Families should have an emergency plan and an emergency supply kit ready to go at all times. The kit should contain enough non-perishable food and a gallon of water per person per day to last three to seven days. The kit should also include the following essentials:
• Copies of insurance papers and identification sealed in a watertight plastic bag
• First-aid kit
• Weather radio and batteries
• Supply of prescription medicines
• Changes of clothes
• Hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and deodorant
• Cash or checkbook
• Whistle to signal for help
• Pet supplies including food, water, leashes, bedding, muzzle and vaccination records
People should stay informed during a storm by keeping a battery-powered radio for weather and evacuation information and should know evacuation routes in their community. They also need to heed the warnings of state and local officials and evacuate quickly when told to do so.
A hurricane can be life-changing for people’s families and homes. And that’s why it’s vital for residents to expect the unexpected when it comes to a weather event.
“You need to be prepared all the time,” said Gordon Deno, Wilson County Emergency Management director. Hurricane season kicks off June 1 and runs until Nov. 30.
This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week and officials want to remind the public to take steps to ensure they are prepared when a disaster strikes.
Deno said residents should have supplies for at least 72 hours in case of severe weather.
“The first 72 are on you,” he said. “We push that out very strongly in that we want people to be able to take care of themselves for a minimum of 24 hours. What that means is having food, water and whatever other supplies your family needs on hand to be able to take care of yourself during that time.”
Deno said Hurricane Preparedness Week is also a chance to remind people there are weather events all the time, including the heavy rain that brought flooding two weeks ago.
He said regardless if it’s a hurricane, tornado or flooding, significant events happen frequently.
“The whole point is, we are trying to make people understand you’ve got to be resilient, you’ve got to be able to take care of yourself,” Deno said. “We push hard for people to understand that.”
State officials said an emergency supply kit should contain enough supplies not just to get you through the storm, but for the potential of a long aftermath.
“The biggest problem we’ve had with hurricanes, historically, that impacts the most people is power outages,” Deno said. “The majority of people are not impacted by the actual hazard itself.”
He said when you look at it on a large scale, there are people who are affected by other hazards, but the greatest impact to the average person is when the lights go out.
Deno said the public would be surprised at how many phone calls emergency officials receive after a weather event and residents don’t know what to do because their power is out.
“We teach people first of all, to have things you don’t have to cook,” he said. “I don’t even own an electric can opener at my house.”
He said people oftentimes become complacent when the stove doesn’t work due to loss of electricity. But it’s important to prepare now as opposed to later, and that includes items for your children and pets. Deno said don’t forget your prescriptions either.
Dr. Mandy Tolson, a veterinarian who works with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, said people get stressed when a weather event occurs. She said if you don’t have everything prepared and ready to go when something does happen, you tend to forget stuff for yourself and your dogs and cats.
“You have to plan ahead for them, too,” Tolson said during an emergency planning meeting. “You can’t leave them at home. You never know how high that floodwater is going to rise.”
She said to make sure you not only have medication for your pets, but also their rabies certificate.
In October, Hurricane Matthew pounded Wilson and other communities with heavy rain and high winds, leaving behind destruction and flooding in its path. Dozens of roads were closed, people lost their homes and many businesses were damaged.
“Last fall, North Carolinians experienced firsthand the life-changing devastation of Hurricane Matthew, and we know from experience that any storm should be taken seriously,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. “Now is the time to get ready to protect your home and family from the next hurricane.”
The storm was responsible for several deaths across the state, including one in Wilson County. It also caused an estimated $4.8 billion in damage and displaced tens of thousands of families and businesses, state officials said.
Families and communities who are better prepared for hurricanes and other disasters recover more quickly than those who are not, state officials said.
Cooper and other emergency officials urge families to use this week to discuss emergency plans, review their homeowners and renters insurance policies and update their emergency supply kits.