Living Prepared™ for the Atlantic Hurricane Season

NHC Current Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Activity

The Atlantic Hurricane season began officially on June 1.  But even a few days before, Tropical Depression One formed off the coast of the Carolina’s, pretty far north for a TD this early in the season.   Although we’ve already missed National Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 24-30), it’s never too late to be Living Preparedfor the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

I attended a webinar today entitled “2009 Hurricane Preparedness for Critical Infrastructure” run by the Department of Homeland Security.  While this was geared towards a briefing on how the national authorities have planned to respond to major events like hurricanes to protect critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR in government acronym-speak), it provided some useful insights on the threats of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.  Here’s some tidbits I wanted to pass on:

  • “All incidents are local incidents” – so reach out and know how to make contact with your local first responder agencies.  Good advice.
  • The 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Forecasts for an average season.  The National Hurricane Center predicts there will be 9-14 named stored; 4-7 hurricanes with 1-3 major hurricanes.  The University of Colorado has predicted 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes (category 3+).
  • The frequency of hurricanes peaks around September 10th, with most hurricanes and tropical storms occurring between mid- to late-August and the beginning of October.

peakofseason

There are a lot of great resources online about hurricanes, hurricane preparedness, storm warnings and alerts.  As I’ve done for H1N1, we’ll post a lot of these links in the right and left columns of this site for ease of reference and also let you know where to find them so you can follow them yourself directly.  For now, I recommend the following:

Living Prepared for the Atlantic Hurricane Season

This next series in Living Prepared with focus on the practical steps you should take to ready yourself, your home and your family for a hurricane impacting your area.  It will include advice for building stocks of emergency supplies in your home, readying your home to survive in a storm, and preparing for evacuation.  And I’ll track my own preparations in our newly renovated house in Brooklyn, NY.

But as recommended by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, Living Prepared will take an all-hazards approach to emergency preparedness.  What this means is that the your household emergency supplies, go-bags and other steps you take to prepare yourself and your families for emergencies and disasters will be effective against all possible emergencies and disasters – whether an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, fire or chemical hazard.  So the preparations we go through for this Hurricane Season will carry us throughout the year.

The topics we’ll cover are:

  • Household emergency supplies – what you should be storing/stocking in your home to take you through an emergency
  • Personal and Family Go-Bags – what you should be preparing to take with you should you need to evacuate
  • Vehicle Preparedness – what you should be doing to make sure your vehicle is prepared to evacuate you and your family
  • Developing a Household Emergency Plan

And I’ll try to document my own progress at practicing what I preach.  As we’ve recently moved back into our Brooklyn house after six months of renovations, I have to build up my own emergency stocks.  My personal goal will be to be preparedand have everything in place by the time hurricane season opens for New York City on August 1.

Thoughts from Day One of Long Island-NYC Emergency Management Conference

I attended the Long Island – New York City Emergency Management ConferenceDay One – today.  Here’s a few thoughts I wanted to pass on that are relavent to Living Prepared™:

  • There was lots of discussion about hurricanes…. almost none on H1N1 or pandemics.  The agenda was set months ago before the H1N1 outbreak… Still… it would have been good to hear about the State’s, City’s and neighboring counties plans given the current response to H1N1…..
  • Speaking of hurricane season:  NYC is third largest port in country.  How shipping is affected may be an underestimated impact of a category 3 or 4 storm.  Long Island plans call for ordered evacuations; the NYC plan does not and calls for sheltering in public facilities; the result will be Long Island residents will fill up shelters in NYC – especially in Queens which borders Nassau county.  This needs some more thinking.
  • Debris removal – federal guidelines have changed making it more difficult to use public funds for debris removal on private property.  Must be proven cost-effective to do it or some such nonsense.  This also needs some more thinking.
  • Bryan Norcross – famous for his on air coverage of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and author of the Hurricane Almanac, was the luncheon speaker.  He noted that the US has lots of disasters – the East Coast has hurricanes (being on the west ocean basin); the middle of the country has the perfect geography for tornadoes; and the West Coast has its Pacific Rim earthquakes/volcanoes.  So the challenge for government is who is going to lead people through these disaster events?  He sees a failure in emergency communications planning nationally because there is no national broadcast system.  (I’m not sure I agree – more on that in a moment).  He cited a gap between what the National Hurricane Center knows about the impacts of hurricanes (almost everything) and what the people impacted by hurricanes say afterwards (“gee, I wasn’t expecting that”).  The Emergency Alert System (EAS) seems pretty effective (it allows government to break into all TV and radio broadcasts to issue alerts – NYC in particular does a great job of managing this and other assets to notify the public during emergencies.  Media coverage I’ve seen of large pending storms seems pretty good.  I don’t think you can blame government for people’s attention spans.  However, his advocacy of setting up internet feeds and streaming from City/State/County EOCs (Emergency Operations Centers) such that the public and the media can be given live info directly from government during emergencies is an excellent one and something to take note of.
  • NOAA Weather radios – get one.  They turn on automatically when emergency alerts are sent and while the system was set up for weather, it could be used for other disasters/emergencies by government.  (Reminder to self – more on this in a future post.)
  • CMAS – Cellular Mass Alerting System – awaiting federal action – will provide cell alerting based on proximity to cell towers.  Finally!
  • NY-Alert is one of the best uses of the internet to notify people of emergencies.  They are also soon pioneering a lot of web 2.0 applications – including the ability to send notifications all the way into people’s XBoxes and Wii’s.   Pretty cool.  The City of New York’s Office of Emergency Management is also going to be using twitter and facebook to push out alerts and public information.  They launch Notify NYC (a text based emergency alert system) on a citywide basis tomorrow.  If you are a resident, sign up to be notified of events/incidents in your neighborhood.

More to come tomorrow from Day Two.

It’s Flood Awareness Week: Are you Living Prepared™?

warning-sign-yellowMarch 15-21, 2009 is National Flood Safety Awareness weekFEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program’s website has some great resources to help you estimate your potential flood risks as well as information about how you can get flood insurance.  By entering my address into their “One-Step Flood Risk Profile”, I was able to get an instant assessment of my home’s flood risk (“Low to moderate – Hoorah!).  You will also get a list of insurance agents in your vicinity which offer flood insurance through this program (and you can call them directly through Skype if you have the internet explorer or firefox plug-in installed – very convenient!)

Visit the FEMA Map Service Center and check out the official flood maps for your home – called FIRMS for Flood Insurance Rate Maps – (mine is not at risk for flooding – but I knew that – living at the top of Park Slope by the park as I do).  You can view the maps online without having to buy them.  Don’t miss NOAA’s floodsafety site – they have a ton of useful resources and information about flooding for National Flood Safety Awareness week as well, including a link to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service, which includes lots of real-time data on maps, and links to their RSS feeds.

Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service: River Observations 3/16/09

So, take the time this week to be Living Prepared™ for National Flood Awareness Week by:

  • Educating yourself
  • Assessing your risks
  • Taking steps to protect yourself & your property, including getting flood insurance if you need it

The Floodsmart.gov website section on flood preparedness – Before a Flood has some decent recommendation on steps you can take to prepare for a flood:

1. Safeguard your possessions.
Create a personal “flood file” containing information about all your possessions and keep it in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box or waterproof container. This file should have:

  • A copy of your insurance policies with your agent’s contact information.
  • A room-by-room inventory of your possessions, including receipts, photos, and videos.
  • Copies of all other critical documents, including finance records or receipts of major purchases.

2. Prepare your house.

  • Make sure your sump pump is working.
  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Anchor any fuel tanks.
  • Raise your electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your home’s projected flood elevation.
  • Place the furnace, water heater, washer, and dryer on cement blocks at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.
  • Move furniture, valuables, and important documents to a safe place.

3. Develop a family emergency plan.

  • Create a safety kit with drinking water, canned food, first aid, blankets, a radio, and a flashlight.
  • Post emergency telephone numbers by the phone and teach your children how to dial 911.
  • Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Know safe routes from home, work, and school that are on higher ground.
  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be your emergency family contact.
  • Have a plan to protect your pets.

This is also a good time to order a vehicle escape tool – if you haven’t already done so.  I recently replaced my ResQMe with a new one for two reasons: First, I had been carrying this ResQMe around for a couple of years now and the belt cutter looked a little rusty.  I was concerned that it would not be as sharp as I would want it to be.  Second, and more importantly, it had fallen off of my keychain and was lost.  This was a bit disconcerting as I had read some reviewers of the ResQMe that were concerned that the tool could become dislodged from one’s keychain during an accident resulting in a car going into the water.  But I think it takes a really good tub to pull loose and I snagged mine on something.

ResQMe

ResQMe

I also ordered and have now received the Victorinox Rescue Tool – and boy, am I impressed.  This is a professional tool for a rescue worker as much as for an individual.  As I suspected, it is a bit large to carry around on a daily basis, especially with the bright red belt pouch with neon yellow trim.  It is also not quite as purposeful to use on a daily basis as the blades are long, sharp and locking.  I wouldn’t want to use this to trim threads from my daughter’s sweater.   One nice feature is that the flat-head screwdriver blade also locks, making it possible to put a lot of torque onto it and making me wish that the phillips head screwdriver locked as well.  It’s going in my emergency kit though, where I know where to get at it when disaster strikes.

So, be Living Prepared™ for National Flood Awareness Week!