proceed with caution.

DON’T open a window. It’s a common belief that a cracked window will relieve the pressure in a home, but it’s not true. In fact, windows can actually cause more damage when opened. An open window allows wind to enter the home. The wind must exit somewhere, which often results in a roof or ceiling being blown off.

DON’T make phone calls unless it is an absolute emergency. If you need to contact someone, choose a text over a phone call when possible. Texting uses less power than a phone call and may go through more reliably when lines are busy.

DON’T be fooled when the eye of the storm passes. The center of the storm comes with a calm that may feel like the storm is over. This can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. Wait it out.

DON’T watch the storm. Projectile items blowing around outside can penetrate windows and cause severe or even fatal injuries. Draw the curtains, close the blinds, and keep your phone and radio close.