GAIL'S HURRICANE TIPS FOR THE TECH SAVVY
September is National Preparedness Month, and as Hurricane Florence pummels North Carolina, I thought it might be helpful to share some strategies on how to prepare for a hurricane. We are entering the height of the Atlantic hurricane season.
I'm not going to repeat the usual info, you can get excellent tips for preparation from the Department of Homeland Security site. What you will find below are some very specific tips that I've discovered based on my three hurricane experiences in Black Rock. The tips are especially for those of us who are tech savvy.
1. SIGN UP AT CT ALERT FOR EMERGENCY NOTIFICATIONS & DOWNLOAD EVERBRIDGE APP
Go to www.CTAlert.gov to sign up. There is a quick sign up sheet and a more detailed one. If you choose the more detailed one, you can also download the Everbridge Mobile Safety app to receive more detailed state and local emergency alerts, including weather alerts and power outage alerts.
2. HAVE A PLAN FOR PARKING AT A HIGHER ELEVATION - IF IT'S SAFE TO STAY
These plans may be effective for Category 1 and 2 hurricanes, but in Category 3 hurricanes, as you can see from the SLOSH map below, escape routes tend to be in areas that flood. The SLOSH map is not exact as we have seen from the differences in flooding in Gloria, Irene, and Sandy. Wind direction, speed, tides, wave height, wind speed, and amount of rainfall can change the areas that flood, so use the map as a general guide. The map was created by the Federal government in 2004 and has not been updated since. This is the map that can be found on Bridgeport's Homeland Security site.
Even if your area doesn't flood, it can become isolated. Note the cross-hatched areas, where the elevations may be high enough to prevent your home from being flooded, but where you could become cut off from evacuation routes or emergency vehicles could be unable to reach you.
3. HAVE A PLAN FOR EVACUATION - IF YOU NEED TO LEAVE
Contact family and friends ahead of time, especially if you have special needs or pets. Make sure they live in an area that is not likely to be evacuated - note if they are in a low lying area or near streams or rivers, which could flood in heavy rain. If they are in a wooded area, expect to be without power, unless they have a generator. If you plan to stay in a hotel, make reservations far in advance, and check to see if they have a generator.
Take food and supplies for your pet as well as yourself. Remember most shelters don't take pets. Keep everything needed for evacuation near the door. There are many good guides for what to include in an evacuation kit online, but you have to adapt them to your needs and where you are going.
Leave early. I remember in Hurricane Gloria, I left too late and it was very difficult to get around downed trees and dangerous as tree limbs were coming down onto my car as I drove. Don't drive through flooded streets or walk through them. Most deaths during hurricanes occur from people in cars in flooded areas.
4. BRING YOUR EMERGENCY HEALTH CARE LIST
The names of doctors, medications and emergency contacts should be on a piece of paper that you carry with you as your cell phone battery could run out.
5. KNOW HOW TO TURN OFF YOUR ELECTRICITY, GAS & WATER
You will lose all your refrigerated goods if you do this, but if flooding is expected, you may have to do this before you abandon your home to the flood waters.
6. REMEMBER THAT TEXT MESSAGES OFTEN GO THROUGH, WHEN PHONE CALLS DON'T
Cell companies transmit SMS messages on a separate "control" channel set aside for network operations rather than on one of the channels designated for voice traffic. The control channel is the wireless channel used to set up and disengage a call, so a text message might make it through even when a network's voice channels are too overloaded to handle additional calls.
7. SIGN UP FOR TWITTER UPDATES
Tweets use less cell phone power than Facebook and become the main source of information in emergencies. Use responsible, local news sources for Twitter updates. You don't need misinformation or jokes in the height of a storm. Try not to copy and paste, just retweet the original source in case information from the source changes.
The best local Twitter updates are:
@CityofBPTCT - the official Tweets from the City of Bridgeport
@WTNH - Channel 8 news
8. KEY APPS & WEBSITES TO MONITOR DURING A STORM
Storm Team 8 - for local news and weather, have alert notifications
The Weather Channel - for local weather, use your zip code
City of Bridgeport - news on front page, Homeland Security section is the emergency disaster function
Homeland Security - national preparedness website - tips for preparing for all kinds of disasters, including special tips for hurricanes and flooding
National Hurricane Center - to track a hurricane
9. UTILITY EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBERS (PUT ON A STICKY NOTE ON YOUR FRIDGE)
UI 800-722-5584 (electric outages)
SCG 800-513-8898 (gas leaks)
10. CASH IS KING, FILL UP YOUR TANK WITH GAS
Get money out of the ATM ahead of time. Both money and gas become scarce just before and after a hurricane. Credit card machines don't work without electricity, so cash is critical.
11. BUY YOUR FLASHLIGHTS, LED LANTERNS, & A PORTABLE RADIO NOW
Some things are impossible to buy as a storm approaches. Buy replacement batteries now, too, if you don't have them. Keep everything in one place to grab in an emergency. I purchased a battery-powered radio for $18 on Amazon.com - Sony ICFP26 Portable AM/FM Radio
Two more planning ideas you might not have thought of...
11. DIGITIZE IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS AND PHOTOS
I put most of my personal and business documents on Dropbox by using a high speed scanner. I use the Dropbox Plus plan which costs $99.99/year. It has 1 TB of storage, which is plenty for my photos and documents. I also have used my iPhone to take photos of pages of my photo albums, so if they are destroyed, I'll have the memories, even if I lose the high quality photos.
If you don't have a high speed scanner, an inexpensive way to do this is with your smartphone using an app like iScanner, which converts photos taken with with your smartphone camera into a PDF that can then be stored in Dropbox. I'm actually giving my old photo albums away to a family member who wants them. The less I have in my basement, the better.
12. PURCHASE A HIGH CAPACITY CELL PHONE BATTERY BACK UP NOW
For $79.99 on Amazon.com you can buy a charger the size of two cigarette packs, that will recharge your cell phone 7 times. That could mean a lot if you are without power for 3 days and need to stay in touch with relatives or call for emergency help. You may think you will be able to recharge your cell phone in your car, but you'll be going out in the rain or trying to wade through flood waters to get to your car. It also wastes gas you may need for an emergency trip.
I use this charger:
Power Banks RAVPower 32000mAh 6A Output Portable Charger External Battery Pack (3-Port, 2.4A Intput, Triple iSmart 2.0 USB, High-density Li-polymer Ba
I hope these tips have been useful. Please let me know any additional tips, so I can share t