As Hurricane Irma approaches, we are all making plans to keep our families safe. For some this involves evacuation. Others are unable to evacuate for a variety of reasons. Everyone should have a plan for hurricane safety already, including gathering supplies and having a plan if you need to get out.
Have you thought about the littlest members of your family? How you will get around with little legs through potentially dangerous terrain? What will happen with your beautiful stash of baby carriers? Below are some ideas to help you with this aspect of your planning.
Even littles who think that they are too big to be worn may need some ups during the storm for comfort. After the storm, you may find yourself needing to wear your baby over long periods of time to get to safety. If possible bring a carrier with you that won’t require tails dangling in contaminated water while you get your little one up (buckles, onbuhimos, ring slings, etc).
In the event you don’t have a suitable carrier on hand, prepare by practicing a torso carry with a towel:
Any carriers that contact flood waters are unlikely to be able to be washed with detergents and temperatures that can remove potential contaminants. So they should be discarded.
With that in mind, it is important to protect against flood water if that is a possibility where you live. Store carriers on a second floor if possible, put them in a large ziplock bag, or put them in your closed dishwasher (because it’s water tight).
The recommendations are that ANYTHING that was wet with flood waters and cannot be disinfected needs to be thrown out. Black mold begins growing in less than 24 hours, and children are particularly at risk. If the carrier was in a house that flooded, but was not wet from flood waters, it can be washed (preferably after everything that was wet in the house has been removed).
If you find yourself in harm’s way and you have time to do so safely, move your family to the nearest shelter. Shelter information is available by calling 3-1-1 (NOT 9-1-1). At the time of this posting, 11 shelters have been opened in Alachua County in preparation for Hurricane Irma, including one for special needs. For more information and to locate specific shelters, go to the Alachua County Emergency Management page.
Hurricane Preparedness To Do’s From Bryan Norcross of The Weather Channel:
1. Try to get LED flashlights and lanterns. They last much longer. Have at least one flashlight for every person in your family, and ideally have a lantern or two for general lighting.
2. Get a portable radio and plenty of batteries so your whole family can listen to news coverage if the power goes out. Do NOT depend on your cellphone for communications.
3. Take photos today or tomorrow of every room, every piece of electronics, and everything valuable. Upload the pictures to the cloud – Dropbox, Microsoft Cloud, iCloud, Google Drive, etc. – before the storm.
4. Also take photos of key documents and upload them as well. You can do that today.
5. Save your contacts in your phone to the cloud. If you don’t know how to do that, frame grab your screen or have someone take photos of your contacts with their phone and email or text the pictures back to you to a friend. Don’t take a chance on losing your contacts if something happens to your phone.
6. Secure your photographs and albums in double plastic bags.
7. Plastic bags and duct tape are your friends. You can’t buy too many of them. Put documents in gallons-size (or larger) Ziploc bags. Put larger items in double large trash bags cocooned so the opening of the first bag is in the bottom of the second bag. Put some clothes in plastic bags in case you get a roof leak. Duct tape bags closed. Put valuables on a high shelf in a closet.
8. Think now about where you are going to park your car. A parking garage is ideal. Outside in a low-lying area or under a tree is the worst. Think about all of the cars you’ve seen ruined in storms because people made bad choices about where they parked the car before the storm. When we know the storm track, we’ll have a better idea which side of a building will give the best protection. Next to a building on the downwind side gives you the best chance if you have to leave your car outside.
9. Do your laundry and wash your dishes before the storm.
10. You dishwasher is an excellent “safe” in your house if you need someplace to put valuables. Your washer and dryer can offer good protection as well. These could be good places to put your bagged-up photos, for example.
11. Fill Ziploc bags ¾ full of water and stuff them in your freezer to fill up the space. The less air you have in the freezer, the longer your refrigerator will stay cold. Do NOT turn your refrigerator to any lower setting than normal – that can damage the unit.
12. Choose a friend or relative out of town to be the contact point for your family or group of friends. After a storm, it is always easier to get a call out of the area than within the storm zone. Be sure everybody has the out-of-town number and make a plan to check in ASAP after the storm.
13. If you live in a high rise, be sure you know what the procedures are going to be in the building. Will the building be evacuated? Will the water continue to work? Will elevators work? What is on a generator? If you can stay in the building (if it’s away from the water) find an interior hallway on a low floor where you can set up camp during the storm. It will not be safe to be on a high floor or near windows, even with modern hurricane impact windows. A hallway surrounded by concrete is your best bet.
14. Buy a plastic sheet – the kind you’d use as a drop cloth for painting – to line your bath tub. Line the bath tub and fill it with water before the storm. You’ll use this water to flush the toilet if the city water goes out. A sauce pan is a good scoop. Fill the tank and your toilet will work like normal.
15. Think about what you will sit on if you are in a hallway or other safe spot for a number of hours – maybe 12 hours or more. Consider comfortable folding chairs. Take food to your safe spot. Have books or other non-electronic amusements, including for the kids.
16. To repeat!! Do NOT count on your cellphone for communications. When Harvey hit Texas as a Cat 4, it knocked out the mobile phone system. In addition, your battery may run down and you may have no ability to charge it. Have an adapter so you can charge your cellphone in a car, have extra charges, and back-up batteries if you can.
17. Pick up your yard and anything that might blow in the wind. Bring in pool furniture if you can. Don’t put it in the water because it can damage the pool.
18. Check the shopping list attached below from Brevard County, Florida. It’s good, except I recommend 7 days of water and food, and an AM/FM portable radio so you can keep up with news coverage.
19. Most importantly, be sure you know a safe place where you and your family can ride out the storm, if it comes. This is the most critical decision you can make today. There almost certainly will be evacuations ordered for parts of Florida. If you live near the water, put together the food, clothes, valuable items, and important papers you’ll take with you NOW. Leave as early as possible. There will be a crush on the road and you may not find a hotel in the entire state of Florida.
What is in your hurricane kit that is different? Let us know in the comments!
We at BWI of Gainesville hope that you and your family are safe over the coming days. We will check in again after the storm.