Tips to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Concerned about hurricanes in your area? For residents along the Atlantic coast, it’s important to create an emergency plan to keep your family and home safe. Hurricanes have a long history along the coast and have resulted in a great deal of costly rebuilding in recent years. Failure to plan can put your life and property at risk. Here is some background information to help you prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, create a specific plan of action, and discover what the UNC School of Government can do to help North Carolina public officials whose communities are impacted by hurricanes and other natural disasters.

The Worst Hurricanes on Record

The costliest hurricane in U.S. history was Hurricane Katrina, which is estimated to have caused more than $80 billion in damages. The deadly storm, which struck Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005 and caused the New Orleans levees to fail, resulted in at least 1,830 fatalities. The second most destructive U.S. hurricane was Hurricane Andrew, which hit the Bahamas, South Florida, Louisiana, and other parts of the southern United States in 1995. Hurricane Andrew caused $26.5 billion in damages and 65 fatalities.

The most devastating tropical cyclone to hit North Carolina was Hurricane Floyd. This 1999 storm brought several weeks of unprecedented levels of flooding to the eastern portion of the state, causing widespread property destruction and the displacement of thousands of people from their homes and offices. As the storm approached the Atlantic coast, more than 2.6 million residents from five states were evacuated. In total, Hurricane Floyd caused more than $4.5 billion in damages and 57 fatalities.

Creating an Emergency Preparedness Plan

Everyone in the path of Atlantic hurricanes should be prepared for an emergency. Having a plan of action can reduce your chances of being part of a hurricane disaster. Every household should have a disaster supplies kit that contains basic items needed during an emergency. In addition to a kit, you should have a 72-hour supply of food and water on hand in the event that you need to survive on your own without electricity, phone service, water, gas, or sewage treatment.

Every household should create a communication plan, so friends and family members can contact one another if they are not at home when a hurricane hits. When preparing for evacuation, contact an out-of-state friend or relative who can serve as a contact point for separated members of the household. Everyone should have a prepaid phone card or cell phone and know how to call the emergency contact. Each family member should know how to send and receive text messages, since they can sometimes be sent when making a phone call is impossible due to network disruptions.

In order to create a plan of action, you should understand your hurricane risks. Get in touch with emergency services agencies in your community, and find out if your property is in a location that is subject to flooding or a storm surge. Learn about community evacuation routes, and map out your own routes to higher ground in the case of flooding. Next, plan how you will secure your home if you need to evacuate, including covering windows, reinforcing doors, and clearing the property of outdoor furniture, garbage cans, and decorations. If you live or work in a high-rise building, plan to take shelter below the 10th floor in case of a hurricane.

Insights from the UNC School of Government

While there are practical steps you can take to prepare for hurricane season, local communities must also have an emergency preparedness plan in place. Faculty and students from the UNC School of Government assist local government agencies to help them prepare the community for hurricanes or other natural disasters.

When Hurricane Irene visited North Carolina in 2011, for example, faculty member Norma Houston worked with the Dare County Emergency Operations Center to coordinate assistance and resources for the region. Houston, an expert in emergency management law and a former Dare County attorney, also collaborated with two UNC MPA students who assisted with various tasks such as manning an emergency hotline and analyzing debris levels during the storm. Greg Allison, another faculty member, routinely advises local governments on disaster assistance. As an expert in local government accounting and a former finance official, he is able to advise governments on recordkeeping for insurance purposes and the physical safeguarding of financial records during a disaster.

The faculty and staff from the UNC School of Government have a wide variety of expertise in areas such as emergency management, fire services, utilities, property damage assessment, IT recovery, public health, and safety. Contact information is available on the UNC School of Government website. To learn more about emergency management agencies and organizations in your area, check out a list of resources provided by the UNC School of Government.