Recently, Hurricane Dorian decimated the Bahamas as a Category 5 and Category 4 storm across September 1st through the 3rd. While the storm has dropped to a Category 2 storm as it inches northward, people across the Northeastern coast of Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia have already boarded up their homes with hurricane shutters or plywood, stockpiled supplies, and have carried out their plans to evacuate.
Knowing what to do during an emergency can help protect you and your family from the worst when Hurricane Dorian hits. Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage and raise both safety and health concerns in the aftermath, so it is essential to be prepared so that you and your family can stay safe and easily recover from the damage. This article covers 17 tips that can help keep you, your family, and your home when suffering too badly through Hurricane Dorian.
- Turn off your electricity. Most buildings and homes hit by a hurricane will lose power when Hurricane Dorian hits. When this happens, it’s best to unplug and turn off any major appliances that could be affected by a power surge or lightning strike. This includes TVs, game systems, computers, and microwaves, but it also includes larger appliances such as air conditioners and water heaters. If you plan to evacuate, turn off your electricity before you leave so that you can avoid electrical damage, and so that you don’t incur extra fees on your electricity bill when power comes back on after the storm.
- Don’t go outside. A hurricane will create numerous outdoor hazards that cannot be safely taken care of until after the storm is over. In addition to strong winds, there are also flying debris, downed power lines, and the risk of broken water and gas mains. Going near any bodies of water is dangerous as well due to the presence of exposed electrical lines and the possibility of lightning strikes. It may be tempting to go outside during the eye, which is a period of calm weather in the center of a tropical cyclone, but it poses extreme dangers because it is hard to predict when the strong winds and rainfall will pick up again, and could lead to people being caught outside in the most severe part of the storm.
- Avoid windows. Even if you have hurricane shutters on your windows, sudden and abrupt pressure changes could compromise their structural integrity. Hurricane-resistant and storm-proof windows will be protected against this when Hurricane Dorian hits, but are still vulnerable to damage from flying debris. If a window is hit during a hurricane, it could possibly shatter inwards, which would not only be dangerous for you and your family, it could also weaken the overall strength of the building against the barometric pressure of the hurricane, leading to further property damage.
- Keep yourself updated. It’s hard to know what’s happening outside when you’ve blockaded yourself in your home, especially with power outages being so common. Signing up for emergency text alerts on your cell phone is one way to keep yourself in the know, so that you can be aware of things like flash flood warnings, evacuation orders, and the all-clear alert once the storm has passed. Check your city’s website to see if they offer an emergency signal system for hurricanes. You can also use a battery-operated radio in order to check the progress of the storm.
- Don’t use your grill indoors. It’s not unusual to use a gas or propane grill as a cooking method when you lose power, but save them for when the storm is over and you can safely go outside again. Using a grill inside your house or apartment can cause all sorts of health and safety problems, such as fire hazards, carbon monoxide poisoning, and smoke inhalation. If there is a fire, not only will it rapidly compromise your home’s integrity, it will be next to impossible to call a fire truck to put it out during a hurricane. While you’re inside, stick with canned and non-perishable foods and drink when you get hungry, and plan to use the grill later on when it can be used safely.
- Know how to use your generator. A generator can be very useful when you have to live for extended periods of time without power. Many homes in Florida are expected to lose power when Hurricane Dorian hits. Make sure you know how to use your generator properly. You can use it to keep your refrigerator running so that food doesn’t spoil, and with larger voltage generators you can keep your air conditioner running as well. Most generators are gas-powered, so it’s a good idea to fill up some gas canisters at a gas station before the storm. A portable generator can typically run from 5000 to 8500 watts, and can cost anywhere from $500 to $3000 on average.
- Avoid dangerous areas. When Hurricane Dorian hits, it is going to cause massive amounts of structural and property damage. The likelihood of dangerous debris, downed power lines, and broken gas and water mains is high. When you see these hazards, call a utility company right away so that they can come and repair the damage. Check your emergency alert system or radio alerts to see if your city has issued a statement about being safe to go outside, or has issued one about places where the damage is particularly high or dangerous.
- Avoid flooded areas. If you live near a canal, river, creek, or another body of water, avoid going near them until it’s safe. Storm surges can drastically alter the tide of water, causing flooding even in places that are not at high flood risk. Flooded water can be very dangerous, not only because it contains hazardous debris and bacteria particles such as E. coli, but because of downed power lines and debris that is swept along in the storm. Check to see if you live in an area at high flood risk by using FEMA’s flood zone map lookup tool.
- Use phones for emergency only. When Hurricane Dorian hits, it’s possible that the catastrophic force will damage cell phone and radio towers, in which case it will be increasingly difficult to contact family and friends. In that case, only make emergency phone calls if you are able to, such as with a satellite phone. Even if there isn’t damage to cell and radio towers, it’s a good idea to preserve battery usage while you don’t have power by only texting or calling in the event of an emergency.
- Contact a utility company. If your home loses power or you’re near a facility that loses power, call FPL (Florida Power & Light) as soon as possible. The earlier you call them, the sooner they will be able to come to the damage site and repair power lines, transformers, and street lights after the storm clears. In the aftermath of hurricanes, utility companies are always backed up with requests, and the response may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, which is why it’s best to contact your utilities provider as soon as you can.
- Contact emergency services. Utility companies such as FPL can repair downed power lines, transformers, and even gas mains, but if there is a broken water main in your area you should contact your city so that they can issue an alert about compromised water sources, which may include a boil water alert. If you suspect your water main has been damaged, don’t drink or bathe in it, as it may contain bacteria that is hazardous to your health.
- Be wary of road hazards. If you decide to drive around after Hurricane Dorian hits, be aware that some roads may be blocked or contain debris. Traffic lights may not be working, and there will most likely be large amounts of broken glass, tree limbs, and other items in the road. The road itself may be damaged, and flooded areas will be difficult and dangerous to drive through, so take caution when traveling after the storm. Once again, do not travel during the eye of the hurricane, even if the weather seems safe and calm, because you can easily be caught off-guard by the strongest part of the hurricane once the eye passes.
- Check your food supply. If your refrigerator went without power for any period of time during the hurricane, check your food to see if it has gone rancid or spoiled. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt tend to spoil quickly, so throw out anything that has a bad odor or texture. If you’re not entirely sure how good it is, it’s best to discard and avoid the potential risk of food poisoning. This is particularly important when it comes to refrigerated baby food. Check meat, vegetables, fruit, and bread for signs of mold, which grow in especially humid climates.
- Know when to reinstall. Get an estimate from your utility company about how long it will take before power in your area is repaired. Do this before you decide to reinstall your cable, TV, or satellite base in case there is a downed power line nearby. Be cautious about repairing these things yourself if there are still hazards in your area, and consider getting a professional to come to your home and do them at a later date when the area is clearer.
- Stay hydrated and dry. The heat of Florida’s climate is intense on most days, but during the aftermath of a hurricane it can get even worse because most homes and buildings without power cannot run air conditioning. As a result, people will be sweating more than usual, and this can lead to dehydration, so make sure you and your family drink plenty of water. This is especially the case for infants and the elderly, who can become sick due to dehydration. Keep a stock of bottled water on hand for this situation, and open windows to keep air flow moving in your home while you can’t use air conditioning. This will also help prevent it from becoming too humid and thus easier for mold to grow inside.
- Board up broken windows. If you have any windows that have been broken, board them up while you wait for repairs. This discourages burglary, vandalism, and additional weather damage. If you feel your home has been damaged enough to be unstable or unsuitable for living, contact your insurance company to ask for possible alternative locations to stay at until your home is repaired. Even after Hurricane Dorian hits, the outer bands of the storm can cause further damage to already-weakened structures, so if it feels unsafe for you to be in your home, don’t wait for it to get worse.
- Keep a record of property damage. Before the storm hits, take photos of your belongings. After the storm has come and gone, take photos of all the damage your home has received for your insurance provider. A public adjuster can use this information to give you an accurate quote when it comes to home repairs. Document as much as possible, including flood damage, window damage, electrical damage, and exterior damage. A public adjuster can greatly assist you by providing property assessments to find problems you may not realize you have on first glance, and then give you an accurate estimate on what your insurance will cover.
If you’re worried about damage from Hurricane Dorian and whether or not you’ll be able to get your damages covered by your home insurance company, keep Bulldog Adjusters in your speed-dial and make our contact information a part of your hurricane preparation kit. After the storm, you’ll want to get your life back on track as soon as possible. Contact Bulldog Adjusters: we’ll be here to help you once Hurricane Dorian leaves us!