Hurricanes. Nobody wants to think about them as a possibility that can wipe out entire blocks of homes, lives, and livelihoods. You’d be surprised at just how unprepared people usually are for a natural disaster like a hurricane…and they often realize this at the worst moment, when the hurricane has arrived, ready to wreak havoc. The time to start thinking about hurricane preparation is decidedly not when the eye of the storm comes knocking on your door.
Last summer, my ServiceMaster Restoration by Simons crew and I made the 17+ hour drive down to Houston after Hurricane Harvey to help the restoration efforts. We were there for four weeks helping about 100 residential and commercial customers. My experience with a hurricane as extreme as that one — plus my day-to-day experience working in the Chicago restoration sector to clean up homes and businesses after extreme storms — gave me a close-up look at the devastation of natural disasters. My biggest takeaway from these experiences is that home and business owners often face severe weather with an utter lack of preparedness that puts lives and property at greater danger. In many instances, the unpreparedness negatively impacts the restoration process, adding higher clean-up bills and more time for professionals to get a property back on its feet.
Before I outline the biggest problems I saw with home and business owner preparation, I do want to acknowledge that it’s virtually impossible to be completely prepared for a hurricane or other extreme weather event. Weather models can predict near-precise times that a storm will make landfall, but the truth is, nothing can predict the storm’s actions once it hits land. Without knowing exactly what areas will be affected by the storm and in what way, it’s hard to expect yourself to be truly and totally prepared. However, if you focus on the four following hurricane preparation measures, you and your home/business will likely weather the storm with much less irreversible damage.
Stock Up on Emergency Kits
You want to make sure you have enough emergency supplies on hand well before severe weather enters the forecast. Stock up on non-perishables, water, some basic tools, blankets, gasoline, rubber raft or floatation devices, and first aid kits, including prescription medication. After Hurricane Harvey, medical supplies and first aid kits were among some of the most in-demand items. In fact, we couldn’t even find basic supplies like disinfectants, bandages, and pain medication when we checked at various local Houston pharmacies. Many people affected by the hurricane had stocked up on all of these emergency supplies but still found there just wasn’t enough to last considering Harvey was enormous and all-consuming. That’s why I always recommend having an emergency kit and extra emergency supplies on hand now.
Invest In an Electric Generator
Make sure you have an electric generator. In my opinion, it was half the battle of preparedness for home and business owners in the face of Hurricane Harvey. One of the biggest threats to life immediately after the hurricane was a lack of electricity, so a generator will be a worthwhile investment.
Bolster Your Infrastructure
Considering the drastic climate changes that this planet is undergoing and the intensity of these “super-storms” as they make landfall, populations and their governments are going to have to make sweeping changes in infrastructure, communication, supply chains, and stock to survive and bounce back from the destruction that these hurricanes are causing. One of the leading concerns is the lack of basic medical supplies to treat the injured immediately after these storms. Trees are falling, glass is breaking, debris is flying. Then there are wild animals to be worried about, bug bites, bee stings — it goes on and on.
Make a Plan
Material possession can be replaced but life is precious, and the most important life-preserving measure you can take is to create a plan in writing for if/when a hurricane becomes a reality. The best advice I can offer is to leave the area and stay somewhere far from the storm, so make sure you have an evacuation plan at the ready just in case. However, sometimes evacuation is not possible, so I’d also create an alternative plan if you must stay in the area. Look up the location and contact info for local severe weather shelters and have a hard copy of the directions on hand.
As a ServiceMaster franchise that mobilizes often, we are often saddened by the level of devastation, panic, and disarray that the cities and towns we serve suffer. It can be horrific to experience, I cannot stress enough how big of a difference these four safety precautions make in the lives of those living through disasters. And even in the face of these severe weather events, I’m amazed to watch people and their communities band together to help one another. Our crew is forever grateful to the people of Houston for the love and support they showed us.
As Managing Director of ServiceMaster by Simons, Sam has over 20 years of experience in the disaster restoration industry. Sam holds the cleaning industry’s highest technical designation as an IICRC Master Water Restorer and Master Fire Restorer and has many more designations. His vast knowledge of “best practices” in the Water & Fire Damage Restoration industry makes him an invaluable resource to this company and to the clients he serves.