Prepping for an active hurricane season in a pandemic


hurrican statistics infographic

As if we all didn’t have enough on our plate this year – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is alerting us that we can expect an above-normal 2020 hurricane season, with 3 to 6 major hurricanes. The season runs from June 1 through November 30, so we have just dipped a toe in the water so far. CoreLogic’s annual Storm Surge Report estimates that yearly 7.4 million single and multi-family homes are at risk of storm surge – potential damage that could be intensified by the pandemic and the uncertain economy.

Emergency preparation for hurricanes is a vital priority every year, particularly for those who live in the southeast and in Atlantic coastal areas. This year, the pandemic poses additional planning challenges. NOAA says:

“Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more. With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now,” said Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA. “Natural disasters won’t wait, so I encourage you to keep COVID-19 in mind when revising or making your plan for you and your loved ones, and don’t forget your pets. An easy way to start is to download the FEMA app today.”

Vox offers a deeper dive on some of the challenges that a hurricane could pose: Imagine Hurricane Katrina during a pandemic. They note that response systems are already on overload and that evacuation and sheltering would have additional complications, suggesting that decisions about when to evacuate vs when to shelter in place may need to change:

Emergency evacuations are typically called for based on the expected impact of the hurricane, and may involve large populations moving to concentrated locations like emergency shelters or hotels — or leaving the area entirely. Even without a disease outbreak, evacuation decisions are always difficult, both practically and politically. The decision process should be altered during an epidemic because usual evacuation risks (traffic accidents, for example) will have to be balanced against the risk of increasing disease transmission, which could have longer-term effects than the hurricane itself.

The pandemic makes clearly communicating exactly who should evacuate even more important: Those in the storm surge zone should go while others should be encouraged to shelter in place and be prepared for wind, rain, and power outages.

Emergency prep is important up and down the coast, including in new England.  While hurricanes are a rarer occurrence in New England, the region still thinks back on the devastation of 1938, a hurricane which killed more than 700 people. Meteorologist Matthew Cappucci wrote a fascinating report of the great New England hurricane of 1938, which includes projections of damage that could occur today if the region were to experience a similar storm.

If you already have a disaster or a hurricane plan for your family or your business, update it to encompass the realities that the pandemic has imposed on your local area. It’s even more important than ever to have a checklist and to store supplies for up to a week. In addition, expand your time horizon – you may need additional time to execute any evacuations.

One preparation recommendation from nearly all safety officials: download the FEMA app and check your state or local emergency management authority for any available apps. Red Cross has a variety of excellent emergency prep apps.

We’re reprinting some tips about hurricane prep during a pandemic from the Houston Office of Emergency Management, and also include links for other prep tools and guides.

  • Understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
  • Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your emergency food, water, and medicine supplies. Home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies; however, that may not be an option for everyone. If in-person shopping is your only choice, take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands.
  • Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Sign up for mail order delivery or call in your prescription ahead of time and use drive-through windows or curbside pickup, if available.
  • Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, including potential shelters for your pets.
  • If you need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer, or bar or liquid soap if not available, and two cloth face coverings for each person. Face covers should not be used by children under the age of 2. They also should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet, about 2 arms’ length, from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
  • If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional hurricane prep tools

 

COVID19: Even with the shutdown, you can still give blood


giving blood

As the coronovirus crisis continues across the nation, many of us wonder how we can help. Here’s one way: The American Red Cross reports a severe blood shortage. With so many people in shutdown all over the country, many blood drives have been cancelled. Yet just because many things have stopped, Red Cross reminds us that life’s other emergencies haven’t gone on shutdown.

Each year on average, the Red Cross:

  • Responds to more than 60,000 disasters across the country.
  • Trains more than 4.8 million people in first aid, water safety and other lifesaving skills.
  • Collects more than 4.6 million blood donations and nearly 1 million platelet donations from more than 2.6 million volunteer donors.
  • Provides nearly 471,000 services to military members, veterans and their families.
  • Helps 230 million people outside the U.S. through American Red Cross disease prevention activities and disaster services.

Blood drives are still happening because they are controlled events with trained staff and provide an essential services. See more on safety protocols that the Red Cross follows below. Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.

And if you absolutely can’t donate blood for whatever reason, consider making a donation to the Red Cross Coronavirus efforts.

COVID10 - Red Cross give blood poster

Hurricane Dorian Toolkit: Emergency Prep and Tracking Resources


image of a hurricane forming for hurricane emergency prep

Thursday updates

Hurricane Dorian is not over. Overnight, it was upgraded to Cat three and the National Hurricane Center says there is an enhanced risk of severe weather, especially tornadoes, over eastern North Carolina today.

Here are the 5 AM EDT Thursday, September 5 Key Messages for Hurricane #Dorian, See below for links to emergency shelters, state emergency management centers and updated reports.

Key messages Hurricane Dorian

 

Tuesday 9/3 Update

Hurricane Dorian

For evacuation orders and routes, shelters and more check:

See our Friday update for tracking and weather coverage.

Monday 9/2 update

Hurricane Dorian is battering the Bahamas, wreaking severe damage. It accelerated to a Cat 5 Hurricane as it approached the Bahamas and has slowed to a high Cat 4 with winds in excess of 155mph. It is hovering over the Bahamas today and slowly making its way to the US coast, expected to reach Florida tonight.

While predictions are that the storm’s probable path will veer to the east, the path could change. Right now, it is expected to hug the coast from Florida up through the Carolinas. In an 11 am key messages, the National Hurricane Advisory says that life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds are expected along the Florida east coast and Georgia coast, regardless of the trajectory. Heavy rains capable;e of life-threatening floods are expected over coastal sections of the Southeast and lower Mid-Atlantic through Friday.

Mandatory evacuations have been issued in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. North Carolina is monitoring.

Florida’s evacuation and curfew orders

Florida Emergency Shelter information

chart - what to bring to an emergency shelter

Georgia: A mandatory evacuation order is in effect for individuals living east of I-95 in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty, and McIntosh Counties due to Hurricane Dorian. Contraflow of I-16 will begin at 8:00 am Tuesday morning.

Georgia EMA Twitter and Facebook

South Carolina: Governor Orders Mandatory Evacuations for Coastal Counties Effective September 2 at Noon

SC EMD on Twitter and Facebook

North Carolina Hurricane Dorian information

NC Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook

Friday August 30 posting 

As we approach the Labor Day weekend, Florida is under a state of emergency as Hurricane Dorian approaches. Today, the storm is a Category 2, but weather experts warn that it holds the potential to develop into a Category 4 when it hits land. It’s still early to project, but landfall is expected late Monday or Tuesday. Everyone is on standby.

We’re deploying resources in a Hurricane Toolkit as a just-in-case. September is National Preparedness Month and, remember, hurricane season lasts thorough November so it’s a handy bookmark. We’ll be keeping an eye on things over the weekend and may add to the resources if evacuations or other emergency measures are needed.

Florida Emergency Resources

FloridaDisaster.org (Division of Emergency Management) is the single best source for information. See specific information on Emergency Information for Hurricane Dorian. You can also visit the sister site for commercial businesses: FloridaDisaster.Biz

On social media, you can find updates from the Florida State Emergency Response Team (SERT) on Twitter and on Facebook

US Coast Guard Southeast on Twitter and on Facebook

Florida Power Tracker

Florida Department of Education – Hurricane Dorian

Florida 511 APP – Get up-to-the-minute, real-time traffic conditions and incident information for the State of Florida with Florida 511 app.

Florida Storms APP – Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

FEMA App

Hurricane Dorian – tracking & live weather coverage

Hurricane Prep & Checklists

Insurance Information Institute: What to do when a hurricane threatens
When the storm approaches, don’t get caught with your windows down

Insurance Information Institute: Hurricane Awareness
Hurricanes can shatter lives as well as damage property. Fortunately there are steps you can take to minimize a hurricane’s impact.

Insurance Information Institute: Five Steps to preparing an effective evacuation plan
Disaster readiness will help keep you and your family safe and secure

Red Cross – Hurricane Safety Checklist

FEMA: How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Common sense advice …Before and after a hurricane

Hurricane Preparation Checklist To Protect Your Technology

Taking Care of your pets during hurricanes & floods

FDA Offers Tips about Medical Devices and Hurricane Disasters

Food and Water Safety During Power Outages and Floods

Red Cross Free Emergency Apps – includes a hurricane app, first aid, and many other useful apps.

Drowning prevention tips from parents, for parents (and anyone who cares about kids)


mom and baby swimming

Do you have kids? Or grand-kids? Or nieces and nephews? If so, this post is for you – it has valuable information about keeping those beloved kids safe in and around water. And even if you don’t have kids yourself but you simply frequent pools and beaches in the summer, we encourage you to take note, too. We offer useful tips to keep kids safe from people who know.

First, we point to a popular prior blog post that contains useful information that many people didn’t know: ” We are conditioned by movies and pop culture to think that a drowning person would yell and wave for help and splash violently to get attention. In reality, drowning is a quiet, desperate event – so quiet that every year, children die in pools and water just feet away from parents or friends who do not recognize the signs of distress.”

Drowning doesn’t look like what we see in the movies

We’ve also recently come across a few useful articles featuring Moms who offer great advice about protecting kids from downing. One mother, sadly, gained her expertise the hard way after the drowning death of her toddler. The other Mom gained her expertise in her job investigating drowning deaths as her job.

In A Layered Approach to Preventing Drowning, Nicole Hughes shares her sad experience and the lessons she learned from her 3-year old son Levi’s drowning death:

“Our son drowned when there were six physicians in the room, 12 adults, 17 kids,” said his mother, Nicole Hughes, a writing teacher and literacy coach in Bristol, Tenn., who now works extensively in drowning prevention, including with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Everything I read about drowning before Levi died, it was like background noise,” Ms. Hughes said. “We think it’s happening to neglectful parents” who don’t watch their children when they’re swimming. But as she learned after Levi’s death, for most toddlers who drown, it doesn’t happen in the context of time spent “swimming” — that is, time they’re known to be in the water. And drowning is the leading cause of preventable deaths in children from 1 to 4.”

In addition to offering great advice for parents to raise awareness, the article also points to a helpful  Drowning Prevention Toolkit from American Academy of Pediatrics.

The second article offers water safety tips for parents from Natalie Livingston, a Mom who investigates drownings in her role as vice president of Oostman Aquatic Safety Consulting. She knows what she is talking about – she “spent 25 years as a lifeguard and worked as the general manager of a water park for 10 years. She trains lifeguards, consults in both private and public operations, and is hired as an expert witness in drowning cases.”

Livingston lists 10 in-depth, practical tips with advice that you might not think about, tips that she applies to her own children. For example, would you think to teach your child how to escape the grip of a struggling, panicked person? Or raise awareness about water depth in practical terms they can understand? Those are among the many lessons she offers.  You can also follow Livingston on Facebook at Aquatic Safety Connection for more tips. Her tips have gone viral online, and she was recently featured on Good Morning America. Take the time to check them out!

In addition to Livingston’s tips, the article offers these additional water safety recommendations:

  • Swim Lessons Save Lives
  • Learn CPR — Drowning patients need oxygen — give air first!
  • USCG approved lifejackets only — no arm floaties or inflatables
  • Designate A Water Watcher / Swim with a Lifeguard
  • Always use pool barriers and layers of protection
  • Enter the water feet first
  • No running
  • Stay hydrated / protect yourself from the sun
  • No drugs / alcohol
  • All water is dangerous — even inches
  • Always swim with a buddy
  • Lost / Missing kids — always check the water first

See related posts on pool safety:
Swimming pool and spa safety issues and insurance coverage

Pool & spa owners: Minimize your risk with simple steps for safety

Heat wave: How to keep your cool


cartoon of melting monster in a heat wave

Are you ready for the upcoming heat wave? More than 170 million people in the US are now under heat alerts for the coming weekend. Excessive heat is not just an unpleasant nuisance – it can be downright dangerous. The CDC says that, on average, 658 people a year die from heat-related illnesses. In the 1995 Chicago heat wave, more than 700 people died!

Take steps to prepare and plan for the weekend ahead. Here are some tips we’ve gathered from experts on how to minimize the effects of the heat.

  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun.
  • Take it easy – avoid strenuous activity in the heat.
  • Plan outdoor activities for the early or late part of the day. Stay indoors and out of the sun in the heat of the day.
  • If you don’t have AC, plan activities in public places that are cool: movie theaters, museums, libraries, malls and other air conditioned public or entertainment places. Make a trip to your favorite local swimming hole or pool to beat the heat, but keep an eye out for thunderstorms and make sure you use sunscreen.
  • If you can’t get to a pool, take cool showers or bath. Splash yourself with cool water or soak your feet and ankles in cool water. Apply cold, wet towels on the neck, wrist, groin and armpit.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – drink plenty of water. Keep alcohol intake low – while it might make you think you feel better, alcohol is actually dehydrating. Plain water is the best.
  • Wear loose, cool, light-colored clothing. If you go outdoors, wear a hat and sunglasses and use sunscreen!
  • Eat light, easily digestible dinners. Be careful about salty foods. Avoid using ovens or appliances that generate heat. If you cook, use a microwave or outdoor grill.
  • Take care of your pets – don’t let them get overheated or dehydrated.
  • Check in on elderly relatives or neighbors to make sure they are OK.
  • If your power goes out, check with local emergency services to find emergency cooling centers.
  • Never, never, never leave children or pets in a car alone – even for a few minutes.
  • Know the symptoms of and watch out for heat-related illnesses.

Heat exhaustion, which can be effectively addressed with cooling and careful rehydration, can look a lot like heat stroke, a serious and possibly deadly condition requiring urgent medical attention. It’s nothing to fool around with.

chart with heat illness symptoms