Preparing the home for hurricanes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Special to the News-Herald

With the height of this year’s hurricane season fast approaching the East Coast, the American Red Cross is urging local families to be prepared for the unprecedented number of storms expected to make landfall this year.

Every household should build a disaster supplies kit and develop a family communication plan well in advance of an impending hurricane, said Donna Perry, spokeswoman for the Suffolk Red Cross chapter.

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&uot;It is important to have the communications plan so that your family, household and friends will know you are safe in times of disaster,&uot; she said. &uot;When you make a phone call or send an e-mail message, you bring peace of mind to those who care about your safety.&uot;

During a hurricane, however, basic services including electricity and phone service may be disrupted. Due to widespread outages, service may not be restored for several days, making it difficult for people to reach you.

Your initiative to establish contact quickly via phone, e-mail or text message to a designated person will save your loved ones from making multiple calls to find you, Perry said.

Tips for contacting family and friends:

-Plan ahead for the possibility of becoming separated from your family and friends.

-Because local phone lines may be out of service or overloaded after a disaster, it’s often easier to call out of the area.

-Choose an out-of-town contact that each family member will call or email to check in with should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event, and they should know they are the chosen contact.

-All of your family and friends should have the phone number for the contact as well as each other’s phone numbers and email addresses. You should all agree to call the out-of-town contact to report your whereabouts and welfare. Consider having a laminated wallet-sized card made to carry with you at all times.

-Many people overwhelm telephone lines when emergencies happen. Your family and friends should know that if telephone lines are not working, they need to be patient and try again later or try email.

Tips for assembling a disaster supplies kit:

-Gather enough emergency supplies to meet your needs for at least three days. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy to carry, water resistant containers. Your disaster supplies kit should include:

-A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and ready-to-eat canned goods, such as tuna fish, peanut butter, crackers, canned fruit, juice boxes, etc.

-A battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries

-A manual can opener

-Copies of important documents, including birth certificates, insurance policies and social security cards. Your original documents should be secured in a locked box or safety deposit box.

-Comfortable clothing and footwear

-One blanket or sleeping bag per person

-A first aid kit, including prescription medicines

-Tools, including wrenches to turn off utilities

-An extra set of car keys

-Cash/Credit cards

-Special items for infant, elderly or disables family members

-An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses