by Melissa LaScaleia
Along our sunny shores, hurricane season starts June 1 and ends November 30. It’s unpredictable how storms develop and travel, so it’s always important to be prepared. American Red Cross recommends having an emergency kit ready to go in your home— and the beginning of June is the perfect time to do that.
In building your kit, think in terms of three. You want to have enough non-perishable food items for every person in your home to subsist on for three days. In the event of a power outage, you need foods that don’t rely on electricity. In addition, you should plan on one gallon of water per person per day. You’re also going to need a flashlight, and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio. Cell phones are our life-lines nowadays, but if a big storm comes through, you may not be able to rely on it. If your phone dies and your internet isn’t working, weather radios are so important because they keep you abreast of what’s happening with the storm, evacuation status, and routes.
Learn what your evacuation zone is in advance, so you can plan your strategy if you do need to leave. In some cases, the major interstates are changed to become one way to allow for more efficient evacuations.
Another essential part of preparedness is to know where all of your important personal documents are—like birth certificates, passports, and home insurance policies— those things that we all know are so difficult to replace and very important after a disaster strikes. Make sure they are grouped together, ready for a grab and go. If you have damage to your home, you’re going to need your insurance policy readily available, right away.
It’s very important that you have at least a seven-day supply of the medications you need, because pharmacies could close. Think about your pets needs with the same level of care, and same rule of three, as you would for humans.
The Red Cross Emergency app, (also available in Spanish), a free downloadable app in your App Store or Google Play, is an all-encompassing preparation and information resource for any sort of severe weather or disaster— and an especially great resource to help ensure that you’re prepared for a storm like a hurricane. You can customize it to send push alerts to your phone notifying you that you’re under a hurricane watch or warning. It also has information about available shelters, and proximity to your location— if and when they are opened.
All Red Cross shelters are non-discriminatory safe spaces, open to all. If you need to go to a shelter, be sure to bring things with you, like reading materials, blankets, pillows, and toys for your children— to make the shelter feel more like home. This can help to foster a greater sense of ease and comfort.
If an evacuation is ordered, Red Cross will open evacuation shelters as a refuge for those who have nowhere else to go. These are temporary abodes, typically open for 24-48 hours, and so may not have cots (be sure to bring air mattresses or pads). Red Cross will provide hot meals, water, and snacks; Red Cross volunteer nurses are available.
As hurricane season approaches, Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. There are 3000 volunteers throughout the state, and more than 400 active volunteers from Horry County over to Chesterfield County. Volunteer opportunities encompass a variety of roles— from helping to run shelters; gather and sorting supplies; being part of the team that looks for damage after the storms; or delivering hot meals to people in the community.
Training is an integral part of Red Cross, and are conducted for volunteers regularly throughout the year so that disaster-relief volunteers are equipped to help people recover from a heart-breaking disaster. Red Cross is always making changes and improvements to their trainings to ensure volunteers are as prepared as they can be.
Visit www.redcross.org/volunteer to get involved and learn more.