Preparing for a Hurricane during a Pandemic
Planning for hurricane season and other potential disasters can be stressful, and because the 2020 hurricane season comes during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be especially so. We are well on our way to an above active season as predicted by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (a division of the National Weather Service)
Florida officials have already started adjusting their Hurricane Safety Plan for COVID-19.
Every year you are reminded to have a plan and be prepared; and if you are a long time Florida Resident, you may think you know exactly what you supplies you will need. Does your plan change when Hurricane Season comes in the middle of a Global Pandemic? It might. Let’s take a look at some things you may not have thought of…
-Evacuation and sheltering will have extra complications- Even without a disease outbreak, evacuation decisions are always difficult. The decision process will be altered during an epidemic because usual evacuation risks (traffic accidents, for example) will have to be balanced against the risk of increasing disease transmission, which could have longer-term effects than the hurricane itself. Florida will encourage some people to shelter in place as opposed to leaving their homes.
-Shelters in Florida may have reduced capacity due to social distancing guidelines. PPE and Temperature checks will be used to prevent the spread of Coronavirus
-Stocking up on supplies and food-Household stocking of supplies should now include disinfectants, soap, and masks. People have been stockpiling food and supplies (sometimes to the extreme) in response to Covid-19. People should remember these different needs as part of their hurricane planning.
-Know your Evacuation Route- Check with local officials about updated evacuation shelters for this year. You should note that your regular shelter may not be open this year due to COVID-19. If you evacuate to a community shelter, follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you are able, bring items that can help protect you and others in the shelter from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer, cleaning materials, and two cloth face coverings per person.
Here are some tips for getting prepared from the CDC:
Public health and emergency response professionals have advice to help you safely prepare, evacuate, and shelter for severe storms while protecting yourself and others from COVID-19. Here are some tips to help you and your family stay safe during hurricane season this year.
Prepare for hurricane season
- Understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
- Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your emergency food, water, and medicine supplies. Home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies; however, that may not be an option for everyone. If in-person shopping is your only choice, take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands.
- Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Sign up for mail order delivery or call in your prescription ahead of time and use drive-through windows or curbside pickup, if available.
- Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, including potential shelters for your pets.
- If you need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer, or bar or liquid soap if not available, and two cloth face coverings for each person. Face covers should not be used by children under the age of 2. They also should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet, about 2 arms’ length, from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
- If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stay safe after a hurricane
In addition to following guidance for staying safe and healthy after a hurricane, note that:
- You should continue to use preventive actions like washing your hands and wearing a face covering during clean up or when returning home.
- It may take longer than usual to restore power and water if they are out. Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if you use a generator.
- If you are injured or ill, contact your medical provider for treatment recommendations. Keep wounds clean to prevent infection. Remember, accessing medical care may be more difficult than usual during the pandemic.
- Dealing with disasters can cause stress and strong emotions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is natural to feel anxiety, grief, and worry. Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family, and your community recover.
- People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. Additional information can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration external icon page.
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