On top of normal disaster preparation advice, FEMA and the CDC have released special instructions this year for hurricane preparation during the COVID pandemic.
First, Cover All the Basics
Most of the basic advice remains the same. For instance:
- Write down emergency phone numbers and keep them on the refrigerator or near every phone in your house. Program them into your cell phone too.
- Prepare an emergency supply kit.
- Locate the nearest shelter and different routes you can take to get there from your home. If shelter locations in your area have not been identified, learn how to find them in the event of a stormexternal icon.
- Stockpile an emergency food and water supply.
- Order an emergency medicine supply.
- Purchase emergency power sources such as flashlights (don’t forget extra batteries).
- Make sure you have required safety and personal items.
- Safeguard important documents, including medical documents, wills, passports, and personal identification.
- Make sure you have enough gas to get where you are going.
- Know a safe place to shelter.
- Stay informed with weather alerts, such as National Weather Service cell phone alertsexternal icon, NOAA Weather Radioexternal icon, or (@NWS) Twitter alerts.
- Pet owners: Pre-identify shelters, a pet-friendly hotel, or an out-of-town friend or relative where you can take your pets in an evacuation. Local animal shelters may be able to offer advice on what to do with your pets if you are asked to evacuate your home.
Second, Protect Your Family from COVID During an Evacuation
This year, there are also some new twists because of COVID.
- Find out if your local public shelter is open, in case you need to evacuate. Your shelter location may be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In your go-kit, 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.
- Practice social distancing. Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people outside of your household.
- Follow CDC COVID-19 preventive actions—wash your hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, and follow shelter policies for wearing cloth face coverings. Avoid sharing food and drink with anyone if possible.
- Follow disaster shelter policies and procedures designed to protect everyone in the shelter, particularly older adults (65 and older) and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions. These people are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- Avoid touching high-touch surfaces, such as handrails, as much as possible. If not possible, wash hands or use hand sanitizers containing 60% alcohol immediately after you touch these surfaces.
- Keep your living area clean and disinfect frequently-touched items such as toys, cellphones, and other electronics.
- If you feel sick when you arrive at the shelter or start to feel sick while sheltering, tell shelter staff immediately.
Special Advice for Children
To help your children stay healthy in a shelter:
- Teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions for keeping children healthy.
- Make sure children aged 2 and older wear cloth face coverings. 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.
- Be a good role model—if you wash your hands often, your children are more likely to do the same.
- Watch your children to ensure they stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who is not in your household.
- Watch your child for any signs of illness and tell shelter staff if your child may be ill.
- Try to deal with the disaster calmly and confidently, as this can provide the best support for your children. Help children cope with emergencies.
Improve Your Situational Awareness
For monitoring upstream flooding levels, I find these two sites extremely helpful.
USGS Water on the Go – Includes information from almost every gage in the country. Especially useful if traveling. The app finds your location and automatically links to the gages nearest you.
Harris County Flood Warning System – Includes gages from Harris and surrounding counties, inundation mapping, customized alerts, historical flood levels, and more. Very powerful.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/13/2020 with photo by Julie Yandell of her Harvey evacuations
988 Days after Hurricane Harvey