Hurricane Season: Stay Prepared
Whether you live in Puerto Rico or just visiting, chances are you may experience a Hurricane warning at some point. The hurricane season for the Caribbean is deemed June 1 to December 1. But if you’re lucky, and if history repeats itself, the Hurricane warning will end up fading into a tropical storm and not cause much damage. However, you can’t always depend on previous years and you must always expect the worst.
But what if there is a hurricane? What do you do? Where do you go?
For the most part, many of the buildings and homes are deemed hurricane-proof with its infrastructure and with its storm shutters. If you are in a hotel and traveling during hurricane season and you hear a hurricane is approaching in a few days, ask the hotel about their contingency plan.
Regardless, one always needs to be prepared for a possible storm that may hit the island. Importantly, stay abreast of the current weather forecast, as Mother Nature changes minute by minute. Do not go on faith, alone, a hurricane currently out to sea will change course and you’ll be fine. If you expect the hurricane will come, you can rest assured that you will be more prepared. Use the following steps and checklist to assist you along the way.
BEFORE THE SEASON STARTS
Use the below checklist to help gather and store items.
- Flashlight with plenty of extra batteries
- Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Prescription medications
- Water (at least one gallon per person per day is recommended; more is better)
- Foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking
- Change of clothes for each household member
- Cash in small bills
- Cell phone charger and car charger
- Disposable plates and utensils
- Manual can opener
- Toilet Paper
- Insect repellent, sunscreen
- Air mattress / air pump
Set aside these important papers
- Driver’s license or personal identification
- Social Security card
- Proof of residence (deed or lease)
- Insurance policies
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Stocks, bonds, and other negotiable certificates
- Wills, deeds, and copies of recent tax returns
- PREPARE. So that it’s not overwhelming to you, your family, and your budget, it’s definitely best if you prepare a few months before the hurricane season begins. Make a check-list of items you will need in case of a water or electrical outage, you can’t obtain groceries; and in case you need to flee your current residence. Use the check-list above to purchase items and store them until you need them.
- ROUTES. Many individuals live around the coast and will probably be affected more so than those inland. If, at the last minute, an evacuation is deemed mandatory, know in advance the route you will take. Also, make alternate routes in advance.
- TO-GO BAG. Make a small to-go backpack for each family member. Make sure they understand they are responsible for their own belongings. Store a few bottles of water, granola bars, flashlights, first aid kits and other items deemed necessary inside the bags. Keep cash in your to-go bag as well. If there is a power outage and you must buy extra supplies, most often ATMs will not work either.
- FOOD/WATER. As a part of the preparation, store non-perishable foods and gallons of water in a place you know is accessible but will not be eaten before you need it. Remember, you need to plan for all people in your party in regard to quantities you purchase and store. Consider 1 gallon of water per person per day.
- UTILITIES. Speak to your building management about the use of water and electric during natural disasters. Find out if you have a water cistern and how big; if you have an electric generator and how long will they keep it running per day. If you have a private home, there are some reasonably priced generators that function on gasoline–sometimes this is enough to keep a refrigerator running, a lamp working, and perhaps the oven. But, please consider purchasing this generator before the hurricane warning is announced. You will not find one available.
- SECURE ITEMS. By the time the first warning happens, you’ll want to tie down loose objects you may keep outside in your yard or patio.You don’t want them to float or blow away.
- WARNINGS. Pay attention to the local news. Program your smart phone to send you flood or hurricane alerts. Most often, in Puerto Rico the local news is in Spanish. You need to brush-up on your Spanish in case emergencies ensue.
- LEAVE. If you live in a flood zone and it gets flood water during a normal rainfall, use your best judgment and leave the area as soon as possible.
- PROTECT. Protect your property, pets, and loved ones as much as possible. Close your storm shutters or block your windows with boards. Ensure that if a flood comes, your pets will remain safe.
- SUPPLIES. Re-check your supplies. Make sure you have a few days worth of water and food for each person in your household.
- DISCUSS PLAN. Discuss with your family the plan of action if you must evacuate. Ensure that everyone understands their roles and the importance of it. If you are alone, discuss your plan with a neighbor. It’s always good to have someone else know your whereabouts–many smartphones allow you to share your current location for a few hours or indefinitely. Consider using this feature.
- DESIGNATE A ROOM. Designate a room that you and your entire family can stay for safety, preferably away from the windows. You should not be traveling outside of your designated safe zone during the hurricane. Remember, your safety is most important.
- MONITOR. Monitor the condition and the expectations of the weather with online bulletin boards (if you have cell phone access); or with a battery-operated radio.
- STAY IN CHARGE. Use your mobile devices sparingly and make sure they remain completely charged. You want to prepare for a possible blackout.
- PATIENCE. Depending on the strength of the hurricane, understand that it may take a while to regain normalcy.
- INVESTIGATE. If you are a homeowner, check all of the wiring to ensure there was no water damage or downed powerlines. If you see damage, report it and follow their instructions.
- ALL CLEAR. Before you tell your family to go outside, ensure the storm is over and no one’s safety is at risk.
EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBERS (Please download and print):
- CLICK TO DOWNLOAD Emergency Services Phone Numbers Puerto Rico
ARTICLES OF INTEREST:
- Why Visit Puerto Rico During Hurricane Season (2016)
- Hurricane Season in Puerto Rico (TripAdvisor Commentary)
- Hurricanes and Tropical Storms of Puerto Rico (1980-2005)
- Major Hurricanes and Tropical Storms in Puerto Rico (Historical with Description of Damage)