Author: Kirsten Barber
August is Preparedness Month in North Carolina. So, it’s somewhat fitting that the month kicked off with a hurricane that brought flooding, damaging winds and tornadoes to the eastern portion of the state. Not to mention the first week ended with a rare magnitude 5.1 earthquake felt throughout the region.
Yes, the first week of preparedness month was a stark reminder that North Carolina experiences multiple hazards, some of which occur with little to no warning.
Being prepared for disasters is a great way to protect you, your family and your peace of mind. This is especially important as North Carolinians continue to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. It is never too early to start preparing for an emergency. Follow these steps to get started on establishing emergency plans and getting supplies together.
The first step to successful preparedness is to have an action plan in place so you and household members know what to do during an emergency. Learn your area’s risks of floods, fires, tornadoes and other disasters. Knowing this can help you tailor your emergency plan.
An emergency plan lays out how members of a household will respond during an emergency. Include where to go, what to do and how to reconnect during a disaster. Once you’ve created an emergency plan, be sure to practice it with everyone in your family – that means your pets, too. Filling out a family emergency plan is a great start.
No matter where you live, make sure your plan covers these questions:
- Are you located in a hurricane evacuation zone ?
- Are you in a flood-prone area that may need to evacuate in heavy rains?
- If you need to evacuate, do you know where to go and the route?
- Are you responsible for others (seniors, children or pets)?
During the 2020 hurricane season, sheltering will be a bit different. Local and state emergency managers are encouraging North Carolinians to make plans to stay with family members or friends in the event that their area is ordered to evacuate. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, shelters may be at limited capacity or counties may be offering non-congregate sheltering options. If ordered to evacuate, do not let concerns about COVID-19 prevent you from leaving home. Protecting yourself from impacts from storms should take priority.
Having an emergency kit (also known as a “go bag”) prepared before disaster strikes is a simple way to ensure you are disaster ready. These kits are a collection of items that are packed and ready to go in the case of an evacuation. Include items for infants, pets and members of your household with disabilities. These supplies should be able to sustain every member of your household for three to seven days.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, be sure that your go bag includes multiple face coverings for everyone as well as hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.
Since disasters can affect basic services like water, gas, power, phone lines and more for days or even weeks after a storm, a “home kit” or stash of emergency supplies is another helpful lifeline to have. Home kits should have up to 14 days of emergency supplies. Include everything needed for staying at home for two weeks: medications, food, water, household cleaning and disinfectant supplies, soap, paper products and personal hygiene items. Adding flashlights and extra batteries to your home kit can be helpful if the power goes out so you aren’t left in the dark.
Having access to reliable information before, during and after a disaster can make all the difference. Signing up to receive emergency alerts from your county emergency management team gives you access to vital information from trusted sources when it matters. Many emergency management teams also have social media accounts that are worth following.
If you have time before a disaster (like during a hurricane), make sure you charge all of your electronic devices so you can still access information or call for assistance. If you have power banks, make sure those are charged as well.
Other resources are available to the public that share valuable information that is helpful before, during and after a disaster. ReadyNC.org is a mobile-friendly website that provides information on disaster planning, North Carolina hazards, recovery resources and more. All information is available in English and Spanish. (The ReadyNC app has been retired, so be sure to bookmark the website for easy access to information on the go.)
The NC Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network (FIMAN) provides a real-time look at the more than 500 flood gauges across the state. This site makes it easy to monitor flood gauges and even sign up for alerts if water starts to rise in your area.
Preparing for disasters may seem like a daunting task, but it is well worth the peace of mind. Read more in this OpEd.on how North Carolina has been preparing for disasters in 2020.
Stay tuned for more information on sheltering during a disaster and financial preparedness.