Summer & Fall


Surviving the Storm: A Guide to Hurricane Preparedness

U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency



One of the most dramatic, damaging and potentially damaging weather events that occur in this country is a hurricane. Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken by individuals and communities before a hurricane strikes to reduce vulnerability to hurricane hazards.

During a hurricane, homes, businesses, public buildings, roads and power lines may be damaged or destroyed by high winds and floodwaters. Debris can break windows and doors. Roads and bridges can be washed away by flash flooding or blocked by debris.

The force of wind alone can cause tremendous devastation, toppling trees and power lines and undermining weak areas of buildings.

These storms cost our nation millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage annually. But there are ways to offset such destruction. Simple construction measures, such as placing storm shutters over exposed glass or installing hurricane straps on roofs, have proved effective in lessening damage when hurricanes strike.

Communities can reduce vulnerability to hurricanes by adopting and enforcing building codes for wind and flood resistance. Sound land-use planning also can ensure that structures are not built in high-hazard areas.

A goal of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/FEMA is to help prevent future damage from disasters by providing information as well as direct, hands-on help when needed.  Building disaster-resistant communities is an achievable goal. It requires action by individuals, businesses and local governments. Working together, we can reduce the number of lives, property and businesses lost the next time a hurricane strikes.


Walls torn from concrete buildings, 15-foot trees ripped from the earth, 20-foot waves crashing to shore. The power of hurricanes is awesome.

Hurricanes can spawn tornadoes. Floods and flash floods are generated by torrential rains that accompany hurricanes. Even more dangerous is the storm surge — a dome of ocean water that, at its peak, can be 25 feet high and 50-100 miles wide. The surge can devastate coastal communities as it sweeps ashore.

A hurricane is a tropical weather system with winds that have reached a sustained speed of 74 mph or more. Hurricane winds blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center, known as the “eye.” The eye is generally 20-30 miles wide, and the storm may extend outward from it for 400 miles.

As a hurricane approaches, the sky darkens and winds strengthen. As it nears land, it can bring torrential rains, high winds and storm surges. A hurricane can stretch the entire length of the eastern seaboard. The 74-160 mph winds can extend inland for hundreds of miles.

Hurricanes are classified into five categories according to wind velocity. Category 1 is the mildest; with winds from 74-95 mph. Category 5 is the strongest, with winds above 155 mph.

August and September are peak months of hurricane season, which lasts from
June 1 to November 30.


Part of staying informed about weather conditions is understanding the different terms used by weather forecasters.
Following are some of the most common terms:

Advisory: Hurricane and storm information is disseminated to the public every six hours.

Special Advisory: Information is disseminated when there is significant change in storm-related weather conditions.

Gale Warning: Sustained winds of 35-54 mph and strong wave action are expected.

Storm Warning: Sustained winds of 55-73 mph are expected.

Hurricane Watch: There is a threat of hurricane conditions within 48 hours.

Hurricane Warning: A hurricane is expected to strike within 36 hours or less, with sustained winds of 74 mph or more and dangerously high water.

Tropical Disturbance: A moving area of thunderstorms is in the tropics.

Tropical Depression: An area of low pressure, rotary circulation of clouds and winds up to 38 mph is identified.

Tropical Storm: A storm characterized by counterclockwise circulation of clouds and winds 39-73 is brewing.


A well-thought-out plan of action for you and your family can go a long way toward reducing potential suffering from any type of disaster that could strike. With hurricane season upon us, preparing your family disaster plan is the first step.

Household emergency plans should be kept simple. The best emergency plans are those that are easy to remember.

Maintaining a link to the outside can be crucial. Keep a battery-operated radio and extra batteries on hand as part of your disaster supply kit. Make sure family members know where the radio is kept. Be sure to include pets in your family disaster plan.

Post emergency numbers (fire, police, and ambulance) by the phone. Teach children how to call 911 for help.

Teach responsible family members how to turn off the utilities in your home.

Identify family meeting places in case you are separated. Choose a place in a building or park outside your neighborhood. Everyone should be clear about this location. Develop an emergency communication plan.  Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family’s contact. Make sure everyone knows the telephone number of this contact.

Be familiar with escape routes in case you need to evacuate your neighborhood. Plan several escape routes for different contingencies.

For more information visit on the Internet or, for printed information, call 800-BE-READY.


The hurricane warning system is increasingly effective in providing warnings in time for people to move inland when hurricanes threaten.

However, it is becoming more difficult to evacuate people from densely populated areas. Roads are easily overcrowded, particularly during summer tourist season.

The problem is compounded by the complacency of people who do not understand the awesome power of the storm.

Complacency and delayed action could result in needless loss of life and damage to property.

Before a Hurricane Strikes

Plan a safe evacuation route that will take you 20-50 miles inland. Contact your local emergency management office or Red Cross chapter and ask for the community preparedness plan.

Have disaster supplies on hand, including:

•   Flashlight and extra batteries
•   Portable battery-operated radio and  extra batteries
•   First-aid kit
•   Emergency food and water
•   Non-electric can opener
•   Essential medicines
•   Cash and credit cards
•   Sturdy shoes and a change of clothing
•   Copies of important papers, including bank accounts, insurance and household inventory records

Make sure your family goes over the family disaster plan (see page 2).

Make plans for protecting your house, especially the roof, windows and doors (see page 4).

Trim dead or weak branches from trees.

Check into flood insurance. Homeowners’ policies do not cover damage from flooding that often accompanies hurricanes. Call your local insurance agent for information or the National Flood Insurance Program at 800-720-1090 (see page 6).

When a Hurricane Watch or Warning Is Issued

Listen to radio or television for hurricane progress reports. Follow instructions if ordered to evacuate.

Check your emergency supplies. Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, jugs, bottles and cooking utensils.

Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools; anchor objects that cannot be brought inside but that could be wind-tossed. Remove outdoor antennas, if possible.

Secure your home by installing hurricane shutters or precut plywood.

Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings if not instructed by officials to turn off utilities.

Fuel your car. Review evacuation routes and gather your disaster supply kit in case you are instructed to evacuate.

Store valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container.

After a Hurricane

Return home only after authorities say it is safe to do so. Keep tuned to your local radio or TV station for recovery information.

Beware of downed or loose power lines. Report them immediately to the Power Company, police or fire department.

Enter your home with caution. Open windows and doors to ventilate or dry your home. Do not use candles or open flames in doors. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage.

Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, quickly leave the building and leave the doors open. Call the gas company.

Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or frayed wires, turn off electricity at the main fuse box. If you have to step in water to reach the electric box, call an electrician for advice.

Check for sewage and water-line damage. If you suspect there is such damage, call the water company. Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until notified it is safe to do so.

Take pictures of the damage for insurance claims and contact your service agent.

If Evacuation Is Necessary

If officials order evacuation, leave as soon as possible. Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges.

Secure your home. Unplug appliances and turn off electricity and the main water valve. If time permits, elevate furniture to protect it from flooding or move it to a higher floor.

Take your pre-assembled emergency supplies and warm, protective cot.

Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE )is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Initial symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103º to 106ºF), stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy, and in severe cases can progress to confusion, disorientation, and coma.  EEE is a serious disease in all ages and can even cause death.

West Nile Virus (WNV) can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. When present, WNV symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, more severe illness can occur.

People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes:

Avoid Mosquito Bites

Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535 according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.

Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.

Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.

Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Protect Your Animals

Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools – especially after heavyrains.

Water troughs provide excellent mosquito breeding habitats and should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas.

Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. If an animal is diagnosed with WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800.