Unfortunately for some Expats their new home doesn’t have the predictable weather that we experience in the UK. (Rain, rain, and more rain!). Instead they may be faced with extreme environmental conditions. If you choose to live in countries in Asia or the Americas than chances are you will experience the force f mother nature in the form of Typhoons and Hurricanes.
As Hurricane Isaac hits the USA we thought it might be a good idea to offer expats a guide on how to ride out such storms.
When a big storm is on its way there’s a good chance that the local authorities will be well aware of the approaching danger and will begin to issue warnings long before it hits. As soon as the first warning is issued take steps to prepare. A good idea is to create a Family Disaster Plan to ensure that your family knows what to do in an emergency, and gather supplies that are easy for all family members to reach.
Step 1 – Prepare your property
If you’re living in an area prone to Hurricanes/Typhoons then you should prepare long before a storm has even formed. As soon as you arrive in your new home you should check to see whether the property is secure against such storms. It may be a good idea to invest in a generator as having one will ensure that you will continue to have electricity until the power comes back on. During a hurricane the local authorities cut the power in order to prevent deaths through falling electrical pylons or via flood water becoming electrified. Know how to use it and pay special attention to the instructions concerning ventilation.
Step 2 – Buy self powered radios and flash lights
During a storm Electrical light and communication gear will not work. Having a wind-up radio will ensure you can keep track of the storm and remain aware of any new dangers. A weather radio is best as it can be set to alert mode and ensure you pick up any vital broadcasts. Glow sticks are far safer than candles due to the possibility of gas leaks or the naked flame posing a fire hazard. Have plenty of spare batteries and store them in a water-tight container.
Step 3 – Secure your property
It’s vital to try and minimise damage to your property during the threat stage of a storm. You should board or tape up all windows, Plywood is the best wood to use. Use alligator tape and not duct tape. (Masking tape does not prevent glass from breaking.) If your property has storm shutters now is the time to close them. If possible fasten your roof down using straps or clips purchased from a DIY store. Ensure that you remove all debris likely to fly during the storm. Get the family out in the garden and clear away any potential missiles, rocks, toys etc…, clean out the rain gutters to ensure they don’t get clogged and flood. Ensure that all gas has been turned off and make sure that garage doors are firmly secured board up any gaps if there are any.
It is also a good idea to eat or dispose of any perishable foods before the storm hits, after all with no power there will be no fridge or freezer. Fill bottles with fresh drinking water and store in the area you will be sheltering in. During the threat stage disinfect your bathtub, and then fill it with fresh water. This water supply can be used for washing, toilet flushing and in extreme situations drinking.
Evacuate or stay?
If the Hurricane looks set to reach above a category one then you should consider leaving your home. Go somewhere North of where the storm will make landfall as it will normally have lost most of its strength by the time it reaches the area.
If you live in a mobile home then evacuation is a necessity despite the hurricanes strength. Mobile homes can be destroyed by a category one Hurricane.
Before getting in your car and fleeing ensure that the car has a full tank of petrol, be aware that the roads out of town maybe congested so leave well in advance of the storms arrival. You do not want to be in a car during a hurricane. If the local authorities recommend evacuation, heed their advice and go.
If you choose to stay then you need to take proper shelter. This shelter should not have any windows or skylights. A closet or basement is often the safest place in a house unless your home is at a risk of flooding. If you stay in your home ensure that all doors are secured and brace the exterior doors. Covering windows from the interior with a sheet could also prevent glass entering the home if the windows do break. Bring your pets and valuables into the shelter but make sure any animals are put in cages or on a leash to prevent them harming anyone in fear.
What to do during a hurricane
1. Get your family and pets into the shelter two hours before the storm hits. At this time the hurricane should be beginning to make its presence felt. The wind should have picked up and the first heavy rains begun.
2. Stay away from windows, glass doors and skylights during the hurricane. The safest place in any house is the lowest hallway, closet or small interior room. Do not use any electrical goods.
3. Lie down on the floor under something sturdy such as a table.
4. Don’t emerge from your shelter until the all clear is given by the authorities. When the wind quietens down before you expect then there’s a good chance you are simply witnessing the eye of the storm.
This is the most dangerous time in any hurricane as it is followed by the stronger back wall containing stronger winds. A hurricane can take hours to pass through so ensure you have supplies to last the time. Be aware as Tornadoes can also occur during hurricanes.
After the Hurricane
1. Be careful when emerging from your shelter. There will be many hazards in the outside world ranging from downed trees, wires and power lines as well as the possibility of fire and gas leaks. Broken glass and debris will also be a danger as-well-as flood waters.
2. Check your home for damage if there are signs of possible collapse move away immediately. The same goes with any other buildings. Be on the lookout for electrical sparks or frayed wires and be careful where you walk!
3. Clean and disinfect anything that has come into contact with flood waters. Chances are that the waters will contain sewage, bacteria and other nasty chemicals or germs. Make sure you stay clean and healthy. If you’re concerned about coming into contact with any suspicious liquids inform the authorities.
If you emerge from the Hurricane unscathed then congratulations you have just survived one of the most powerful forces that nature that can throw at you. Homes can be rebuilt, cars re-bought but lives are irreplaceable ensure you take all measures necessary to survive a Hurricane/Typhoon.