What’s Your Hurricane Plan?
Hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th. The Dominican Republic is regularly affected by extreme weather conditions with flooding and wind damage. “Hurricane planning” guides are available but the following short list of recommendations may be of assistance as you finalize your Hurricane Plan.
Plan Ahead: The best offense is a good defense. Obtain and store supplies before each hurricane season and review plans with your family in the event of a disaster.
Fuel: During an approaching storm, don’t let your vehicle’s fuel get below ½ of a tank. Heavy rain can delay you on the highway and you don’t want to run out. In case of emergency, long lines may form at gas stations, or in some cases, gas will be undeliverable. Electrical power to local service stations may also be interrupted.
Escape Plan: You should already have an escape plan in case of fire. If you don’t, now is a good time to create one and to review it, especially if small children are involved.
Fire Extinguishers: Make sure your home has adequate ABC fire extinguisher protection. Become familiar with its use, and remember the acronym PASS (PULL the pin, AIM at the base of the fire, SQUEEZE the handle to discharge the chemical, and SWEEP the chemical across the fire).
Prepare your home: In the event of a Tropical Storm or Hurricane you will need to prepare your home inside and out. The noaa.gov website issues storm alerts and is a good place to check and view pending alerts. Make sure trees and vegetation close to your home and electrical wires have been trimmed of dead/dying branches. A tropical storm warning is not the proper time to start cutting down trees or branches. Call the power company for help along electrical lines.
Protect Important Documents: For insurance purposes, photograph things of value and either take the pictures or memory stick with you. Put people in the pictures to help prove ownership. In the case of mandatory or voluntary evacuation, make sure you have important papers either stored safely in a safe deposit box, or pack them up to take with you. This includes insurance papers, deed info, marriage licenses and pet vaccination records-anything that you might need to prove who you are or what you own.
Secure Items: A category 1 hurricane can generate winds of 74-95 per hour. If you are alerted to a hurricane, make sure all items around your home have been secured. Plants, lawn ornaments, grills, trash cans, furniture and even hoses, etc. should be stored inside. Consider these items to be pending missiles and put them away. You may need to remove roof turbines and replace them with weather caps. Make sure you have the correct tools and enough tap screws in advance. If you have seasonal residents that have left items out, please help by securing those items also.
Hurricane Shutters: If you have hurricane shutters, know how to install them prior to an emergency. If you don’t have shutters and have storage, consider buying plywood or metal sheeting now. Pre-measure and mark the wood or metal sheeting to aid in later installation. Make sure you have the correct tools for installation.
Gas, Water and Electrical Shut-off: Know where your water, gas and electrical shutoffs are. In some cases, you might need special tools to close valves. Make sure you have them, or know where they can be obtained. If you lose power at the electrical circuit breaker box, leaving one circuit or breaker on to alert you to a return to power. Leaving the whole box on could cause a power surge when power is restored, and/or creating a potential fire hazard.
Flooding: If you expect flooding, move sensitive items: computers, electronics, heirlooms, furniture to higher ground. Keep a supply of tarps in case of water infiltration to protect you from the elements.
Gas Grills: If you lose power and want to use a gas or charcoal grill, use them only outside at least 10 feet away from the house! Do not use either under cover. Poisonous gases can fill your house without your knowledge. It’s a fire and life hazard. Also, make sure you have an extra full propane tank that is stored appropriately.
Generators: If you have one LEARN HOW TO USE IT prior to severe weather. Make sure you have well vented area to store the extra gasoline.
Radio or TV: Make sure you have a battery operated radio or TV to stay informed. Also, check that you have enough flashlights. Batter operated lanterns provide a lot of illumination. Make sure you have enough batteries!
Avoid Candles: If possible, use flashlights and battery operated lanterns for light. Use Candles with Care, when you go out, “blow out”. Candles are very dangerous, especially if children are in the house.
Evacuation: If you have been ordered to evacuate and you stay, you will be on your own in case of emergency. Fire-Rescue vehicles may not be able to get to you in high winds or high water conditions.
Plan Your Route: You and everyone else will be on the road. Plan ahead. Know where you’re going in advance of storm season. This can be a storm shelter, hotel, with a relative or friend’s home.
Prepare Supplies: Have enough hurricane supplies to last your family for at least 5 to 7 days, which includes food and water. Try to store items in plastic boxes at the beginning of the season. You can rotate them out throughout, but don’t use your storm supplies like a pantry. Plan for every ‘body’ in the home. This means supplies for pets. Keeping these supplies in boxes means you can pack them quickly in case of evacuation.
Refrigerator and Freezer Settings: In case of a storm warning, turn your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings. Should you lose power, this will keep food cold as long as possible. Don’t keep a lot of extraneous food during hurricane season. It’s just more to spoil. Freeze water in gallon freezer bags to use to pack around food in a cooler. With a storm pending, make ice in anticipation of its need. Freeze plastic bottles of water or juice. They can be used in the cooler and as they thaw you get a nice cold drink. If you need your morning cup of coffee, some pre-made coffee comes in a can. Put them in your hurricane box.
Water Supply: Fill your bathtub with water. If you lose access to water, this can be used to flush toilets. When used with water purification tablets, it can become and emergency source of drinking water. Depending on the size of your unit, this is a great resource.
Other Important Supplies: Make sure you have an adequate supply of prescription medicine. Don’t wait for a storm warming. Especially with the lead time sometimes needed for mail orders. Make or purchase a first aid kit and keep it with your hurricane supplies. That way it will be there if you need it.
Safe Room: Identify a safe room in your home to go into if conditions worsen. This can be any room without windows, like a closet or a bathroom, but smaller rooms with lots of wall and ceiling bracing are best. Take your cell phone and portable radio with you.
During the Storm: Do not go outside your home during a storm! The ‘quiet’ that you may hear is the eye of the storm and depending on wind speed it can quickly pass over your home, with wind jumping back up to dangerous levels.
Dangers: When the storm is over, be cautious when leaving your home. Tree, roof and other damage may have spread debris and knocked down electrical lines. BE SMART! Don’t walk through puddles, they may be electrified. Be prepared to help your neighbors after you’ve taken care of your family first. We’re all in this together.
Additional Resources: There are many resources for you to refer to, to help you with other preparation:
onestorm.org and redcross.org also provide checklists for supplies and disaster planning.