Hurricane season is here, and our community has the chance right now to take some simple steps that can save lives if we are threatened this year by a hurricane. The disaster relief workers at the Southeast Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross work all year long to be sure they are prepared to provide relief for those whose lives may be torn apart by disasters.
We know that our region is at risk every year, so it is particularly vital that we work to keep our community as safe as possible by preparing for hurricane season before it even starts. Taking a few moments to discuss these simple, common-sense preparedness steps with your family can save your life and the lives of the ones you love:
• Create and practice a Hurricane Plan: Talk to members of your household and create an evacuation plan. Planning and practicing your evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event. Learn about your community’s hurricane response plan. Plan 2 routes to local shelters. You can find the shelters by connecting to the internet web site at www.redcross.org and click on “Find Shelters”. Register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for your pets to be cared for if you are not taking them with you. Evacuate if advised by authorities. Be careful to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges. Plan at least 2 evacuation routes.
• Assemble an Emergency Preparedness Kit which should contain the following: a first aid kit and all essential medications including oxygen and extra eyeglasses, canned food and a manual can opener (in case there is no electricity)
• Heed Hurricane Warnings: Listen to your local radio and TV stations for updated weather information. A Hurricane WATCH means there are threats of hurricane conditions within 36 hours. Review your hurricane plans, keep informed and be ready to act if a warning is issued. A Hurricane Warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours. Complete your storm preparations and leave the area if directed to do so by authorities. Consider leaving during the night time hours to avoid early morning traffic congestion.
Prepare your Home: Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased and damaged limbs and strategically remove branches so that wind can blow through. Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (bicycles, lawn furniture, outdoor decorations, trash cans, hanging plants, etc). Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood. Turn the refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings and keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out. Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
• Register on Red Cross’ bulletin Board known as “Safe and Well”: Tell your family about the Safe and Well Web site accessible at all times via www.redcross.org. The Safe and Well web site is an internet-based tool that allows those directly affected by a disaster to let loved ones know of their well-being. People within a disaster affected area are able to select and post standard “safe and well” messages. Concerned family members who know the person’s phone number (home, cell, or work) or a complete address can search for the messages posted by those who self-register.
Disasters disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year. The Red Cross responds to approximately 7,000 major disasters nationwide each year. Each disaster has lasting effects on both people and property. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane, flood, tornado or any other natural disaster. Being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters. Communities, families, and individuals should know what to do in the event of a hurricane and where to seek shelter during these events. They should be ready to evacuate their homes and take refuge in shelters and know how to care for their basic medical needs.
When disaster occurs in your community, local government, disaster-relief organizations, and the American Red Cross will be there to help, but you need to be ready as well.
The American Red Cross has special 1 hour programs free just for the asking. These programs teach people how to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. With just a simple request by way of a phone call, you can have a representative come to your civic organization, church group, PTA, neighborhood association meeting, company meeting or any kind of gathering to guide you and supply you with free disaster materials called “BE RED CROSS READY”.
The Red Cross has more than 61,000 potential shelter locations pre-identified across the United States and ready to open within hours of a disaster. We have more than 300 mobile feeding vehicles and five mobile kitchens that can be deployed anywhere in the United States when needed. We have a nationwide network of warehouses located strategically around the country stocked with disaster relief supplies like cots, blankets and cleaning supplies.
Every day, the American Red Cross responds to nearly 200 disasters (one about every nine minutes) ranging from house fires to wildfires to Earthquakes to Hurricanes. Each disaster is devastating to the people affected. While big, well publicized disasters often bring millions of dollars into the Red Cross, we sometimes struggle to pay for smaller, less visible disasters. Every year, the Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters across the nation and around the world. Approximately 63,000 of these are home fires alone. Therefore, The Red Cross is always in need of 3 things.
We always need volunteers to deliver the services to the victims of disasters. We always need financial contributions for the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund to allow us to help disaster victims and we always need blood to save lives.
For more information on hurricane preparedness, contact Esther Sheppard, (912) 651-5300 or Harry Walker (843) 290-4631 of the American Red Cross; or go online to www.redcross.org.