A hurricane action plan
Climate change has brought about weather systems we rarely ever experienced. The difference isn’t necessarily in the total number of storms, but rather in their intensity, with hurricanes that are rainier and windier. And as we saw with Hurricane Fiona in 2022, the damage and loss of life in Atlantic Canada was catastrophic.
The word “hurricane” comes from the Taino, the indigenous people of the Caribbean and Florida, and it means evil spirits of the wind. In Canada, hurricane season runs from June to November, with Eastern Canada at the highest risk. A storm is classified as a hurricane if its wind speed is at least 117 kilometres per hour, while a tropical storm is one classification below a hurricane, with winds between 62 and 117 km/h. That said, a tropical storm can still cause significant devastation.
Before – Forewarned is forearmed
To begin, it’s important to know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. A hurricane watch means that a hurricane is possible in your area and that you should keep abreast of new information as it comes in. A hurricane warning means a hurricane has already blown into your area or will soon.
There are several steps you can take to be as prepared as possible before a hurricane hits to help you stay safe and minimize damage:
- Have an emergency plan that includes the best way to evacuate your home, where your fire extinguishers are, where your utilities (water, electricity, gas) are located, and a safe place for your family to meet outside your home or neighbourhood
- Secure anything on your property that might blow away, like lawn furniture
- Trim trees and remove damaged branches that might land on your house
- Secure windows and doors, and move anything that’s valuable away from glass
- Prepare an emergency kit with three days’ worth of food and water, cash, prescriptions, baby items, pet food, a portable radio with extra batteries, and copies of important papers, such as your insurance policy
- Make sure your car’s gas tank is full and park it away from trees
- Be ready to move inland or to higher ground
During – Weathering the storm
The storm has hit your neighbourhood, and you need to do whatever you can to stay as safe as possible. Shelter on the first floor of your home, preferably in a windowless space like a closet, bathroom, staircase, or hallway. You may think the basement is safer, but there’s a higher risk of flooding there. Here are some other tips:
- Keep up to date with all the latest news, advisories and warnings
- Don’t walk around or drive through flooded areas
- Don’t go down to the water to watch the storm
- Never go out in a boat during a storm
- Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice
- Stay in a safe place once the hurricane passes, because after a lull, the winds will return from the opposite direction
After – It’s not always calm after a storm
The hurricane may have passed, but you still have to be careful. There may be extended rainfall, as well as subsequent flooding, landslides and damage to buildings. Be sure to stay informed and listen to the local authorities. In addition:
- If you evacuated during the storm, don’t go into your house if you think it’s unsafe—wait for professionals to clear it
- Stay away from fallen power lines, and watch out for sharp debris like metal and glass
- Don’t use water that may be contaminated, and throw out food that may have gone bad
- Wear sturdy shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when cleaning up
- Check with local authorities to find out how to dispose of garbage and damaged items
- Inspect your home for damage—walls, doors, staircases, windows, roof, etc.
- Take pictures of damage to your building and its contents for insurance claims
We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can control how prepared we are. Let’s stay as safe as possible during hurricane season, and if you need us, we’re always by your side.