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Hurricane Preparedness
6/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

Hurricane Preparedness

June marks the official start of hurricane season, a time of year when residents along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States hope the next five months pass without mention of landfall prediction maps, storm warnings, hurricane watches, and evacuations. But it’s important to do more than cross your fingers! Whether a hurricane threatens Southwest Louisiana in the coming months or not, it’s best to have a plan. Read on for tips and information on how you can best be prepared to face the threat of severe weather.

Your Smartphone is your Friend During a Hurricane

Your smartphone can be your best friend in a hurricane. With the right websites and apps, you can turn it into a powerful tool for guiding you through a storm’s approach, arrival, and aftermath. First, of course, make sure your phone is fully charged as a storm approaches. Consider buying a portable charger to provide power during an outage.

Weather Forecast Information apps:

National Hurricane Center: nhc.noaa.gov This site offers the latest on a storm’s path, with maps, satellite imagery and details on threats from wind and storm surge.

National Weather Service: weather.gov/lch. If a hurricane is approaching, this offers the most specific local information about the storm’s possible impact on Southwest Louisiana. mobile.weather.gov.

The Weather Channel: weather.com. Download their user-friendly apps with interactive radar, real-time alerts and other features.

Weather Underground: wunderground.com. Lots of graphics and analysis. Download the app Storm by Weather Underground for animated radar, hourly forecasts and other features. Other good sites for hard-core weather junkies are NOAA SuperRes Radar US and NOAA Radar US.

For a local perspective, KPLC-TV offers its First Alert Weather app. It features severe weather alerts, live radar, hour-by-hour and ten-day forecasts, and exclusive videos from the First Alert Weather Tem

Local Hurricane Information apps:

Is you neighborhood going to be evacuated? Where are the shelters? Any alerts in your area? What’s open and what’s closed? Here are places to look. Also be sure to connect to each organization’s Facebook and Twitter page, which are linked on their web sites.

Nextdoor is a web site where people post questions and information about their immediate neighborhood. It’s a great way to find out about local issues, such as gas availability, outages, road closures, and damage.

Power Outages. Report outages at fpl.com/outage or call 800-4-OUTAGE. To check power outages in your neighborhood, go to fplmaps.com, where you can find the total outages in your area, the cause and estimates for when power will be restored.

First Aid for People and Pets. These two Red Cross apps give advice on first aid for people and pets.  redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps

Hurricane by American Red Cross: An app that’s a good all-around site for preparing for the storm, getting through it, and dealing with the aftermath. 

Hurricane Tracker is another good general app which contains forecasts, safety information, and other features.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency app at fema.gov/mobile-app and web page at ready.com. Offers storm preparation tips, shelter maps and maps of disaster recovery centers.

Review your Insurance Policies before a Storm

Hurricane season occurs from June 1 – November 30. The time to review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies to ensure you have the right coverage in a severe weather event is before the threat of a storm.Hurricanes provide a short window of advance notice, and as landfall approaches, insurance companies may temporarily suspend new coverage and coverage changes. So, it's a good idea to review your insurance coverage yearly to make sure it matches your needs.An insurance representative can review your policy, explain limits and deductibles, and help you identify coverage gaps. Ask your agent for advice on hurricane risk qualification that may lower your insurance premiums and better protect your property.

During your annual coverage review, consider the following:

•   Flooding. Flood insurance, which covers losses from rising water, isn't provided in routine homeowner’s insurance policies. However, it is available from insurance companies through the National Flood Insurance Program. Premiums vary depending on your property’s flood risk and how much coverage you desire. Typically, flood insurance doesn't become effective until 30 days after purchase.

•  Windstorm damage. Windstorm damage is covered with its own deductible in some homeowner’s insurance policies, and an entirely separate wind policy might be required in some places. Hurricane and windstorm damage in high-risk coastal areas may only be available through a state-managed insurance pool. It, too, may have a waiting period before coverage begins.

•  Temporary living expenses. Review your policy's coverage for temporary living expenses. Determine how much your policy will pay and how long it will pay after the storm ends.

•  High-value personal possessions. Coverage under Valuable Personal Property policies helps replace a homeowner's costliest possessions, including jewelry and artwork. Typical homeowner’s policies provide some coverage for those belongings, but it is limited and could keep you from reacquiring the full value of lost items.

•  Personal belongings. Renters insurance can cover the loss of renters' personal belongings, which are not covered by the landlord's insurance. Renters can get temporary living expense coverage in their rental policies, and their belongings should be covered if stolen.

Storm Prep for Pets

Your pets are part of your family, so don’t forget them when making hurricane preparations. Follow these steps to keep your fur-babies safe through the storm.

Pack an Emergency Kit – Have a pre-packed "go bag" for your pet and include the following:

Vaccination documents – These are crucial to ensure your pet will be able to stay at a shelter or hotel in case of evacuation.

Bottled water – Don’t allow Fido to drink tap water immediately after a storm, as it could be abundant with chemicals and bacteria; pack    

        plenty of purified / bottled water to keep him hydrated. 

Food – Pack at least one weeks' worth of food (and if you use canned food, don't forget a can opener).

Medication – Pack at least one weeks' worth of medication.

Toys/Blankets – Comfort items like a chew toy and a familiar blanket can keep your pet calm during an emergency and less likely to act 

        erratically/run off.

Leash/Collar – For your pet's safety, always have a leash and collar on-hand.

Have a Safe Haven – If you are away or cannot get to your pet when disaster strikes, find a local dog daycare, friend or pet sitter that can reach your pet. You never want to leave a pet behind in an emergency as they often cannot protect themselves or may end up getting lost. Make plans ahead of time to evacuate to somewhere like a pet-friendly hotel or a friend or family's home that is out of the affected area.

Ensure Vaccinations are Up to Date – In the event that your pet needs to stay at a shelter, important documents pertaining to vaccinations or medications are crucial. Ensure their vaccinations (including Bordetella) are up to date so you don't have any issues leaving your pet in a safe place.

Microchip your Pet – Even when you first get your pet, getting a microchip could be the difference between keeping him/her safe and making them a stray. Microchips allow for veterinarians to scan lost animals to determine their identity so that they are safely returned home. Be sure your microchip is registered and up to date so if your pet is lost, the correct information is accessible to whoever recovers your pet.

Make Fido Feel at Home – Like humans, pets become stressed when their safety is at risk. Whether you are waiting out a storm and relocating to a different area, be sure to bring their favorite toys and a comfortable bed or cage for proper security. If your pet is prone to anxiety, stress-relieving products, like a dog anxiety vest or natural stress-relieving medication/spray can help ease them in times of emergency.

Identifying Information – If your pet is lost or runs away during an emergency, bring and be able to provide information that will help others find him/her like recent photos, behavioral characteristics or traits. These can help others identify your pet and return them safely to you.

Rescue Alert Sticker – Put a rescue alert sticker on your home to let people know there are pets inside your home. If you are able to take your pets with you, cross out the sticker and put "evacuated" or some other words to let rescue workers that your pet is safely out of your home.

Ease Pets Back Home – Don't allow Fido to run back into your home or even through your neighborhood once you and your family have returned. Your once-familiar home could be disheveled and/or changed, and this can potentially disorient and stress your pet. Keep your pet on a leash and safely ease him/her back home. Make sure they are not eating or picking up anything that could potentially be dangerous, such as downed wires or contaminated water.

Create a list of important contact numbers

Part of being prepared for a storm is having information you need at your fingertips. Keep this list of phone numbers in your storm kit and with your other important papers. We’ve filled in some of the numbers for you.

Law enforcement:

-Calcasieu Parish Sheriff – Main Office -- (337) 491-3600

-Louisiana State Police Troop D -- (337) 491-2511

-Lake Charles City Police -- (337) 491-1311

-Sulphur City Police -- (337) 527-4550

-Parish public safety fire/rescue – call 911.

-State, Parish, and City/Town Government offices

Local hospitals:

-CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick -- (337) 436-2511

-CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area -- (337) 474-6370

-Lake Charles Memorial – (337)-494-3000 

-West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital -- (337) 527-7034

-Avail Health Lake Charles Hospital -- (337) 656-7700

-Jennings American Legion Hospital -- (337) 616-7000

-DeQuincy Memorial Hospital -- (337) 786-1200

-Beauregard Health System -- (337) 462-7100

Local utilities:

Entergy -- Customer service: 1 (800) 368-3749

       -Emergency: 1 (800) 968-8243

Centerpoint Energy South Louisiana – Customer Service: 800-477-0177

       -To report a gas leak: 888-876-5786

Suddenlink, Lake Charles -- (844) 874-7558

American Red Cross, Lake Charles -- (337) 656-0835

Local TV stations: KPLC -- (337) 439-9071

Local radio stations

Property Insurance Agent

Hurricane Myths Debunked

Misconceptions swirl around tropical cyclones during hurricane season. For example, don’t ever let anyone tell you a hurricane is a Category 6. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale only ranks storms to Category 5, no matter how strong the winds. 

Other hurricane myths include:

Taping windows will prevent hurricane-force winds from shattering them.

Fifty-four percent of Americans believe placing tape over their homes' windows will protect the glass from breaking, according to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. Even window film sold as impact-resistant film may be an unwise option for protecting windows, because the window itself isn’t designed to withstand a hurricane. Experts consider storm shutters or plywood that cover the entire window to be safer choices.

Storing your valuables in a dishwasher will guard them from floodwater damage.

The idea behind this popular myth is that because a dishwasher is great at keeping water from escaping, it could also help prevent floodwaters from rushing inside. Despite being touted as a handy tip by a number of social media users and media outlets, the fact checkers at Snopes.com believe this so-called hurricane hack could potentially ruin your belongings. If your home can get flooded, then so can your dishwasher, according to experts.

A few days’ worth of important medication is all that’s needed ahead of a storm.

Minimizing the chance of running low on essential prescription medications will require some planning ahead in case pharmacies remain closed for weeks after a hurricane. Some states, especially states in the Gulf Coast region, are waiving the limits of pharmacy refills so patients can have refills before they would be due in order to make sure that they have enough medicine to last through a storm.

Opening windows during a hurricane will stabilize pressure.

The belief is that you need to open up windows and garage doors to equalize pressure, but it’s not correct. Buildings aren’t airtight, and there are many little openings throughout a home that would make opening windows unnecessary. Opening windows and garage doors while a hurricane batters your home can cause much worse wind damage than otherwise would occur. 

An evacuation order was issued, but the weather looks fine. There’s no rush to leave town.

If a mandatory evacuation order is issued ahead of potential hurricane impacts, experts advise that you leave your home sooner rather than later. Officials often strongly advise against waiting until the last minute to evacuate, which potentially puts yourself in danger as well as the emergency responders who may have to rescue you during and after the storm.

Source: accuweather.com

Post-Storm – What to do After a Severe Weather Event

We hear and read a lot about what to do in advance of an approaching storm – how to protect our homes, people, and pets, and what to pack in case of evacuation – but that is only half the story. What should we be aware once the storm has passed?

Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.

If you were evacuated, return home only after authorities advise it is safe to do so.

Avoid downed power lines. Never touch anything in contact with power lines, including water or water puddles that may be near the downed power lines.

Protect your property from further damage by boarding up broken windows to help deter vandalism or additional weather damage. Arrange for reasonable temporary repairs.

Be wary of any gas lines that may have been damaged or broken during the storm. Use battery-powered flashlights when examining buildings – not candles. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window, get everyone out of the building quickly and call the gas company or fire department.

Be cautious of hazards that are a product of the storm, such as water due to flooding, sharp or broken objects, damaged tree limbs or other structures that may have been damaged by high winds or water.

Keep accurate records of your expenses and save bills and receipts from your temporary repairs. (Avoid making permanent repairs until your insurance claim professional has reviewed the damage.) Keep accurate records of any other expenses incurred.

Separate and inventory any damaged personal property. Take photos of property damage. Create a list of any damaged contents, including a description of the item, name of the manufacturer, brand name, age, as well as the place and date of purchase, if known. Include photographs, videotapes or personal property inventories you may already have available.

If you think your home might be unsafe due to storm damage, contact your insurance company to discuss finding temporary accommodations

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