Summer is winding down on Long Island, but hurricane season still has a window in which to wreak havoc on your home. From basic plans to pet care, before Mother Nature strikes Long Island with a tropical storm or something more, our experts share tips and resources to help you be prepared.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Before you make a decision to stay in your home or to seek shelter elsewhere, there are many variables to take into consideration.
Patrick Beckley, Commissioner of Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services and Regional Director of Office of Emergency Management’s Region 1 (Long Island), notes that Suffolk Alert—a new pilot program introduced on August 1—is the official alert and notification system to inform subscribers of severe weather, public safety threats, public health information, available resources and more.
The program already has more than 50,000 resident subscribers and is free to anyone who wants to sign up. Click here for more info.
In order to keep abreast of what’s happening with local weather, Beckley shares that Suffolk County is using drones to scope out storms. Drones are deployed to fly along the coast in low-lying areas to collect video to use for comparison before and after a storm.
“Our beaches are very important, not only for recreational purposes but for protection. We want to make sure they stay intact, and if they are damaged in any way, we can ask for federal assistance to fix it,” Beckley says.
The drones have also been used to give firefighters up-to-date data on active fires. “Once in the air, the drone gives firemen information for what they’re dealing with,” Beckley says. “If it’s a brush fire or a structural fire, it gives them a much better overview,”
If You Decide to Stay In Your Home and Ride Out the Storm
Stay informed and get up-to-the-minute information, accurate weather updates and advisories from NOAA Weather Radio at NOAA.gov
“Most people will try and stay in their homes,” says Beckley, who recommends going to FEMA’s website, Ready.gov, for storm preparedness information. “There’s a good planner, and different checklists that really cover the gamut. They also have a FEMA mobile app,” Beckley adds.
Before a storm, it’s a good idea to trim any trees or shrubs that are close to the house and bring in or tie down all outside patio furniture, bicycles, toys and potted plants, Beckley says. He also suggests people fill the bathtub with water before any storm. It can be used to flush the toilet if power is lost, and it can be used for drinking water for pets as well.
PSE&G recommends that you assemble an Emergency Kit before a storm hits, and includes a checklist at psegliny.com.
They also recommend the following:
Prepare A Safe Area in Your Home
Costello also recommends that you designate a “safe” area in your home if you plan on remaining during the storm.
“Gather the family in a safe place that’s protected from flying debris, such as a basement, hallway, or interior room without windows. Move furniture and other large belongings into the center of the room to protect them.”
Costello also cautions, “Do not open windows or go outside to check on the storm conditions and rely on a radio and/or TV for the latest report and safety updates.”
He also urges that you never operate a generator indoors, as the engine exhaust contains potentially fatal carbon monoxide.
“The correct way to operate a generator is at least 20-feet away from your home with the exhaust pointed away from your home. Also, make sure you have working battery-operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors,” he says.
To prepare for the possibility of flooding in your home, Joey Costello of Costello’s Ace Hardware suggests that entryways be blocked with sandbags to prevent floodwaters from coming in.
“A single layer of sandbags along the door jams on the inside and outside of doors will help to prevent minor flooding and help brace the door during strong winds,” Costello recommends. “Remove all of your valuable belongings and items that might be damaged by water from the basement. If you do not have time, elevate these items as much as you can.”
If You Decide to Go and Seek Shelter
“You might want to make sure you make amends with any relatives you don’t get along with instead of going to a shelter,” Beckley advises.
“The important thing to remember about using a shelter is to have a really good plan in place. As soon as we open a shelter, we are planning on when we can close it.”
“You should have a ‘Go Bag’ packed in case you have to leave your home, and there’s guidance on how to build that kit on Ready.gov as well.”
If you decide to leave your home, there’s certain documents you should take with you. Copies of your mortgage, insurance policies, medications, pet inoculation information, your license and car registration, etc. should all be kept in a Ziploc bag inside your Go Bag.
“If you can’t take certain important things with you, keep them in your dishwasher and/or washing machine,” Beckley shares. “They are water tight.”
Protect Your Pets
“A very important takeaway that we learned from Hurricane Sandy was that people will not leave their pets,” Beckley says. “[After Sandy], the Town of Hempstead had the longest operating shelter. That was one of the signs that we looked at and said we have to do a better job of providing these services so that people will leave their home when they need to.
“Now, if you go to a pet shelter, you come with your pet and stay with them and care for them. You might not be sleeping with them, you might be in a different area, but you will be located close by,” he says and advised, “Make sure you have all the supplies, like a crate, harness, extra food and vet records. Some shelters might require that they have their shots, so that’s important.”