Emergency websites are packed with information about preparing for a hurricane, or even a brush by a tropical storm like Debby. All urge you to be ready to fend for yourself about three days. You'll need food, water, prescriptions, flashlights, batteries and myriad other things. While some may vary on exactly what to pack in a first aid kit, universally, all emergency management officials and websites say one thing first: Have a plan. So here are a few things you can start doing now, even right after reading this, in no specific order except the first. • See if you are in an evacuation zone and if so, which one. If you are, you could be told to leave your home depending on the storm's strength. • If you live in a mobile home, you should evacuate regardless of how strong the coming storm is. • Gather important papers such as insurance, wills, birth certificates, bank and credit card information, pet vaccinations, and any other documents you don't want washed away and you'll need to rebuild your life. Put them in a waterproof container. It really isn't a bad idea to do this anyway. • Start doing the same for keepsakes, photos and whatever else you couldn't replace. • Make sure you can get prescriptions filled in advance to last a couple weeks and be sure to get the medicine as soon as a storm threatens. • Talk with your family about planning for a storm to get everyone involved. You can start a list for an emergency supply kit. Don't forget a manual can opener and an old phone that plugs into the jack if you have a land line. Portable phones don't work without power and cell phone networks could be damaged or over-loaded. • Call a relative or friend someplace distant and arrange to contact them if a storm hits and act as a link if your family gets separated, either in an evacuation or aftermath. Let that contact know what the family plan is. • If you don't live in an evacuation zone, you may live in an inland flood area. Check with the county to see if your home is in a flood-prone location even if you've never experienced flooding before. Your homeowner insurance doesn't cover flooding, so you would need a separate flood policy for coverage. • Photograph belongings and valuables to help with insurance claims. • If you have a medical condition such as needing oxygen, call the county emergency management and arrange for a special-needs shelter. That's a solid start. If a storm threatens take these steps: • Finish all the things you should have done earlier. • Buy what you still need for your survival kit. • Fill prescriptions. • Bring inside or firmly secure items from the yard that could be blown around. Even small objects propelled by 100 mph winds can shatter windows or cause serious damage. This includes outdoor furniture, pots, lawn decorations, garbage cans and anything else you can carry that isn't anchored. • You should have your food and water supplies ready. If not, get what you lack quickly. • Turn your freezer and refrigerator to the coldest settings. A tightly packed freezer will stay cold longer if the power goes out. Keep the doors closed. • Fill your vehicles with gas and have cash on hand because ATMs may be without power and you can't rely on merchants being able to take credit cards. • Protect windows with shutters or plywood and don't use tape. • Get devices such as a battery-powered NOAA radio ready and be sure all portable electronics are fully charged. • If you have a boat in the yard, secure it with tie-downs, remove everything you can and open the plug. A boat filled with rainwater could be too heavy for the trailer. • If you live in a high-rise building, consider going to a lower floor because winds increase dramatically at higher floors. When the storm hits:
• Listen to local news broadcasts for information, as well as NOAA radio. Many emergency management centers also will use social media and amateur radio to relay information. • Stay inside, even if the eye passes overhead and winds die. They will roar to full strength quickly when the eye passes. • Stay away from windows and doors even if covered by shutters. • If conditions become too bad, take refuge in an interior room with no windows. A large closet will often work. • If that isn't possible, you can go under a sturdy table or stairway. After the storm:
• Remember you may be on your own for several days and ambulance or fire trucks may be unable to reach you or delayed by handling other emergencies. • Wait for notification from the weather service or local news sources before heading outside. And remember that strong bands of storms and tornadoes can hit well after the worst of the storm is over. • Stay away from any fallen power lines and avoid standing water that may be in contact with a fallen line. Also avoid fences or fallen trees that could be carrying a charge from a line you can't see. • Stay out of moving water, even if it seems shallow enough to wade through. Moving water can easily sweep you from your feet. • Be cautious about any animals you encounter. They could be frightened or injured. • Don't drive unless absolutely necessary and don't drive through standing or moving water. Six inches of fast flowing water is enough to lift a car and sweep it away. • Make what emergency repairs to your home that you safely can and take photographs before doing any work. • If using a generator, be sure it is in an open area and not in a garage, carport, porch or near windows or doors. Do not connect the generator directly to your home's electrical system. Only licensed electricians should do this. Electricity from the generator can surge into power lines and kill utility workers trying to restore power. • Open refrigerators and freezers as little as possible if the power is out. • Don't use candles for light.