Make your plan now

Published 9:18 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Just in time for Virginia’s tax holiday for hurricane supplies, a storm with straight-line winds as high as 100 mph tore through Suffolk on Tuesday evening, toppling trees onto homes, cars, yards and power lines, blowing down signs and generally scattering debris around the city.

According to meteorologists, the storm that blew through was the remnant of the one that caused such devastation in Joplin, Mo. Fortunately, by the time it reached Suffolk, it had weakened substantially from the terrifying strength it had then. Still, it was a fearsome reminder — as if Suffolk needed another — of the damage that such a storm can do.

But its timing should remind people around the area that they live in an area that is subject to the annual threat of hurricanes, which can be nearly as destructive as tornados, even though they usually pack weaker winds. And its timing should remind those folks that there are things they can do to prepare for the destruction wrought by hurricanes.

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That’s what the tax holiday is all about: giving people the incentive to put together emergency kits for their homes, businesses and vehicles. Taking advantage of the sales tax savings offered on certain storm-related merchandise this week not only will save people the cost of those taxes, it will also keep them from clogging the aisles of hardware stores in the days and hours before a hurricane.

Flashlights, tarps, first-aid kits fire extinguishers, batteries and generators all can be bought this week without sales tax being charged. Duct tape, weather radios, cell phone chargers and even bottled water will also be on the list. For an even more extensive list, visit and click the sales tax holiday link at the top of the page.

If you’ve already put together an emergency kit or plan to do so this week, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve put yourself and your family one step further along the path of post-disaster survival than most of your neighbors.

But don’t stop there. Take a few minutes to develop a family disaster plan and discuss it with the other members of your household and, perhaps, your extended family. Determine a place where you all will meet if you get separated, figure out someone who lives outside of the area whom you can call to check in and use to relay messages, determine the circumstances that would cause you to evacuate and know what you’d take and how you’d do it.

There’s no substitute for advance planning when it comes to disaster response. That’s true at every level, from the federal government right on down to families and individuals. Make your plan now, and make sure the people you love all know it. And then pray you’ll never need it.