Anyone living in the area during 2003 remembers Hurricane Isabel. That storm took the lives of 36 Virginians and cost more than $1.9 billion in damages. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management reminds residents that tropical storms are often as threatening as hurricanes. When Isabel entered Virginia, it was a tropical storm, but it became one of the Commonwealth’s worst disasters. Last year, the General Assembly approved a tax break that went into effect this year for one week in May. The Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday allowed residents to stock up tax-free on items costing less than $1000. It’s a move Florida residents have enjoyed for three years. If you missed this year’s Holiday, there’s plenty you can do to prepare in the event of a storm or hurricane. Throughout the year, the National Weather Service and Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management provide informed safety tips, downloadable guides, and more designed to help protect your life and property.
Before a Storm Hits
• Now is the best time to get prepared!
• Make sure you have flood insurance. It is not generally part of a homeowner’s policy. If you don’t, learn about it soon, since most policies require a 30 day waiting period. Then, take photographs of your property to help validate your claim.
• Find out if your home is in a flood zone. Your local emergency management office can tell you.
• Arrange to have dead trees and limbs cut if there is any possibility that they could fall onto your home.
• Determine where to go if there is an evacuation and the safest route there. Choose more than one location, and plan ahead. If you have pets, consider them in the plan. Most shelters and many hotels don’t allow pets.
• If power goes out, you’ll want to have at least one week of food that doesn’t require refrigeration or cooking, including canned food and bottled water. Ideal foods include canned meats like tuna, chicken, chili, corned beef; canned vegetables and fruit; peanut butter; canned juices, etc.
• Each person will require at least one gallon of drinking water daily.
• Assemble the following together: a manual can opener, flashlights with extra batteries, duct tape, large heavy duty trash bags, a first-aid kit, battery-powered radio, toiletries, road maps, sanitary hand wipes, and sleeping bags. Decide how you will carry these items if you need to suddenly evacuate.
• An AC adapter will allow you to charge small electronics via your automobile.
• Consider purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio to receive National Weather Service reports.
• Get your flood insurance policy papers together and other important financial documents.
• Assemble all prescription medication together in case you need to evacuate. Anticipate what special items elderly members of your family will need; infants, nursing mothers, etc.
As the Storm Approaches
• Get a fill-up of gas in your vehicle so that you can evacuate if necessary.
• A common myth that opening windows protects you is false. Do NOT open windows in a storm.
• Listen to local radio and television for current storm information. A “hurricane watch” means that there is possible danger to area residents. A “hurricane warning” means that the level of danger has increased. Fill several plastic containers with water up to an inch of capacity. Place it in the refrigerator or freezer. If the power goes out, this water will remain cold or frozen for a while.
• Bring in items that could blow away or strike something in high winds, like garbage cans, lawn furniture, etc.
During the Storm
• Stay indoors and away from windows. Gather pillows and blankets and use them in the event of falling debris.
• Because they’re a fire hazard, don’t use candles for light.
• Listen to your local radio for official disaster relief information and possible evacuation instructions.
• Watch out for downed power lines and precarious structures weakened by the storm. Avoid standing water.
When the Storm Has Passed
• If you were evacuated, do not return until authorities say it is safe to do so.
• Keep all receipts for purchase including living expenses, food purchases, and other purchases made necessary by the storm.
• Carefully document all damage.
• Use close care when operating power tools, gas lanterns, and generators.
• Don’t use candles or open flames for light.
• Operate generators outdoors only in dry areas that are well-ventilated. Don’t operate them near air intakes to the home. Don’t ever use a generator indoors or in enclosed garages. Doing so can result in carbon monoxide poisoning leading to death.
• Don’t drink tap water unless officials indicate that it is safe. Ensure any food eaten is safe.