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Hurricane Preparedness
6/1/2017 11:43:13 AM

Media alerts interrupt regular broadcasts. News bulletins flash. Weather forecasts show another storm entering the Gulf of Mexico. As hurricane season begins each June 1, residents along the Louisiana Coast brace themselves for the onslaught of watches and updates. Since the traumatic experiences of Hurricane Rita in 2005, Southwest Louisiana residents know firsthand how overwhelming it is to prepare while anxiously anticipating a storm’s arrival. 

One of the best ways to ease the burden and stress of hurricane season is to develop and maintain a detailed individual hurricane preparedness plan. Tony Guillory, All-State Insurance Agency of Sulphur, says planning ahead provides a sense of security and comfort and ultimately leads to a much smoother evacuation process.

"Have what you want to bring and what you are going to do in writing. You can’t remember everything at a stressful time like this. You will forget many things that you intended to do and bring.” 

In planning for evacuation, consider these tips (adapted from www.ready.gov):

  1. If an evacuation order is issued, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.
  2. Put together a disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate. If you do evacuate, consider bringing pictures and valuables that you will not be able to replace.
  3. Become familiar with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there.

To prevent storm damage, homeowners should regularly trim back all trees and remove dead branches. "Trees falling on houses caused a huge amount of the claims during the storms,” says Guillory. "Many properties would not have had any damage had it not been for trees and dead branches.”

Other ways to prepare properties and businesses: 

  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts, and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.
  • Reduce property damage by retrofitting and reinforcing the roof, windows, and doors, including the garage doors.
  • Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages.

Developing a structured communication strategy for your family is also important. Solicit the help of children and relatives by hosting a family meeting. Young children and teens can work together to build an emergency kit and the family can practice by role-playing what would happen during an evacuation. Some families put together a "hurricane” group text for communication. Having a plan for during and after a storm is an equally important aspect of hurricane preparedness.

During & After the Storm

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Photograph the damage to your property to assist in filing an insurance claim.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.

Hurricane Readiness for Older Adults

From preparation, to evacuation, to returning home, it’s important to expect the unexpected when it comes to hurricane season. As hurricane season begins, now is the time to plan ahead. For those with older adults to care for, prepare with them in mind. 

"Changes in routine and conditions can cause some older adults a lot of anxiety. Preparation is key,” said Ken Thomas, MD, family medicine physician with The Cypress Clinic and medical staff member of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital. "We all hope that we don’t have to go through it, but if we prepare as if it will happen, we’ll be ready.” 

Older adults who rely on family or caregivers for assistance are particularly vulnerable during hurricanes. Because routines are changed, the people they rely upon for basic care may not be available to provide it. 

"Excessive stress can contribute to or exacerbate an illness, particularly those with heart disease. Those who are dependent on regular medical treatments, such as dialysis or oxygen should definitely make early preparations. Even if an evacuation is not called for, roads may become impassable due to heavy rain or high winds and home medical services may not be able to get to your home. Talk with your loved one’s physician to know what kind of arrangements to make during an emergency,” Dr. Thomas said.

Older adults are especially vulnerable. Preparing in advance for emergencies will help create peace of mind in the event of a storm. Read on for some concerns to address.

Medication Management

  • Older adults usually take several medications daily. Have a system in place for medication management.
  • Buy a small bag to store all medications inside.  
  • Write all medications down on one sheet of paper. Include the name of the medication, dosage, and time of day to take it. Put this inside the medication bag.  
  • If your loved one takes more than three medications a day, try using a medication dose manager, available at drug or discount stores. It has compartments for each day. 
  • Keep the original packaging for prescriptions. You may need to get them filled while evacuated. Many pharmacies will be able to do that if you have the original information.

Travel Tips

  • Plan together with other family members how you will travel with your loved one. Who will be the primary caregiver? If that person is unable to follow through, who is the backup?  
  • Frail adults should not be left alone during an evacuation. Plan to alternate with other family members so that there is always a caregiver present.
  • If your loved one is a resident in a nursing home or assisted living facility, ask the director about their evacuation plan. Each facility is required to have an evacuation plan, but most strongly encourage families to be responsible for their family member, if possible.  
  • Some health conditions require constant treatment. If your loved one is in this situation, it is imperative that you are fully aware of the medical care that must be maintained, if your family member must transfer to another facility. The new facility will not be as familiar with the care needed, and you may be the one to inform them of your loved one’s special needs. 
  • Keep identification, contact phone numbers, medical diagnosis, living will, and medication list in one location with your loved one. If you should become separated, or need this information in a hurry, it helps to have it in one place.  
  • A public shelter should be considered as the last resort. They are designed to keep people out of the wind and rain, not to provide comfortable accommodations. Even special-needs shelters only provide medical monitoring and assistance in an emergency. In most cases, they aren’t set up to provide medical care, nor do they have medications on hand. 
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