Hurricane Preparedness

Most materials on disaster preparedness including how to prepare for a hurricane, but many of them include a lot of advice that’s more aimed towards the communities like the Outer Banks and Ocean City and warn of the dangers of storm surges and deep flooding.  We have different threats and preparation needs inland here in Harford Park.  Rocky Lopes, a professional emergency manager from Montgomery County, documented them all in the letter below and was kind enough to let us reproduce it here. We’ve added notes with particular instructions and numbers for our neighborhood.

Keep Informed

Make sure that you arrange to get storm alerts in real-time.  A NOAA Weather Radio provides location-specific information in real-time, and will sound an alert for events like floods, tornadoes, high winds, tropical storms, and much more.  You can get one of these radios at any local electronics specialty store.  […]  [The Baltimore County OEM uses their Twitter page at to provide emergency information.]

Be aware that tropical systems are variable and may change direction and intensity quickly.  Continue to watch local TV and listen to local radio for updated information.  Also, do NOT pay attention to the projected “center” of the storm.  The storm will affect large areas over hundreds of miles.  Areas where the eye of the storm are not the only places where damage and destruction can happen — tropical systems can wreak devastation in a path over 400 miles wide.

Get Ready

Discuss with your loved-ones what plans you have made.  If a problem happens like localized flooding from heavy rain, what will you do?  Where will you go if advised to leave for a while?  Choose a family or friend’s place that is located on higher ground.  Call them in advance to see if you can come stay with them for a while.  It’s always best to have these arrangements made in advance.

Bring things inside that could blow around and cause damage to your or a neighbor’s home.  Trash cans, lawn furniture, picnic table umbrellas, outdoor decorations, wind chimes, hanging baskets, and so forth –  anything that could be blown by gusts of winds should be brought indoors, such as into a garage, basement, or shed.  We have to remember that even if we don’t get a full-frontal assault of a major hurricane, it’s the winds that cause a lot of damage where we live away from the coast.  Get ready for wind.

Be a leader:  advise your neighbors why you are bringing things inside and ask them to do the same.  Do it for elderly, disabled, or neighbors who are out of town who may not be able to take the precautions themselves.

Weather permitting, clean out your gutters and downspouts, and make sure that water can drain away from your property unhindered.

In case the power may go out for a prolonged period of time, take time now to fill voids in your refrigerator and freezer.  That is, fill plastic bags with ice and fill your entire freezer.  Foods will keep frozen longer if there is less empty space in the freezer.  The same is true for the fridge. Rinse out and fill empty plastic bottles with water, and put them in the fridge.  Do it days in advance of the storm so the water can chill.  Turn the fridge to a colder setting, but not so low as to cause things to freeze.

Be realistic when stocking up on perishables. You don’t really need five gallons of milk, 10 pounds of butter, and 19 dozen eggs.  Streets may be impassable due to debris in the road or stores may be closed, but only for a relatively short time.  Sure, stock up, but buy things that you and your family ordinarily will consume within a week’s time.

It is a good idea to have canned foods and a manual can opener handy.  If the power goes out, you may have to live on canned fish, soup, and vegetables for a while.  A Sterno portable stove is useful to heat things like soup in a power outage.

Remember plenty of food for pets, and plan to keep your pets indoors. Pets can’t understand what’s going on and may become frightened. Keep them close to keep them calm.

While you’re out, stop at the ATM and get some cash. If the storm knocks out power, then card-swiping machines at stores won’t work, so plastic will be ineffective.

Get out the old-fashioned time-passers to keep kids (and adults) occupied.  It is amazing how technology-dependent we all are these days, and kids become agitated if their favorite things to do don’t work because the power is out.  Get some good books, and plan to read together as a family if the power is out.  (What a novel idea!)  Also, card games, Parchesi, Monopoly, or other board games can be a lot of fun, especially because you probably haven’t played these games together in a long time.

If you take prescription medications and your supply is low, consider requesting a refill now so you don’t run out if roads are blocked by downed tree limbs or flood waters.

Get out the flashlights and abandon the candles. (Candle fires are common during power outages and candles have not been recommended as emergency supplies for decades.)  Make sure you have fresh batteries for flashlights.  Here’s a tip:  keep batteries out of flashlights until needed.  When batteries are kept in flashlights, they incur a slow drain and may not last as long.

Also, have a battery-powered radio so you can listen to local news if the power is out.

Do not anticipate that a smart phone will continue to work or have ongoing service during a storm or a prolonged power outage. However, plan for a battery-charging backup and have a car charger handy.  You can recharge a mobile device from your car if the power is out in your home.

During the Storm

Continue listening to local TV and radio for updated information.

If advised of a Flash Flood Watch or Warning, take heed.  There are many local roadways that become inundated by rainwater.  If you must drive during or after the storm and you come upon a roadway covered with water, think.  Think about those who love you.  How would they feel if you were washed away by quick-moving floodwaters?  As little as a foot of water can sweep a vehicle off the road. And here’s a little-known fact:  the tires of SUVs are larger and thus have more buoyancy, so SUVs are more likely to be displaced from a road than a car with smaller tires.  Turn around, don’t drown!

Be aware that tornadoes sometimes spin off of a tropical system.  That is: there is a real threat that a tornado could be generated from this storm and affect our area.  If a tornado warning is issued, then grab your radio and flashlight, and move everyone to the lowest level of the building or home that you are in.  Get inside a room without windows — a bathroom is a good choice.  Wait there until you hear that the warning is lifted and it’s safe to come out.

If power goes out or overhead wires are knocked down, report it to your power company.  It’s also a good idea to go around your home and turn off anything that was on when the power went out so there won’t be a huge surge (and potential damage) when the power comes back on.  Include air conditioning, televisions, dehumidifiers, and sensitive equipment like computers and electronics.

Use flashlights and non-perishable foods during a power outage.  Try not to open the refrigerator or freezer at all, or if you must, get everything out that you need at once and quickly shut the door.

Only call 9-1-1 or emergency services if there truly is a life-threatening emergency.  Our life-saving protectors will be busy and we need to give them a break so they can respond to the most urgent needs.

Finally, have phone numbers handy for important contacts — [BGE numbers are 410-685-0123 and 877-778-2222]

Be Patient

One of the most frustrating things after a storm is the waiting.  Use your non-electronic time passers to enjoy the time when you’re disconnected.

Check on family, elderly, and disabled neighbors about their safety.

Be Safe

Storms are one of life’s major inconveniences.  But with a little realistic preparation and discussion with your loved-ones, you’ll be more confident that you and those you love will be safe.