11. What should be done in the case of hurricanes / storm surges?

History teaches us that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.

Storm surge safety actions include:

  1. Listen and heed the weather forecasts and if possible gather your family together;
  2. Try to get to high ground or on top of a sturdy structure so that the water passes below/through the structure;
  3. Stay calm and try to have clean water with you; 
  4. If possible, use a mobile phone to contact the Emergency authorities.

The National Hurricane Centre of the US National Weather Service (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/) provides the following evacuation information.

  • Minimize the distance you must travel to reach a safe location; the further you drive the higher the likelihood of encountering traffic congestion and other problems on the roadways.
  • Select the nearest possible evacuation destination, preferably within your local area, and map out your route. Do not get on the road without a planned route, or a place to go.
  • Choose the home of the closest friend or relative outside a designated evacuation zone and discuss your plan with them before hurricane season.
  • You may also choose a hotel/motel outside of the vulnerable area.
  • If neither of these options is available, consider the closest possible public shelter, preferably within your local area.
  • Use the evacuation routes designated by authorities and, if possible, become familiar with your route by driving it before an evacuation order is issued.
  • Contact your local emergency management office to register or get information regarding anyone in your household whom may require special assistance in order to evacuate.
  • Prepare a separate pet plan, most public shelters do not accept pets.
  • Prepare your home prior to leaving by boarding up doors and windows, securing or moving indoors all yard objects, and turning off all utilities.
  • Before leaving, fill your car with gas and withdraw extra money from the ATM.
  • Take all prescription medicines and special medical items, such as glasses and diapers.
  • If your family evacuation plan includes an RV, boat or trailer, leave early. Do not wait until the evacuation order or exodus is well underway to start your trip.
  • If you live in an evacuation zone and are ordered to evacuate by state or local officials, do so as quickly as possible. Do not wait or delay your departure as it will only increase your chances of being stuck in traffic or not being able to get out at all.
  • Expect traffic congestion and delays during evacuations. Expect and plan for significantly longer travel times than normal to reach your family’s intended destination.
  • Stay tuned to a local radio or television station and listen carefully for any advisories or specific instructions from local officials. Monitor your Weather Radio.

The Virginia (US) Department of Emergency Management suggest the following steps in the preparation of a home evacuation plan:

  • Coastal residents should become familiar with their designated evacuation routes and know where they will go if ordered to evacuate. Emergency officials have designated hurricane evacuation routes for Hampton, the Eastern Shore, Norfolk, Poquoson, the Middle Peninsula, the Northern Neck, Virginia Beach and York County. City or county officials will issue a evacuation order if conditions warrant it. If you have questions about your area’s evacuation routes, you can contact your local emergency manager.
  • Residents living inland should know where to go if ordered to evacuate their area. Flash floods can develop in a matter of minutes, with little or no warning. Know ahead of time where your family should go to find higher ground.
  • Identify ahead of time where you could go if you have to leave your home. Choose several places, such as a friend’s home in another town, a motel and a shelter.
  • Remember that evacuation shelters often do not supply pillows, blankets or sheets. Bring these items with you.
  • Animals other than service animals are usually not permitted into evacuation shelters. Make a plan ahead of time with a friend or relative, a veterinarian or a kennel that offers pet sheltering. Visit the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Communications (VDACS) pet emergency planning http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/animals/petshelter.shtml for more information.
  • When severe weather is approaching, make sure you emergency supplies kit is nearby and listen to local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions — you might have only minutes to act.
  • Keep the telephone numbers of evacuation shelters with a road map. You may need to take alternate or unfamiliar routes if major roads are closed or clogged.
  • Be sure to review your evacuation plan regularly to ensure that all of the information contained in it is still up to date. Make sure that all family members are familiar with the plan.