Photographic Adventures in Paradise
June 1st, marks the official beginning of the 2010 hurricane season.
Just as other parts of the world have extreme weather from time to time so does the Cancun and Rivera Maya area. It doesn’t get hit by hurricanes very often. The most recent one, Hurricane Wilma occurred in October of 2005 was a record breaker that hovered over Cancun for 3 days causing enormous amounts of damage. We take hurricane preparedness very seriously. Here are some of the things that we know about and all of us should have on hand to be prepared. Here are things you can do to prepare your home from potential damage, and save you and your loved ones from harm.
1.Close your hurricane shutters if you have them. If not protect your upper floor windows with sheets of plywood. Take down and store any satellite TV antennas inside.
A home with plywood hurricane barriers in place
Hurricane shutters in open position……..
Hurricane Shutters closed in closed position……
2. Have plenty of fresh batteries on hand for flashlights and portable transistor radios
3. Have at least a 3 day supply of purified drinking water and canned food.
4. Have a supply of water for flushing toilets. Fill your bathtubs up with water. Then by scooping buckets of water our of them and dumping them in the toilets will cause them to flush. If you have a pool and can safely go out to it for buckets of water go for it……
5. Try to have a large supply of ice in your freezer, and it your picnic coolers……
6. Have some large picnic coolers filled with ice. If electricity is lost you can preserve food that requires cooling. Use dry ice if you can get some.
7. Lower the temperatures of your refrigerator and freezer to the max before the storm hits
8. Bring potted plants and patio furniture indoors.
9. Lower the level of water in your swimming pool
10. Charge up your cell phones
11. Put any hoses, BBQ grills, and other garden objects indoors. Don’t leave anything outdoors that could become an airborne object
12. Tie up your palm trees
13. Move your car to a safe place where trees won’t fall on it and where it can’t be struck by flying objects. Fill it’s tank with gasoline.
14.Tie down your rooftop A/C units and water tanks. (an example)
15. Prepare a First Aid Kit ahead of time and make sure everyone knows where it is kept. The best place is the designated “safe room” of your home.
Here are the contents of ours:
16: Have a large supply of candles, matches, lighters, lighter fluid, propane lighters on hand in the event you lose power.
17: A large supply of books and magazines are a good way to pass the time if power goes out. A couple of board games and a deck of cards are also good things to have on hand.
Throughout the year:
- Keep a Hurricane Preparedness Kit packed : This assures that you will lessen the amount of things you’ll have to do when the time comes. Also, items such as batteries are easier to find when everyone else isn’t panicking. As a bonus, if any other event, such as a fire occurs, you’ll be prepared for that as well.
- Create a “take box”. The take box should have everything you need to reconstruct your life in the event you evacuate and everything is lost. Passports; birth, wedding, adoption, divorce, and armed service separation certificates; copies of insurance policies; mortgage information; house and car title; large purchase receipts. You get the idea. If you have a scanner, save yourself space and heartbreak by scanning family albums and images of other keepsakes, burn those to CD and keep a copy in your take box, or make a copy of all your pictures, videos, music and documents on a external hard drive that you can keep in your take box. But remember that CD’s can malfunction. Make sure you take along the original documents, if possible, make copies of them. The CD is just for convenience when shown to officials.
- Discuss and practice a disaster plan with your family. One of the most important lessons from hurricane Katrina to make sure everyone in the family knows who to contact (and how to contact them) as an out of area contact. Make sure kids know enough information so that an adult can get in touch with that person should sudden evacuation be necessary when you aren’t near them. Practice this, and make other back up plans. This can be as involved as you like, but keep in mind the ages and temperaments of individuals to assure everything runs smoothly in the event you have to evacuate immediately. See Tips below for examples on how to do a run-through.
- Learn how to turn off the gas and power to your home and make sure that all tools needed for the job are easily accessible. If you’re not sure, speak with the gas or electric company for instructions. You don’t want to be running around at the last minute trying to figure out how to do these things.
- Ensure that insurance matters are kept up to date. Hurricane season is not the time to buy flood insurance since it’s either unavailable or outrageously expensive. Note: most regular home insurance does not include flood coverage in the policy, so you’ll have to buy this separately.
- Keep in touch with friends and family that are out of the potential disaster area, and make arrangements to stay with them, in case you have to evacuate.
- Remove dead trees and dead tree limbs and evaluate the health of any trees near enough to fall on your (or your neighbor’s) house.
At the beginning of the hurricane season:
- Double-check to ensure the supplies in your Hurricane Preparedness Kit are both well-stocked and fresh. Inflate air beds to ensure they don’t need patching or replacing. Check expiration dates on canned foods. Use a battery tester so you know they will work when you need them to (most batteries have a tester already attached to the package, but you can buy one separately if you want to).
- Recognize that your hot water heater contains 50 to 75 gallons of fresh drinking water. The water in a hot water tank can keep one person alive and healthy for more than a month. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve. Run water out of the tank to remove any built up sediment that has collected at the bottom of the tank. To get the water out of the tank after a storm you will need to open the plumbing system by opening any hot water faucet in the house. This will release the vacuum in the tank. You must turn off the electrical breaker to the hot water tank or unplug it to prevent damage if the electricity is restored before water service.
- Purchase a generator. Generally, a generator should be big enough to run your refrigerator, a lamp or two, and any fans. If you absolutely must have air conditioning, be prepared to pay handsomely for a generator that can handle it. Search the web for generator wattage calculators to make sure you don’t buy more generator than you need – your wallet will thank you at the gas pump.
- Purchase several 5-gallon gas cans. Fuel is usually scarce after a hurricane, and many stations even limit the amount of gas you can purchase after waiting in line. Having multiple cans will allow you to stock up. Buy a bottle of fuel stabilizer for when the power is restored. Mix this with your gas so that it will keep until you are able to use it. Also, fill and run your generator with the mixture for about 10 minutes so that the fuel system does not gum up while in storage. Change the oil and/or filter before you store it, that way it’s nice and fresh next season.
- If you already have a generator, make sure it is in working order before hurricane season. There is nothing worse than finding out that your generator investment needs repairs after you need to use it.
- If you are unable to purchase a generator, buy a DC to AC converter for your car. With it you will use your car as a portable electric generator. They cost $25 to $100 and are available in the automotive section of department stores. If you should lose power to your house, you will be able run a radio, TV, light, refrigerator, or other low wattage appliances from your car. You will need a heavy duty extension cord to run the power into your house.
- Do not run the car or any gasoline generator in the garage as the carbon monoxide poisoning could kill you.
- Perform maintenance on the car you will be evacuating with if it becomes necessary. Whens the last time you changed the oil or the filter? Is the battery fully charged? Have you replaced the spare that you had to use the last time you evacuated? Since hurricane season happens during the warmer months, make sure your coolant is topped off as well.
- Buy a bicycle, if you don’t already own one, so that you will have a backup mode of transportation. After a big storm hits there may not be any gasoline available for days or even weeks. If your neighborhood is destroyed you will be able to go for supplies or even ride out of the area. Make certain that the bike tires are pumped up before a storm hits. Have an inner tube patch kit and an air pump, too.
- Watch or listen to the news to learn when a hurricane is approaching. This will help you create a plan of action.
- Continue keeping in touch with your friends and family. They will gain comfort just knowing where you are, how you are faring, and how close the storm is to you. If you are in an area that is on the outskirts of the storm, tell them. Assure them that you are all doing good. Remember, they only know what they are told on the TV and their imagination runs wild. If you lose your telephone power, call them at least once with your cell phone, to tell them you do not have phone service, and that you will call as soon as it is restored. This way you do not have to use up your cell phone minutes which should be saved for emergencies.
When you know a hurricane is approaching:
- Keep in mind that some hurricanes are slow travelers. Once you hear about it, chances are you have several days to finalize your plans.
- Be sure you are well supplied with any prescription drugs that you or your family take on a regular basis. This can be a daunting task as some insurers will not honor refills until the last refill is nearly used up or has run out. If necessary, drugs must be purchased without insurance; weeks may go by without the ability to get refills, putting your health (or even your life) at risk.
- Cook all raw meats in your refrigerator and freeze them. They will help keep the other food cold and you can take them out one at a time for meals that do not require cooking.
- Put all the ice that you have in your freezer into plastic bags. Fill all spaces in your freezer with bags of ice. Keep your refrigerator door closed as much as possible to minimize thawing. Freeze water bottles, too.
- Make sure that you have a BBQ and lots of charcoal or propane so that you can cook and heat foods for meals. Small propane bottles can also connect to lamps, heaters, and cooking appliances.
- Stay on top of the news. How often you watch the Weather Channel is up to you, but if you start to feel overwhelmed or panicky, turn it off. You can always turn the news back on when you feel better. Either that, or ask a trusted neighbor to let you know when a hurricane will likely head your way so you can be informed when news watching is absolutely vital. It may be a good idea to evacuate your area beforehand, since traffic will be a problem during a mandatory evacuation order.
- Decide whether or not you will evacuate. It’s best to get out of town before it becomes mandatory, or even recommended. If you wait until the last minute, an hour will have passed before you get out of your driveway.
- Inform your family and friends about your decision. They will rest easier if they know what you plan to do and why.
If you are evacuating the area:
- Determine when and how you will evacuate. If you don’t have a car, don’t be too proud to ask others for help. If you do, leaving at an off-hour such as 2am is the best way to assure minimal traffic.
- Consult a map in accordance to the advice given on the news. For example, if you live in Florida or Louisiana and the hurricane is said to be heading northwest, you’ll want to have a route that heads northeast or north whichever one is safer and shorter.
- Contact any friends or family that you may need to stay with during this time.
- Pack your car, with necessities such as food (which should be in your Hurricane Preparedness Kit) clothing and medicine, and also photos, important papers such as birth certificates and shot records, pack things that you would not want to be without both for your time away from home and in the event all is lost. A good rule of thumb is to plan about a week’s worth of away time (don’t forget the laundry soap, etc. just in case it’s longer). Choose carefully. You presumably have a limited amount of space in your vehicle and space for humans is needed too. Make sure you have spare oil and consider taking an extra gas tank if you can safely carry one on or in your vehicle (gas stations on evacuation routes sometimes run out of gas).
- Protect your home and yard and then leave as far in advance of landfall as is possible and prudent. (For steps on protecting the home, see below).
- If you will be staying with friends, family, or in a hotel (don’t count on it, have a back up plan even if you’ve made reservations ahead of time) withdraw sufficient cash for two weeks. ATMs and banks may not be operating in the aftermath of a major hurricane and some credit card machines will be down. If you expect to be displaced, a family of four needs approximately $500 to last a week if you’ll be staying in hotels. You’ll need less than that if you will be staying with friends, relatives or in a shelter.
- Make sure your cell phone and extra cell phone batteries (get them if you do not already have some) are charged before leaving or before the power can go out. You can charge them up with the power from your car if you have a DC to AC converter.
- Stay calm and collected, especially when you are around little kids who might easily get scared when their parents are stressed out. Around small children, make the hurricane preparation/evacuation into an unexpected vacation or adventure.
- Double-check for last minute details. Is the power, gas, and water turned off? Do you have everything you need? Is the first driver well-rested or would another couple of hours of rest do him or her a world of good? Leaving at 4am instead of 2am if you need to will still keep you out of the main flow of traffic, so there’s no need to rush since any driver needs to stay on top of things especially during an evacuation.
If you decide to stay:
- Take all measures to protect your home and property.It is not only your stuff you are protecting but yourself and your family who have stayed behind. If you have removable hurricane shutters, try to put them up at least two days before landfall. Holding a 25-pound aluminum shutter while balancing on a ladder in 74 mph winds is no fun and can lead to personal injury. If you are using plywood, get your wood and screws early.
- There is a risk of less-than-ideal folks wandering around the neighborhood possibly looking for an empty home to rob. Lock all doors and windows, place heavy, opaque drapes in front of windows to prevent outside eyes from looking in.
- Move into your home or garage all pots, patio furniture, grills and anything else that can blow around. Do not sink any furniture into a swimming pool, this is an old-wives-tale and a very bad idea.
- Make a list of everything you will need if you are stranded and without power for two weeks. See “Things You’ll Need” below.
- Designate a “safe room” in case your home’s integrity is compromised. The “safe room” should have no windows or exterior doors and preferably only one interior door. Bring in a mattress to lean upright against the door and pre-stock it with a radio, batteries, flashlight and enough food, water and pre-moistened napkins to last 12 hours. Make sure all household members know that they are to run to this room once the wind starts rushing into the home.
- Stay as far away from windows and doors from the moment of landfall. If the power has gone out, listen for wind and rain that will steadily increase as the hurricane nears.
- Extinguish all candles once the rain and winds reach thunderstorm levels. This is to assure they are not accidentally left lit when and if the winds start whipping through your home. A safe way to use candles is to put them in a saucepan, deeper than the candle is high, with shiny sides. The light will reflect off the ceiling and inside of the pot, and the candle will be protected from being knocked over. An inch or so of water in the pot isn’t a bad idea, either. However, if you smell gas, hear gas, or even suspect a gas leak, do not use candles. Use light sticks.
Tips and tricks:
- Stay away from areas where flying debris and sharp airborne projectiles may occur.
- You should not think twice about leaving if: (a) you are under a mandatory evacuation order or (b) a Category 4-5 hurricane is likely and you are within 100 miles of shore; or (c) you live in a manufactured home and a hurricane of any strength is on its way to you; or (d) you cannot shutter or board-up your home.
- Communication and teamwork is key. Stick together, work together and heed the instructions of safety officials.
- You can pick up a car refrigerator for under $50. It runs off your car battery. Though not large, a car fridge can store at least a day’s preparations and may of course be refilled as needed.
- Bring car activities for kids (and adults).
- Make sure that you have enough time to get out of the danger zone, taking into account current traffic conditions based on news reports. The last thing you want is to be trapped in your car while the storm is coming ashore. Get out early by the fastest route possible.
- Not everyone has to do all of these steps or tips, if you are not directly or close to the eye of the storm. In this case, the most you can expect are heavy rains, and winds.
- Do not use a toilet if there’s no water in the tank to flush it. The waste left there will produce a smell that is most unpleasant in your home. This could make it uninhabitable. Remember that sometime in the future what ever you leave in the bowl you will need to remove from the bowl. This is a most unpleasant task which is better to prevent. Each flush takes over a gallon of water. You can go outside and collect water from swimming pools, puddles, ditches, and canals. One easy way to collect water for flushing is to put empty garbage cans in a place where they can collect rain that runs off the roof. A large garbage can holds 50+ gallons. That equals 50+ flushes. If the toilet will not flush then you can not use it. You could line the bowl with a garbage bag and then remove the waste from the home. A 5 gallon bucket lined with a garbage bag makes a good emergency toilet. But this method will use up a lot of garbage bags in a short amount of time; an alternative is to dig a hole in the yard and use it for an emergency toilet. You may also sprinkle cat litter in the 5 gallon bucket between uses. This will absorb liquid and allow multiple uses of a bag before removal to the outside of the house.
Things you will need:
- Battery operated flashlights are fine if the power is out for a short time. The new LED flashlights work well, as long as a spotlight isn’t needed. Target and other stores have good ones in the $10 range that drop into a pocket and run on AA and AAA cells. They’re great for personal lights, and the batteries last five to ten times as long as with regular incandescent flashlights. Additionally, LED conversion bulbs are available on the Internet for more popular brands of flashlights.
- After a couple of days you will need candles for light. Buy big decorative candles that will burn for days. Keep lanterns/candles in frequently used locations, such as the bathroom counter, next to the door, and on your bedroom nightstand. IF there are gas leaks, explosive chemicals in your area, do NOT use candles, if you do, watch them to prevent fire, especially if children are with you.
- “Self Powered Lights” and “Self Powered Radios”. This equipment is either solar powered, and/or has a “crank up” generator built into the light and the radio. Find the lights at the local Wal-Mart, the radios at the local Radio Shack and/or the Internet. This will save you money on batteries, IF you can find any, since they’ll be sold out WEEKS before a storm hits you. Some of these models will also charge cell phones.
- Glow sticks. found in the Wal-Mart and sporting goods dealers. Safer than candles, in case there are gas leaks, explosive,flammable chemicals in your area.
- Solar powered garden lights. You can charge them up in the sun by day and use them indoors for lighting at night.
- Battery-operated radio
- Canned goods and can opener, fruits and vegetables and other foods that do not require refrigeration.
- Water (at least one gallon daily per person with a seven-day supply). You can also fill up bathtubs if you close or seal the drains.
- Bleach. In the event that water enters your home, you will need to get it out and then kill any microbes that remain.
- Take highly-valued items with you or, for those items staying in the home, wrap in plastic or place in plastic bags. Even if you are riding out the storm, consider placing photos, insurance papers and other important papers in sealed bags.
- Corded phone. Even if your electricity is out, your telephone may still work. Cordless phones still require electricity, so plug in a corded phone, and you may be surprised.
- Cell phone and extra charged batteries. Some of the “Self Powered Radios” and “Self Powered Flashlights” allow you to keep your cell phone charged. IF the cell phone towers are damaged, destroyed, cell phones will be no good.
- A DC to AC inverter.
- Pre-moistened towelettes.
- Battery-powered fans will be very appreciated if the power is out.
- Lots of batteries of all sizes (you can always use later what is not used during the storm). Consider buying a car battery to power battery operated devices in the home.
- Make sure each person has their own flashlight and battery supply, in case you have to separate.
- A good supply of all prescription drugs.
- A first-aid kit.
- Optional but helpful is one pair of wading pants for each member of the family, or at least the adults of the household. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you do not want to be walking around with your skin exposed to contaminated water if there is a need, after the storm, to walk from the home.
- Plenty of large plastic garbage bags to dispose of human waste and other garbage.
- Supply of Toilet Paper, and other toiletries as needed.
- At least one 5-gallon bucket and cat litter (the bio-degradable kind) for toilet use.
- A pocket knife for cutting things.
Print all this out and keep it where you can re-read it when a storm is on the way and you want to make sure your prepared. I found all this information by searching the Internet and using some common sense as well as advice from friends and relatives. Let’s hope we never have to experience another hurricane.