Friday, May 27, 2011

Do you know how to prepare for a hurricane? Now’s the time to get ready

In preparation for hurricane season — which is just around the corner — this is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Now is a great time to brush up on practical tips and best practices when it comes to hurricane readiness.

For starters, it’s good to know if you are at risk. In the United States, people who live along the East and Gulf coasts are more at risk of hurricanes than the rest of the country. More than 1.8 million homes along those coasts are at high risk of hurricane damage, according to a report released this month. Hurricane season in the Atlantic region, which is where most of the hurricanes that affect the United States travel from, runs June 1 to Nov. 30.

Weather officials are constantly on the watch for new hurricanes. Once a hurricane forms, officials estimate the path it will travel and the intensity of its winds. Meteorologists rank hurricanes based on the speed of the winds. Category 5 is the most destructive, with winds greater than 155 miles per hour.

To be ready for a hurricane, you will need emergency supplies for you and your household. Make sure you have at least a three- to five-day supply of water and nonperishable foods. Include prescription medicines, baby supplies, pet supplies and any items for special medical needs. Make sure you have a battery-powered radio and flashlight in case you lose power. You will need to stay informed of any weather alerts, especially if an evacuation is required. Place an emergency kit in your car, so supplies will be accessible in case you need to evacuate.

Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes in advance and decide where you will stay once you evacuate. If you know a hurricane is a possibility, make sure your car has a full tank of gas and set aside some cash, in case power knocks out ATMs. Never ignore warnings to evacuate.

For more hurricane preparedness tips, check out the new Get Ready fact sheet on hurricane preparedness, available both in English and Spanish. You can even add your own logo to the fact sheets and share them in your community.

Photo courtesy: iStockphoto, choicegraphix

Friday, May 20, 2011

What you need to know to be ready for a flood

Devastating floods in many U.S. states have displaced thousands of people in recent weeks and damaged homes and businesses. For some of the areas affected, this isn’t their first time experiencing a flood. Communities located near bodies of water or in low-lying areas are more prone to flooding and can experience cyclical floods. But floods can happen in unexpected places.
With that in mind, now is a good time to plan ahead for a potential flood where you live. Planning ahead for flood-related emergencies can be the difference between staying safe and watching everything that matters to you washed away in a matter of hours. Here are some tips to remember:

• Know your community’s evacuation plan in case of flood, including shelter locations, evacuation routes and emergency alert systems.

• Stockpile one gallon of water per day per person in your home, and maintain at least a three-day supply. If there is a flood, your community’s water system may be contaminated.

• Store non-perishable food, diapers and mediations in waterproof containers and make sure to store a portable first aid kit, waterproof gloves and boots, insect repellant and a battery-powered radio.

• If your home is built in a flood-prone area, elevate the furnace, water heater and electrical panel. Also, consider buying flood insurance and keeping important documents in elevated sections of your home.

If a flood is likely in your area, stayed tuned to your local radio or television station for evacuation instructions and or guidelines. When evacuating your home remember the following tips to help minimize damages and injuries:

• Time permitting, move all essential items to an elevated and secure location.

• Turn off electricity and unplug appliances as well as gas and water supplies.

• Don’t drive through moving water, flooded areas or deep crevasses, as your car may be swept away.

After a flood, you’ll need to take special precautions when cleaning up your home, such as taking care around electricity, avoiding mold and throwing away perishable food.

For more tips on planning for and staying safe during floods, download the Get Ready campaign’s floods fact sheet, which is available in both English and Spanish.

Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol workers conduct welfare checks on people who have been cut off by the flood waters in Kindred, N.D., on April 15. By Michael Rieger, courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Make a donation to Stamp Out Hunger and help prepare your community

When your postal carrier drops by this Saturday, she or he will be ready to pick up more than just mail. Saturday, May 14, is the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive, during which postal carriers pick up food donations that are set out next to U.S. mailboxes.

Held annually since 1992, the Stamp Out Hunger food drive collected 77.1 million pounds of food donations during the 2010 event, making it the nation’s largest one-day food drive. The event is organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers, with support from the U.S. Postal Service, Feeding America and other sponsors.

To take part, just leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable foods, such as canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal, next to your mailbox before your mail comes on Saturday. Food items should be in non-breakable containers, such as boxes and cans, and should not be expired.

Statistics show that your donation will matter: As of 2009, more than 50 million Americans live in “food-insecure” homes, meaning that they don’t have enough food for themselves and their families. But making a donation to Stamp Out Hunger can do more than fill empty bellies in your community. Food banks play an important role in community preparedness, because they are often where people turn to for assistance after a disaster or emergency.

If you’re not sure whether your postal carrier will be taking part in the food drive Saturday, contact your local post office. You can also help out online: For every person who joins the Stamp Out Hunger Facebook cause and pledges to donate food, the Campbell Soup Company will donate one pound of food — up to 1 million pounds — to Feeding America. For more on the food drive, visit the event website or Twitter.

Friday, May 06, 2011

How to get ready for tornadoes

The recent devastating tornadoes across the South led to the loss of hundreds of lives and left thousands homeless or injured. The tornadoes capped off a bout of wild weather, during which the National Weather Service reported more than 600 tornadoes in April alone, breaking a 36-year-old record. With another month or two of tornado season to go, it’s important to be familiar with the warning signs of tornadoes and prepare for such severe weather emergencies.
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms and can strike with little or no warning, destroying entire neighborhoods in just minutes. A new tornado fact sheet (PDF) from APHA’s Get Ready campaign can help you learn what to look for and how to prepare. Here’s some tips to follow:

• Know the danger signs: A dark, often greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud — particularly one that is rotating; and a loud roar, similar to a freight train, are all possible signs of an impending twister.

• Be prepared: Know your community’s tornado warning system and make a plan with family members. Prepare your household by picking a room where people and pets can be safe. Ideally, the space should be in a basement, underground shelter or interior room with no windows. Have an emergency stockpile close by. You can create your own emergency kit by following the Get Ready campaign’s Emergency Preparedness Stockpile Checklist, available in English and Spanish.

• If you suspect a tornado is on its way, take action. At home, school or work, go to your designated shelter area. If you’re caught outdoors, immediately walk to a nearby building. It that’s not possible, get in your vehicle, fasten your seat belt and drive to the nearest shelter. If you see flying debris while driving, pull over and park. As a last resort, stay in your car with the seat belt fastened and lower your head below window level. If you’re outdoors without a car or a nearby building, lie flat in a ditch or low-lying section of land. Cover your head with your hands to protect from flying debris.

• Once it passes, stay safe. Check household members for injuries. Watch for debris, fallen electrical wires and damaged gas lines. Do not try to reenter damaged buildings and wash your hands regularly during clean up.

Tornadoes and severe weather emergencies can strike with little warning. Knowing the signs and being prepared may make all the difference to help you stay safe.

Visit, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a contribution to U.S. tornado victims.