West Palm Beach VA Medical Center
Hurricane Tips for Veterans and Families
Be Hurricane Prepared
Never underestimate the value of being prepared for a natural disaster. The VA is here to help you, but the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center and Community Based Outpatient Clinics are not emergency shelters. In the event of a major impact, the VA Community Clinics may be closed for extended periods of time. Take the time to prepare yourself and your family. Veterans are advised to follow any evacuation orders.
Personal Preparedness checklistYour personal preparedness should include enough supplies for about two weeks:
- Water – 18 ½ gallons of water per person (1/2 gallon for drinking, two gallons for bathing)
- Food – Ready to eat canned foods, shelf stable snacks, and beverages
- Medicine – Your prescription medication, first aid kit that contains aspirin, non-aspirin pain reliever, antacid, antiseptic, scissors, and insect repellent
- Personal Hygiene/Care Items - toilet paper, towels, soap, shampoo, dental needs, eyeglasses, and sun protection
- Other supplies – battery operated radio, flashlight and batteries, non-electric can opener, portable cooler and ice, plastic trash bags, tarp or sheet plastic, cleaning supplies such as bleach, paper napkins, plates and cups, pillows, blankets, and duct tape
- Keep a list of all medications in your personal preparedness kit.
- Keep a 15 day supply of medication and supplies on hand. Do not allow your supply to go below 15 days.
- For medications that require refrigeration, make sure you have a small portable cooler or ice chest ready for easy transport if needed.
- If you evacuate, bring prescription bottles, whether full or empty, of all medications that you are currently taking with you.
- It is important to have a preparedness plan for your pets. Know which shelters in your community will accept pets. If you plan to evacuate to your family’s or friends’ home, make sure they will accept your pets, too.
- Be sure to have supplies on hand like canned/dry food, newspapers, cat litter, and drinking water.
- Make sure your pets have an ID tag, collar and/or micro-chip in case they get lost during the storm.
- If you are taking your pet to a shelter with you, be sure to take supplies to care for your pet, such as food, health records, and a current license. Most shelters will require that your pet be kept in a cage or carrier.
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Hurricane Season is here. Are YOU ready?
Hurricane Season is June 1 – November 30. Never underestimate the value of being prepared! Check out the information below to learn more about hurricanes, hazards associated with hurricanes and what you can do to prepare.
Who’s Keeping an Eye on the Tropics?
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) maintains a continuous watch on tropical cyclones over the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern Pacific from May 15 through November 30.
The NHC prepares and distributes hurricane watches and warnings for the general public, and also prepares and distributes marine and military advisories for other uses.
During the "off-season", the NHC provides training for U.S. emergency managers and representatives from many other countries that are affected by tropical cyclones.
The NHC also conducts applied research to evaluate and improve hurricane forecasting techniques, and is involved in public awareness programs.
National Hurricane Center Advisory Schedule
When a storm threatens, the NHC begins issuing hurricane advisories.
Full hurricane advisories are issued at:
5 am EDT, 11 am EDT, 5 pm EDT and 11 pm EDT
When a Watch or Warning is issued, intermediate advisories are initiated, usually at 8 am, 2 pm and 8 pm.
In between these advisories, a lot of "behind the scenes" work and analysis is done so that they provide the best possible information to the public.
Just what does a watch mean? What does a warning mean?
WATCH A tropical storm watch is issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds from 39 to 73 miles per hour (mph), pose a possible threat to a specified coastal area within 48 hours.
WARNING A tropical storm warning is issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds from 39 to 73 mph, are expected in a specified coastal area within 36 hours or less.
WATCH A hurricane watch is issued for a specified coastal area for which a hurricane or a hurricane-related hazard is a possible threat within 48 hours.
WARNING A hurricane warning is issued when a hurricane with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher is expected in a specified coastal area in 36 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continues, even though the winds may have subsided below hurricane intensity.
The Calm before the Storm... Develop your Family Disaster Plan Now
The best time to make important decisions about your family's safety is before disaster strikes. Past events have shown that people who think ahead, prepare, and have a plan fare best during and after a disaster. If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster relief organizations will try to help you, but you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours (3 days).
Elements of a Good Family Disaster Plan include:
- Locating a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. In certain circumstances the safest areas may not be your home but within your community.
- Determining escape routes from your home and places to meet. These should be measured in tens of miles rather than hundreds of miles.
- Having an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.
- Making a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.
- Posting emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
- Checking your insurance coverage - flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.
- Stocking non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit.
- Using a NOAA weather radio. Remember to replace its battery every 6 months, as you do with your smoke detectors.
- Taking First Aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes.
Don’t get caught up a creek without a paddle
Don’t let long lines at the local hardware store, grocery store and gas station get you down…
Don’t rely on local relief organizations to provide you food or water during the first few days following a hurricane…
You should have enough supplies in your home to meet the needs of you and your family (don’t forget your pets) for at least three days – 5 – 7 days might be better.
Preparing for emergencies don’t have to be expensive if you think ahead and buy small quantities at a time.
Make a list of foods that:
- Have a long shelf-life and are non-perishable
- You and your family like
- Don’t require cooking
- Can be easily stored
Keep the list in your wallet or purse and pick up a few items each time you’re shopping.
Hurricane Family Survival Kit
Being prepared before an emergency happens can make a big difference in how you and your family weather the storm.
Items you should consider for your Family Survival Kit include:
- Water – 3 gallons per day per person
- Battery Operated Radio
- Candles and matches or lighter
- Duct Tape
- Emergency cooking supplies
- Extra batteries
- Extension cords – heavy duty
- Rain Gear and sturdy shoes
- Pet food
- Extra medications
- Fire extinguisher
- First Aid kit
- Toys, books, games
- Flashlight with extra batteries and bulbs
- Manual can opener
- Pet care items
- Ready to eat canned and prepared food
- Valuable papers
- Valid drivers’ license
Should You Stay? Or Should You Go?
Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning here, to determine if there is immediate danger.
In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should monitor TV or radio news reports for information or official instructions as they become available. If you're specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately.
Don’t Leave Your Pet Stranded…Have a Pet Plan
Your pet may be your best friend, but due to health regulations, most emergency shelters cannot house animals.
Find out in advance how to care for your pets and working animals when disaster strikes. Pets should not be left behind…check with your veterinarian, a friend or your local animal shelter about options should you have to leave your home. Be sure to take food and water for your pets.
For more information, visit the American Red Cross Animal Safety* page
Make a Connection
Choose an emergency contact person OUTSIDE your area…
It may be easier to call long distance than locally after a local or regional disaster. Also remember, that following a major disaster, traditional phone service or cell service may be out. Make sure you have multiple means of getting in touch with your emergency contact person.
Take a minute now to call or email an out-of-town friend or family member to ask them to be your family’s designated contact in the event of an emergency.
Be sure to share the contact information with everyone in your family. Complete an emergency contact card and make sure all members in your family carry it with them.
During an emergency, you can call your contact person who can share with other family members where you are; how you are doing; and how to get in contact with you. If you are unable to make contact with your family, the American Red Cross maintains a database to help you find missing family members.
Working Together Through a Disaster
A community working together during an emergency makes sense.
Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together during an emergency.
Find out if anyone has specialized equipment like a power generator, or expertise such as medical knowledge, that might help in a crisis.
Decide who will check on elderly or disabled neighbors.
Make back-up plans for children in case you can’t get hone in an emergency.
Sharing plans and communicating in advance just makes good sense.
What’s in your First Aid Kit?
A well stocked Hurricane Survival Kit includes a first aid kit. Take a minute to check your family’s first aid kit and note any depleted items. Don’t have a first aid kit?
Items you should consider for building a first aid kit:
- (20) Adhesive bandages (various sizes)
- (1) conforming roller gauze bandage
- (2) 3" x 3" sterile gauze pads
- (1) 3" cohesive bandage
- (6) antiseptic wipes
- 2" width adhesive tape
- Cold pack
- First Aid manual
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- (1) 5" x 9" sterile dressing
- (2) triangle bandages
- (2) 4" x 4" sterile gauze pads
- (2) antibacterial hand-wipe packages
- (2) pair non-latex gloves
- Antibacterial ointment
- Small, personal scissors
- CPR breathing face shield
- Aspirin or pain reliever
- Antacid (for upset stomach)
Water, Water Anywhere?
Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person. Store a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day (two quarts for drinking, two quarts for food preparation and sanitation).
Store water in plastic containers such as large soft drink bottles. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles.
A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments and strenuous activity can double that amount.
Children, nursing mothers and people who are sick will also need more.
After a storm has passed, you may be told your drinking water may be contaminated… Is your well underwater? What should you do?
The Florida Department of Health website has information to help you determine what you need to do to ensure your family’s drinking water is safe.
Picking up the pieces after a disaster isn’t easy.
Learn ways to recover safely. After a storm passes there will likely be a lot of clean up to get your home back in order. Take the following steps to recover as quickly and safely as possible.
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for instructions
- If you evacuated, return home only when local officials tell you it is safe to do so
- Use flashlights – DO NOT USE CANDLES! Click here for Power Outage tips*
- Do not run a generator inside a home or garage - Click here for Generator tips*
- If you have lost power, avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer – Click here for Food Safety tips*
- Inspect your home for damage – Click here for Chainsaw Safety tips*
- Know where to get disaster assistance. Click here for FEMA* disaster assistance information
The American Red Cross website* has lots of information on what to do after the storm has passed.
Rebuild Your Emotional House
Picking up the pieces after a disaster isn’t easy The road to recovery involves more than cleaning up physical debris. It also involves working to get your emotional house in order.
Suggestions to relieve or prevent disaster related tensions
- Keep the family together. Togetherness provides mutual support for everyone. Make an effort to establish normal routines. Include children in safe cleanup activities.
- Discuss your problems. Don’t be afraid to share your anxieties with family and friends. Let others talk to you. Crying is a natural response to a disaster and a good way to release pen-up emotions.
- Set a manageable schedule. Make a list and do jobs one at a time. Establish a schedule to clean up and rebuild. Try to return to your pre-disaster routine as soon as possible.
- Take care of yourself. Rest often and eat well. Remember that your children or other family members can reflect your fears. If they see you striving to adjust to the situation, they can learn from and imitate your efforts, enabling them to cope better.
- Listen to what children say. Encourage your children to talk or otherwise express their feelings. Teens may need to talk to other teens.
- Explain the disaster factually. Children have vivid imaginations. Things they do not understand make them afraid. When they know the facts they may deal better with the disaster.
Preparedness is critical - Monitor NOAA weather radio... When a tornado warning is issued and you live in a well-built home, move to a small interior room away from windows... If you live in a mobile/manufactured home, develop a plan of where to go during a tornado threat.
Hurricane Hazard – Flooding
"In the last 30 years, inland flooding has been responsible for more than half the deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States." Ed Rappaport, National Hurricane Center
When it comes to hurricanes, wind speeds do not tell the whole story. Some of the greatest rainfall amounts occur from weaker storms that drift slowly or stall over an area. Hurricane Frances (2004) did just that over North Florida with rainfall totals of over 15 inches reported in several areas. Inland flooding can be a major threat to communities hundreds of miles from the coast. What can you do? Determine if you live in a potential flood zone... If advised to evacuate - do it immediately... Stay tuned to local media for updates on road conditions... Move to a safe area before roads become impassable.
Hurricane Hazard – Tornadoes
Hurricanes can produce tornadoes - most likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of a hurricane or embedded in rainbands well away from the center of the hurricane.
Hurricane Buelah (1967) spawned 141 tornadoes.
There is no way to predict exactly which storms will spawn tornadoes or where they will touch down.
Tornadoes associated with hurricanes generally are not accompanied by hail or lighting (signs that citizens look for in other parts of the country).
Tornadoes associated with hurricanes can occur for days after landfall.
Tornadoes associated with hurricanes can develop at any time of day or night during landfall.
Hurricane Hazard – Storm Surge
Storm Surge - is simply water that is pushed toward shore by the force of winds swirling around the storm. This water combines with a normal tide and wind driven waves to create the "hurricane storm surge." This rise in water levels can cause severe flooding in coastal areas as was seen Mississippi and Alabama during Hurricane Katrina. If you live on a barrier island or along the coast, consider the safety actions provided at Storm Surge Safety Actions*
Hurricane Hazard – High Winds
High Winds - Land-falling hurricane intensity is expressed in terms of categories that relate to wind speeds and potential damage. Click on Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale* to learn more about hurricane categories. Did you know the strongest winds usually occur in the right side of a hurricane? Did you know hurricane force winds can be felt well inland? Hurricane force winds can easily destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. Debris and other items can become "flying missiles" in hurricanes. Trees and utilities can be damaged. High-rise buildings are also vulnerable, especially to windows being blown out.
Go to High Winds* for tips on what you can do to prepare before the winds start howling.