This week has already been a lesson that extreme weather can happen anywhere and Fairfield County is not immune to earthquake tremors, hurricanes, or other forms of extreme weather.
“People have to think proactively regarding natural and man-made disasters, think ‘What if?’ Have a plan and have an emergency kit,” Chris Munger, Stamford's Special Assistant to the Mayor for Emergency Planning and Training, told Patch.
Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30, but September typically sees more activity than any other month. A hurricane can bring with it strong winds, flooding, and tornados, so having a plan and staying informed is critical to keeping everyone in your household safe.
“Be informed, follow the track of the hurricane and take the risks seriously,” Michael Devulpillieres of the Greater New York Chapter of the American Red Cross said. “Even if a storm makes a direct hit miles south, there will still be significant rain, there can still be damage here. A lot of people think a hurricane can’t hit New York and New England, but they have in the past and they do a lot of damage when they do.”
There are two types of emergency plans to have in place — a plan to shelter-in-place during a storm and a plan in case of evacuation. In addition to having an emergency plan for the home, it is critical to take a minute to find out the emergency plans for the places where family members spend time — the office, school or daycare.
Preparing for a approaching storm, bring in loose items from the yard that could become airborne. Turn the refrigerator and freezer to their coldest setting so that food will stay cold longer if you lose electricity. If you will be sheltering in place, plan to take shelter away from windows in an interior room or closet — best of all is an interior bathroom. If you live in a condominium or apartment complex, a first floor interior hallway is recommended.
“You need what’s important if you’re sheltering-in-place — the food, the water, a battery-powered radio — it’s also important to keep any kind of specialized needs, especially if you have elderly family members, children or pets,” Devulpillieres said.
The following items are recommended for a basic emergency kit. The kit should contain supplies for at least three days, and, if you can, up to two-weeks.
- Water — one gallon per person, per day
- Food — non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items
- Manual can opener
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Medications and medical items
- Tools: a multi-purpose tool, wrench or pliers
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust masks
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies) in a waterproof container
- Cell phone with chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Emergency blankets and sleeping bags
- Map(s) of the area
Addition items, based on the needs of each household, may include medical supplies like a hearing aid with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, or syringes. If you have small children, extra baby supplies and games/activities to keep them occupied and calm.
If you have animals, you will want to remember their needs too as you prepare. Keep extra food, additional water for your pets, a collar and leash, ID and a carrier in case you need to crate pets for safety or evacuate. Pet owners may also want to consider pet-friendly hotels along the evacuation route so they can quickly make a phone call and be able to bring their animals along if ever forced to evacuate.
In addition to the emergency kit in your home, the American Red Cross also recommends a separate kit that you would take with you in case of an emergency evacuation. This kit can be kept in the car or in a spot where it can easily be grabbed on the way out the door.
“A “go-bag” is what we call it,” Devulpillieres said. “In addition to many of the same items from your emergency kit to shelter in place, you’ll want a silver foil blanket, extra keys, and small cash — remember that in an emergency, ATMs may not work.”
If evacuation orders are given, the first plan should be to stay with friends or family outside of the evacuation zone. If you will need to stay in a hotel, make arrangements quickly as they will fill up fast. Consider hurricane evacuation centers as a back-up, but if you do need to go to one, bring your go-bag emergency supplies along.
The Red Cross also recommends choosing an out-of-town contact to check-in with if you are separated from family members, as it may be easier to reach people out of town than to make local calls.
"Even during the earthquake this week, a lot of people had trouble making calls because the cell phone lines were so busy, you can't always rely on that," Munger said.
Educating children about emergency preparedness can be a fine line to walk for many parents, but giving them information is a big step to being sure they’ll be able to act quickly and follow your family’s plan.
“As adults, we can react through past experiences, where most kids wouldn’t have those experiences, it wouldn’t hurt to brief your kids so they know how to stay safe,” Munger said.
Many of the most important things Fairfield County families can do is to think through possible scenarios and make preparations. If power is out, gas stations won’t be in service, so filling up your car’s tank ahead of time ensures you’re able to evacuate. After a storm, survey damage with caution and be on the lookout for downed power lines, staying as far away from them as possible.
“They’re used to it down [south], we aren’t. You don’t want to ever be in a position where you aren’t prepared,” Munger said.