Natural Disaster Guide: How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster
Louisiana and New Orleans in particular see a significant number of storms and serious natural disasters. In fact, as many as 3,000 people have lost their lives to Louisiana hurricanes and tropical storms since 1837.
Preparing for natural disasters isn’t just a smart choice. If you live in Louisiana, it’s essential for your safety — and the safety of your entire family.
How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster: Planning in Advance
Natural disaster and hurricane preparedness starts with planning. You will be more prepared for any natural disaster if you:
1) Get the best insurance you can afford.
Get a good policy and shop around for the best price. If the worst happens, a strong insurance policy will offer you compensation so you can pay for repairs, hotel stays and anything else you may need.
Be sure to read your policy carefully, too. For example, some policies don’t cover flooding, hurricanes and other disasters. If you live in Louisiana, you may need to pay extra for this coverage, but because of the intensity and frequency of severe weather, it’s a good investment.
2) Have a disaster kit.
A disaster kit has everything you need to survive a few days without basic services. This is important because after a tropical storm, hurricane or other disaster, you might not be able to leave your home or get to a store for a few days.
Your kit should include:
- Food and water to last at least a few days (look for easy-to-prepare foods and have enough for everyone in your family)
- A well-stocked first-aid kit (including pain medication, bandages, ice packs and more)
- Glasses and medication for everyone in your family
- A source of heat
- Flashlight and a portable radio
- Any baby supplies (such as diapers and formula) if you have a baby in your home
- Any pet supplies for your pet (including food and leashes)
- Paperwork (including copies of ID and insurance papers)
- A generator and fuel to supply you with power during and after a storm
- Cash (have enough cash to get you through a few days if the ATMs are not working)
- Bed linens and pillows
- Changes of clothing for everyone in your family (enough to last a few days)
Keep your kit in sturdy and waterproof plastic containers. Check your disaster kit every few months to make sure it is well-stocked, has everything you need now and doesn’t have any expired items.
3) Have a disaster plan.
Make sure everyone in your family understands what to do in case of an emergency. Practice getting ready for a disaster. Have a plan to get in touch with each other if you are separated during the disaster and don’t have correctly working mobile devices.
4) Know what will happen.
Understand who your emergency management agency is and where you are likely to be evacuated in case of a wide-scale disaster. Know how to get to your evacuation site easily. Set up alerts on your phone from the National Weather Service and from your local emergency notification alert system so you can be advised as early as possible when a storm or other danger is headed for your area.
Now that you understand what to do in general, let’s take a look at the specific disasters most common in Louisiana.
Hurricanes are one of the deadliest natural disasters likely to affect Louisiana, and unfortunately, the region sees more hurricanes than most of the rest of the nation. In fact, hurricanes make landfall in Louisiana, on average once every 2.8 years.
How You Can Prepare
The good news about hurricanes is that there are usually hours or days to prepare. You can be ready for these storms with these tips:
1) Have storm shutters ready to make your windows and doors safe.
Keep storm shutters in your garage or on your property and know how to install them when a hurricane is headed your way. Storm shutters keep your home secure and prevent indoor damage.
2) Make your home hurricane-resistant.
Secure loose gutters, shutters, drainpipes, eaves and shingles since hurricane-force winds can easily rip them from your house. Remove or trim back trees next to your home — it is highly possible for trees to crash into your home during severe winds.
You can also hire a contractor to secure and retrofit windows, doors, roofs and even the garage doors so they can better resist hurricane winds. Some families in Louisiana choose to build storm shelters as well. If you decide to do this, look for an ICC 500 shelter or a FEMA-certified room for the best level of protection.
3) When a storm is coming, know what to do.
Listen to local weather stations and follow any directions for evacuation and safety. Review your supply kits and safety disaster kits and add any additional items you need. When the hurricane is a few hours away, set your refrigerator to the coldest setting and keep the door closed. If the power goes out, your food will last longer this way. Close your windows and doors and make sure your car’s gas tank is full in case you need to get to safety.
When the storm is about six hours away, charge your cell phone and install storm shutters over your windows and doors. Remove any outdoor items — such as patio furniture — that would be at risk of blowing away in a storm.
What to Do During the Hurricane
If you have prepared ahead of time, now is the time to follow your emergency preparedness plan. Listen to news reports to find out whether you’re being evacuated. If you are, follow the procedure described in the news to get to safety.
Even if you are not being evacuated, stay safe. Get to your basement or storm shelter in case the hurricane gets worse suddenly. Do not go outside. Stay indoors and well away from windows and doors. A sudden gust of wind can cause objects to crash through your windows.
What to Do After the Hurricane Passes
Don’t assume the hurricane has passed, even as skies clear. Continue to listen to weather reports and only go back home or leave your safe position when authorities indicate the danger is over.
Once the danger is over, check your property for signs of damage. Take photos of any damage sustained and secure any areas to prevent additional damage. Contact friends and family to ensure everyone is safe. Get ready to file your insurance claim right away.
When walking around, make sure you avoid any debris or power lines. If you have small children, keep them indoors until cleanup is underway, since they may be tempted to touch debris items, like power lines.
Thunderstorms and Tropical Storms
Severe storms can seem less scary than hurricanes or tornados, but in Louisiana, these systems can gain power quickly. Even if they don’t, thunderstorms have strong enough winds to cause significant damage, and lighting can cause death and destruction.
How You Can Prepare
Listen to weather alerts so you’ll know if the storm is getting worse. Close windows and doors to prevent glass and debris from flying inside. If the storm is severe, put on storm shutters and charge up your cell phone in case you run into trouble. Make sure any appliances or electronic equipment you have is plugged in with a surge protector to protect your property.
Well before any thunderstorm hits, make sure your home is properly grounded and has a lightning rod or other protection system in place. If your property is directly hit, this precaution can keep everyone indoors safer.
What to Do During the Storm
If you hear thunder or see lighting, unplug any devices you are using and avoid taking a shower or bath. Electricity can travel through the lines or through water and pose an electrocution hazard. Stay inside and close the doors or windows, staying away from window areas.
If you are outside during a storm, get out of the water if you are swimming or boating. Lighting is more likely to strike water. For the same reason, avoid standing under or near any tall buildings, trees or structures. Instead, look for lower-lying areas with some protection from low-lying trees. Avoid open areas since lighting will hit a taller point in an open area, and if you’re in a field, you may be the tallest object. Stay away from any metal fencing, pipes or any metal object — metal attracts lightning.
What You Should Do After a Storm
After a thunderstorm, wait for thirty minutes after the last boom of thunder or lightning flash. Storms can be fast-moving, so you may find additional lightning or thunder occurs, even after the storm has passed. If you are outside, especially, wait to move from your shelter until the storm has passed. If you are inside, avoid heading outside until the storm is well over. You are safer indoors.
Check your property for downed power lines, damage and debris. Report any downed power lines and ensure no one touches them. Take photos of any damage so you can make a claim and secure or clean up any area you need to tidy up to keep safe.
While most people associate earthquakes with California, they can happen in Louisiana, too.
How You Can Prepare
Earthquakes strike with no warning, in many cases, making it hard to prepare. One of the best things you can do to keep yourself and your family safe, however, is to ensure everything in your home is secured. If you have tall bookcases or large televisions, for example, make sure they are firmly attached to the wall with brackets. In the event of an earthquake, heavy pieces of furniture are less likely to fall and injure you if they are secured.
Staying Safe During an Earthquake
If you are indoors when an earthquake strikes, immediately get on the ground and under a sturdy piece of furniture. Cover your head with your arms and stay still. Avoid standing under light fixtures or near windows since these might be damaged and cause injury.
If you are outside when an earthquake strikes, get away from power lines, trees, walls, structures and anything else that could topple. Try to get into the most open area possible. Crouch down, cover your head with your arms and stay in the position until the earthquake stops.
What You Should Do After an Earthquake
After an earthquake, aftershocks can cause further damage and injury. Avoid using elevators or running outside. Stay put and listen for news updates so you can learn about any plans for evacuation or safety tips.
You’ll also want to check your home for damage, paying special attention to the foundation. If you notice any cracks in the foundation or any damage, take photos. You might need a professional to determine whether your home is safe.
Louisiana is no stranger to extreme heat, but it can quickly turn into a health emergency. Heat stroke, dehydration and other heat-related illnesses can be life-threatening, so it pays to be prepared.
How You Can Prepare
Keep water, especially fresh water, on hand. If you know you may have a few days of a heat wave, consider filling receptacles with water in case water quality is diminished. Prepare ice in your freezer. If you have fans or air conditioners, make sure they are in working order.
Staying Cool During Dangerous Heat Waves
When temperatures rise, stay inside when possible and keep doors and windows locked to trap in cool air. Keep blinds and drapes closed during the day to prevent the sun from heating your home.
Drink plenty of water, dress in light clothing and eat light meals. Avoid strenuous exercise as well.
Signs of distress can include difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest area, lethargy and lack of sweating. If you or someone in your family is struggling with the heat and is in distress, get them to an emergency room or doctor.
What to Do After a Heat Wave Passes
Once a heat wave passes, listen to local news. Is your local water supply affected? Are there rules in place about using water? Continue to stay hydrated and watch out for any signs your health has been affected by the temperatures.
Flooding can happen after another disaster — such as a hurricane — or it can happen for other reasons. Flooding is a serious disaster and can fill basements with water, cause mold damage, cover homes in water and even carry away people and cars.
It’s important not to underestimate the dangers of flooding. Even six inches of water is enough to make you lose your footing, and smaller amounts can cause an electrocution hazard if they are charged.
How to Prepare
You can prepare for flooding by keeping your home — especially your foundation and basement — in good condition. If you are in a flood-prone area, ensure your home is insured against flooding and have an evacuation plan in place in case disaster happens.
Staying Safe in Flood Conditions
Listen to emergency forecasts and evacuate when asked to do so. If you are surprised by flooding and don’t get a chance to evacuate, get to high ground and stay put. Do not attempt to swim or drive — fast-moving flood waters can carry you and your car away. Avoid downed power lines and stay out of the water since there can be many dangers lurking under flood waters.
What to Do When the Water Recedes
Never return to your home until authorities say it is safe to do so. When you do finally return, check your home for mold damage if your house has been flooded and get your property evaluated for structural damage. Take photos of any damage and make a list of everything lost to the flood so you can make an insurance claim.
Irpino, Avin & Hawkins Law Firm has created this natural disaster guide to help you and your family stay safe. We hope you’ve found the advice useful, and we urge you to act now to start planning ahead to stay safe. It is inevitable more storms will happen, and unfortunately there is no way to know when another natural disaster will hit. Being prepared now will help you and your family if the worst does occur.
If you have been affected by a tropical storm or natural disaster and are having trouble with your insurance claim, contact Irpino, Avin & Hawkins Law Firm. We have worked on multiple disaster-related cases, and have dedicated ourselves to protecting the rights of the people of Louisiana.