5 Things Hurricane Matthew Taught Us About Disaster Preparedness

5 Things Hurricane Matthew Taught Us About Disaster Preparedness

After devastating Haiti, Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc across parts of Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. While death estimates in Haiti may be as high as 1,332, at least 46 people in the U.S. lost their lives due to the Category 5 Atlantic hurricane. Prior to the widespread flooding in North Carolina, early estimates of total economic losses in the southeastern U.S. stood at least $4 to 6 billion U.S. dollars. The before and after photos of this hurricane speak to the powerful ramifications of Mother Nature. Hurricanes sometimes result in the unexpected, such as a pile of Civil War-era cannonballs uncovered along the east end of Folly Island, South Carolina after Hurricane Matthew blasted the coastline on October 9. A more practical result of hurricanes is that they teach municipalities and individuals how to create viable hurricane preparedness plans.

Five Emergency Preparedness Tips

  1. Evacuate: When you are told to evacuate an area, heed this warning. If you refuse to leave, you are endangering your life and putting emergency crews in danger. Once the storm hits, the window of opportunity to evacuate is slim to none. If you are in the evacuation zone and decide to remain at home or live just outside the zone, you need to stay safe. Find a place in your home that can withstand extreme winds, such as a bathtub in an inner bathroom.
  2. Protect valuables: Place important documents, money, credit cards, IDs, and jewelry in a safe place such as a waterproof, fireproof metal box. Put other valuables like family photos in tightly wrapped garbage bags and place them somewhere off the floor. The documents are key to putting your life back together after the storm.
  3. Document items: Many insurance companies require documentation in the form of receipts and/or photographs to pay claims. Document valuables before the storm and be meticulous in keeping track of losses and recovery expenses. Scan paper receipts and keep these with digital photographs on a flash drive in the same metal box with other valuables. Be prepared to expend a good deal of effort to collect on losses, even with proper documentation.
  4. Prepare an emergency kit: Preparing a well-stocked emergency kit is an important step to ensure the safety and well-being of family members before a disaster strikes. Essential items include a first-aid kit, medications, long-shelf life foods and water (for adults, infants and pets), a tool kit, matches, disposable lighters, flashlight, battery- or solar-powered cell phone chargers, personal care items, battery-operated radio, extra car keys, and flash drive or hard drive back up with important data stored off site or in a fireproof box with your emergency kit.
  5. Expect the unexpected: Despite experts’ educated, scientifically-based predictions, hurricanes are unpredictable. A short distance can make the difference between utter and minor destruction. Trees are vulnerable and unpredictable during storms – the same type of tree can miraculously survive intact on your property and fall over and destroy your neighbor’s home. Don’t get complacent when news reports state a hurricane has been downgraded to a lower category level or even a tropical storm. While the devastation may not be as widespread, high winds can destroy property and prove deadly.

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