Tips to Prepare for Severe Storms

When a major storm is forecast to arrive in your town, proper preparation is vital for staying safe and protecting your property. But despite the significant damage that can be caused by hurricanes and other severe storms, many citizens still fail to adequately prepare themselves.

According to a poll by the American Red Cross, 60 percent of Americans have made no specific hurricane evacuation plans and 73 percent have not practiced a family disaster plan.

But make no mistake: Preparedness is key to weathering the worst natural disasters. Keep the following tips in mind the next time a major storm is on its way:

  • Stay informed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric weather radio station is one resource for emergency information, and some municipalities have also adopted a type of mass notification system called IRIS, short for Immediate Response Information System (www.useiris.com). When an emergency situation occurs, the IRIS system automatically delivers information to thousands of citizens via multiple means such as cell phone, e-mail, PDA and pager. The system can communicate to citizens in more than 10 languages, so successful contact is virtually guaranteed. Ask your local government officials if your county has already adopted the IRIS system and, if not, consider encouraging local authorities to do so.
  • Map it out. Become familiar with alternate routes out of your area. Be especially familiar with the higher-elevation sections of your town. These areas are less prone to flooding.
  • Maintain your yard. Keeping your yard up to par doesn’t just impress your neighbors; it can also prevent damage to your house in the case of high-wind storms. Be sure to keep all shrubs and trees well-trimmed. If any branches look as though they could break off and do damage to your home, cut them down.
  • Keep fuel in your gas tank. Just in case of a possible evacuation, keep at least half a tank of fuel in your car at all times. This is a good rule of thumb to bear in mind during the entire hurricane season or any other period of frequent storms.
  • Make a visual record. Take thorough photographs of your home, both inside and out. Having a visual record of your house and its possessions can be of the utmost importance for insurance purposes.
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