Today marks the first official day of hurricane season in Hawaii. The good news is, National Weather Service forecasters say there is an 80 percent chance of a near- or below-average season, with between two and five tropical depressions, storms or hurricanes expected in the central Pacific basin over the next six months. Hopefully, this will mean a repeat of last year, when only two tropical cyclones developed in the area and neither made direct landfall (although Hurricane Douglas in July was a near-miss).
Still, you know the saying: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. It pays to take every necessary step to prepare for a hurricane. Here are some essential tips to help you protect you and your loved ones in the event a hurricane hits our Islands:
♦ MAKE A CHECKLIST. Write down a list of supplies that you will need in the event of a hurricane or power outage. Take into account specific needs that a family member might require.
♦ PUT TOGETHER AN EMERGENCY KIT. Included in the kit should be drinking water (one gallon per person, per day). FEMA recommends a three-day supply of water in the event of an evacuation, and two-week supply in the event you are confined to your home. The kit should also include non-perishable, easy-to prepare food (three-day supply in the event of an evacuation, two-week supply for the home), medications, flashlights, batteries, a First Aid kit, battery-operated or hand-crank radio, a cell phone with charger, sanitation and personal hygiene items, a multi-purpose tool (such as a Swiss Army knife), extra cash, and fuel for your car or generator.
♦ STORE DOCUMENTS. Also included in your kit should be a list of emergency contacts, important family documents (licenses, birth certificates, deeds, etc.) and a list of medications. Keep these documents secure in protective containers.
♦ FORM A PLAN. Talk with your family and formulate a clear plan of action in the event a hurricane strikes (i.e., evacuation procedures). Assign specific responsibilities to individuals so that each person will know what to do. Create a backup communication plan in the event cell phone service is not working. It would also be helpful to create a network of relatives, friends and neighbors who can assist each other.
♦ SAFEGUARD YOUR HOME. Do a thorough walk in your home and around your property to identify possible hazards, including flooding. Remember that high winds could turn loose objects into dangerous projectiles. Take steps to anchor outside furniture or grills. Clear your gutters and drainage systems.
♦ PROTECT YOUR VALUABLES. In the event of a hurricane, consider placing your valuables in plastic storage bins with snap-down lids. Heavy-duty trash bags may also provide waterproof protection for your irreplaceable items. You may even consider placing your valuables in Ziplock bags and hiding them in your washer or dryer.
♦ BE INFORMED. Check to see whether your home is in an inundation zone or flood zone, or is susceptible to high winds and other natural hazards. During a hurricane situation, stay tuned to local media for updates. In addition, sign up for local notification services for your cell phone.
♦ BE PET SMART. Don’t forget to keep a supply of pet food and water for your pets. Also, keep in mind that a pet carrier is necessary for your pet’s safety should you need to evacuate to a pet-friendly shelter.