Hurricane Preparedness

June 2, 2013

Hurricane season officially began on June 1st and ends November 30th. Historically, the most active time is mid-August through mid-October.

In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year. NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

“With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA acting administrator. “As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it’s important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall.”

NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook is not a hurricane landfall forecast; it does not predict how many storms will hit land or where a storm will strike. Forecasts for individual storms and their impacts will be provided throughout the season by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

Below are some guidelines to take into consideration when preparing for a hurricane.

Creating an Emergency Supply Kit

Put together a kit that you can use at your location or take with you in the event of evacuation. Include the following:

  • 3-Day supply of non-perishable food
  • Water (gallon per person per day)
  • Can opener
  • Bedding/sleeping bags
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Duct tape, tarp and rope
  • Extra prescription medicine
  • Toiletries
  • Toilet paper
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Eyeglasses (or prescription)
  • First-Aid kit
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Extra keys
  • Sunglasses
  • Eating utensils
  • Hearing aids
  • Money, checks or credit cards
  • Contact details of out-of-area contact person

In addition, Pastors should take with them:

  • The Blessed Sacrament (if not already consumed)
  • Sacred vessels
  • Sacramental registers

Retrofitting Buildings

If possible, make modifications to your facility to help protect it from the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters. Check with your local building official, city engineer or planning and zoning administrator to see what modifications will work for you. Below are a few general ideas.

Reinforce or Replace Garage Doors
High winds can damage garage doors or even blow them in. To help protect your garage and its contents, reinforce garage doors or replace faulty doors.

Install Shutters or Plywood Covers for Windows
High winds and windblown debris can easily break unprotected windows and enter your building. Once inside, wind and debris can cause more damage. Protecting windows not only helps you avoid structural damage but reduces the likelihood that occupants will be hurt by broken glass and debris.

Brace Gable End Roof Framing
Gable end roofs are more susceptible to damage by high winds than hip roofs or flat roofs. If the framing of the gable end and the rest of the roof are not adequately braced to resist the wind, the roof can fail.

If your facility has a gable roof, check to see if the roof framing is adequately braced. If you are unsure, check with your local building department. After inspecting your roof framing, a building official can tell you if bracing is required and how it should be added.

Grounds Keeping

Prune trees year-round and remove damaged or dead branches. Remove any dead trees from your property.

Securing Sacramental Registers and Papers

To ensure the safety and preservation of sacramental registers, school and cemetery records, begin by using bindings and paper that are permanent, durable and acid-free. Use only ink that is of archival quality. If these documents are subjected to water, mold or humidity, archivists may be able to restore them if the correct materials were used.

In the event of evacuation, the pastor should plan on bringing the sacramental register and any other vital documents with him, such as architectural drawings, checkbooks and payroll information. Permanent records should be stored on high shelves or in ice chests sealed with duct tape to avoid water damage. Please note that safes are generally not waterproof.

Designating a Safe Area

Stay in the most protected area of the building, away from doors and windows. Turn off the main gas, electricity and water valves. Avoid using a corded phone. Use flashlights and battery-operated lamps.

Evacuation

All locations should follow civil parish warnings and mandates. If you have received orders to evacuate, do so. Check on neighbors who may need assistance. Notify an out-of-area person of your plans. Put your disaster supply kit in your vehicle.

Securing Your Parish/Home/Office

  • Turn off gas, water and electricity.
  • Board up windows.
  • Brace garage doors.
  • Bring in outdoor furniture and other loose objects; anchor items you cannot bring inside.
  • Lock all windows and doors.
  • Make boarding arrangements for animals.

Safeguarding the Blessed Sacrament

When an evacuation order is issued, pastors should plan on the consumption of the Blessed Sacrament or make plans to take the Blessed Sacrament and sacred vessels with them.

Staying Informed

Use a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for critical updates from local officials.

When Returning to Your Home/Parish

  • Watch for debris on the road while driving.
  • Try to return during the daytime so that you do not have to use any lights.
  • Inform your out-of-area contact of your status.
  • Be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards. See paragraphs below.
  • Be careful when entering a structure that has been damaged.
  • If possible, listen to the radio or contact authorities to find out if sewage lines are intact before turning on the water or using the toilet.
  • Continue to monitor your radio or television for up-to-date emergency information.

Gas Leaks

If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the building immediately. Notify the gas company, the police, fire departments or State Fire Marshal’s office, and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return until you are told it is safe to do so.

Electrical Damage

If you see frayed wiring or sparks when you restore power, or if there is an odor of something burning but no visible fire, immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker and notify your utility company.

All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before returning them to service. It is advisable to have a certified electrician check these items if there is any question.

Generators

It is against the law and a violation of electrical codes to connect generators to your dwelling’s electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices. If a generator is plugged in when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard. In addition, the improper connection of a generator to your dwelling’s electrical circuits may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area.

If you wish to hard-wire a generator to your building, it should be installed by a licensed electrician with an approved cut-off switch that will automatically disconnect the home from the power grid when the generator is being used.

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, never use a generator indoors or in an attached garage. Place the generator outside where exhaust fumes will not enter enclosed spaces and away from windows or any air-intakes to your building.

Chainsaws

The improper use of chainsaws is a common cause of injury after hurricanes. Learn proper safety procedures and operating instructions before operating any gas-powered or electric chainsaw. Use extreme caution to avoid electrical shock. As with any power equipment, wear a safety face shield or eyeglasses and gloves.

Downed Power Lines

If power lines are lying on the ground or dangling near the ground, do not touch the lines. Notify your utility company as soon as possible that the lines have been damaged, or that the power lines are down. Do not attempt to move or repair the power lines.

Do not drive through standing water if downed power lines are in the water. If a power line falls across your car while you are driving, continue to drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not turn off the ignition. Stay in your car and wait for emergency personnel. Do not allow anyone other than emergency personnel to approach your vehicle.

Chemical Hazards

Be aware of potential chemical hazards you may encounter upon your return. Flood waters and high winds may have moved or buried hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals. Contact your local fire department about inspecting and removing hazardous chemical containers. Avoid inhaling chemical fumes.

If any propane tanks are discovered, do not attempt to move them yourself. These represent a very real danger of fire or explosion, and if any are found, the fire department, police, or your State Fire Marshal’s office should be contacted immediately.

For your own safety, please follow all civil parish warnings and mandates.

Contact Catholic Mutual in the event of a hurricane claim.

© Bree Publishing 2011