Be prepared before a hurricane strikes
With hurricane season starting June 1, now is a great time to prepare your family for hurricanes. Each year, we witness the devastating impacts of hurricanes. Hurricanes are not just a threat to coastal communities. High winds, heavy rainfall, tornadoes, and flooding can be felt hundreds of miles inland, potentially causing loss of life and catastrophic property damage. Hurricanes Sandy, Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee remind us that even degrading hurricanes and tropical storms can cause significant damage.
Knowing your risk, being prepared, and staying informed are just a few steps you can take to get ready for hurricane season. Take action now because when a storm approaches, it is often too late to get ready. Make sure you have family evacuation and communications plans, update your emergency supply kit, and evaluate your flood insurance needs.
Know your area in case you need to evacuate. Discuss with your family what you would do if you had to evacuate your home. Remember, if a hurricane threatens the county and local officials say it’s time to evacuate, don’t hesitate — go early.
Create a family communication plan, including where your family and loved ones will meet, and where you will go for different situations. Get together with your family and agree on the ways to contact one another in an emergency, identify meeting locations, and make a plan. You can get a free communication plan template at www.ready.gov/make-a-plan.
Check your insurance coverage. Many states have increased deductibles for hurricanes and not all hurricane-related losses are covered under traditional policies. Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage or losses from flooding. Review your policy, ensure you’re adequately covered and understand the exclusions, and contact your agent for any changes. If you’re not insured against flood, talk to your agent or visit www.floodsmart. gov. Renter’s insurance policies are also available and should be considered as a way of protecting your belongings. If you need assistance regarding insurance, contact the Maryland Insurance Administration. Go to www.insurance.maryland.gov/ for additional information.
Know where to go for trusted information during a hurricane event. Sign up for the Charles County Citizen’s Notification Service to receive weather and local emergency notifications, including evacuation orders, that go directly to your phone and email. Go to www.CharlesCountyMD.gov/CNS to sign up. Always monitor local news for hurricane watches and warnings in your area and follow directions of local officials.
To learn more about hurricane preparedness, go to http:// mema.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx or www.ready.gov/ hurricanes. Stay safe this spring season, be vigilant of the weather, and remind your friends and family to be prepared — it could save lives.
William Stephens is the director of the Charles County Department of Emergency Services.