September 30 is National PrepareAthon! Day – Be Smart. Take Part. Document and Insure Your Property

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With signs of fall creeping up across the country, families may be feeling as if the hurricane season is over. The experts say no. In fact, September is not only the peak of hurricane season, September 30 is National PrepareAthon! Day the perfect time to take stock of disaster plans.

Today, National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb joined forces with Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson during a national satellite media tour to raise awareness about flood and hurricane safety, prevention and financial protection options.

“Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem,” said Knabb. “Their impacts can be felt hundreds of miles inland. You need to find out what types of hazards could happen where you live, and then start preparing for how to handle them.”

Chapman-Henderson concurs. “If a disaster strikes, having the proper insurance for your home is the best way to ensure you will have the necessary financial resources to help you repair, rebuild, or replace whatever is damaged.”

Before a disaster strikes, get #HurricaneStrong with these tips:

  • Be Smart. Take Part. Document and Insure Your Property. Have an insurance check-up. Coverage amounts, deductibles, and payment caps can vary significantly. Consult with your insurance professional to be sure your policy is right for you. Make updates based on new purchases, renovations, increases in property value, or increases in costs to rebuild or replace items. Buy flood insurance. This is not part of your homeowners’ policy and there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage begins.
  • Know your evacuation zone. Plan your escape route, where you will stay and what you will do with your pets. Storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane regardless of wind speed.
  • Family Preparedness – Build a disaster supply kit. You’ll need to plan for two situations: Remaining in your home after a disaster or evacuating to a safer location. Keep cash on-hand because ATMs won’t function during a power outage.
  • Damage Prevention – Strengthen your home. The best place to start is with a Do-It-Yourself Wind Inspection to find out what needs attention. Make a list of what needs to be done, such as securing loose items that could be blown away by high winds. Trim your trees of dead branches that could become windborne missiles.
  • Community Service – Help your neighbor. Join with others to prepare for emergencies and participate in National PrepareAthon! Day on September 30.

For more information, visit ready.gov/prepare, flash.org or hurricanestrong.org.

View the Interactive MultiMedia Release

 

Tornado Safety Tips – Before During and After the Storm

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)®  offers the following tornado safety tips to help before, during, and after a tornado strikes.

Before

  • Have a family tornado plan and know where you can safely take shelter.
  • Closely monitor NOAA Weather Radio
  • Install a tornado safe room or storm shelter built to FEMA 320 guidelines or the ICC/NSSA 500 standard. Always use a licensed contractor to install a safe room within, adjacent to, or outside of your home.
  • View this video playlist to find out Which Tornado Safe Room is Right for You.

During

  • Take refuge in a tested and approved storm shelter, safe room, or a community shelter labeled as an official tornado shelter. Community shelters may include stores, malls, churches, even airports.
  • If no shelter is available:
    • Are you indoors? Go to the lowest floor, to a small, central, interior room, under a stairwell, or to an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch down as low as possible to the floor, face down, and cover your head with your arms. Cover yourself with a blanket, mattress, helmet, or other thick covering. Wear footwear with thick soles to your safe location.
    • Are you in a mobile home? Get out. Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as a sturdy building. Go to a nearby permanent structure. Do not seek shelter under an overpass, bridge, or in a drainage ditch. If you cannot safely exit your vehicle, park it out of traffic lanes. Stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt on. Put your head below the windows and protect it with your arms and a blanket, coat, or other cushion.
    • Are you outdoors? Shelter in a sturdy building. If no shelter is available, lie face down on low ground protecting the back of your head with your arms.

After

  • Keep your family together in a safe location and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
  • Stay away from power lines, downed trees, and puddles that could hide live wires.
  • Watch your step to avoid sharp objects.
  • Stay out of heavily damaged structures, as they may collapse.
  • Do not use matches or lighters in case of leaking natural gas or fuel tanks.
  • Listen to your radio for information and instructions.

Hurricane Wilma – Distant Memory or Timely Reminder?

By John Zarrella – Former CNN Correspondent

The sign in front of the Ramada Inn Hotel in Pensacola, Florida stood on a pole about fifty feet off the ground. The manager at the front desk told us not to worry—it had withstood Hurricane Ivan the year before. That’s nice I thought, and proceeded to tell the camera crews not to park underneath it. Turned out that was good advice.

It was July 2005, the morning of July 10 to be exact. Anderson Cooper and his team had just rolled in from Panama City where one on air personality is reported to have said as they left, “dead men walking!” I guess that phrase is appropriate anytime you are planning to stand out in the middle of a hurricane.

Cooper and I would tag team this one together. That afternoon hurricane season 2005 kicked into gear, high gear as the “D” storm Dennis came ashore. As the storm hit, we huddled against a wall at the corner of the hotel. The wind blew, pine trees snapped and guess what, that Ramada Inn sign that had survived Ivan started spinning like a top, flew off its mounting, and crashed down in the parking lot. Chunks of razor sharp aluminum went airborne. Anyway, the video evidence of our “dead men walking” moment is still all over YouTube. Cooper

Of course, no one had a clue that Dennis was just foreshadowing worse storms to come, life altering events from Katrina to Rita and finally Wilma. So here we are approaching ten years since Wilma hit South Florida. And that means ten years of relative calm here, ten years of tropical tranquility.

My season of the stowilmarms had started with “D” and ended with “W.” Wilma, you may recall, had at one point 175 mile per hour sustained winds and the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin. It hammered the Yucatan Peninsula as a category four hurricane. Then it took a right turn, accelerated to the east, and made a beeline towards Florida.

Anderson and I were again joined at the rain slicker for Wilma. He emailed, asking where I thought we should be. I suggested Marco Island on the west coast close to where most folks thought it would make landfall. I was pretty close. The storm came ashore near Naples as a Category three hurricane. We were near the center of it. The eye took a good hour to pass over us on the morning of October 24. We stood out on the beach for this one. No Ramada Inn sign to worry about!

But, while I was right about landfall, I was really, really wrong about where the worst impact would be! The west coast made out pretty well, but the reports out of Broward and Palm Beach Counties on the east coast were not good. My own home in the town of Davie near Fort Lauderdale took a pretty good punch. Since I’m not a meteorologist I will spare you the meteorology. Why it did what it did is a good read from the real experts at the National Hurricane Center. For me, Wilma is the poster storm for why it’s critical to be prepared even if you don’t think you’re in much danger.

We left Marco Island at lunchtime and headed east across I-75. As we drove, I tried reaching my wife Robin, but the cell phone lines were jammed. I wasn’t terribly worried about my house. I had shuttered all the openings before leaving for Marco and we had a Miami-Dade hurricane code garage door. I knew my family would be safe. And, as a journalist who covered hurricanes I would have looked like an idiot if I hadn’t taken all the precautions to protect my home. We had plenty of food on hand too.

“What a mess”, was my first thought as I entered our neighborhood. Trees were down, power out and roofs were damaged. A gas grill ended up at the bottom of our friend’s swimming pool, later to be recovered by my sons and their friends who made considerable money in the days after cleaning up debris.

My family was just fine. But my wife warned that while the house looked good from the front, the back, well, not so much. There was a huge pine tree down by the lake. It snapped at the base but no, it couldn’t fall harmlessly into the lake, it had to fall on the screened enclosure over the pool. The enclosure crumbled and Wilma’s winds threw some of the beams onto the roof raking the tiles.

There wasn’t much I could do about any of this at the moment. Overall, it was just cosmetic damage. Close to six figures worth, but we were fortunate. And, I still had to work. That night Cooper and I were on the Larry King show. Much of Broward County and parts of Palm Beach County were a mess.

Here’s one of the great Wilma ironies. Florida prided itself on being the best prepared for hurricanes. Yet less than twenty-four hours after the storm, thousands of people were lined up for water and ice. Most gas stations were closed because they didn’t have generators. CNN sent in a fuel truck to keep us going. One hundred thousand people waited in lines for emergency food stamps.

One Broward official told me, “I think we need to do a better job on the ‘how to’ in their preparations.”

Some six million people were without power. If you didn’t have a generator you were in trouble. One of our friends living in Atlanta drove down with a couple for their family here. But, even if you had a portable generator, you couldn’t get fuel. A neighbor loaded gas cans in his truck and drove to Fort Myers to find it. At the time I remember wishing I had a standby generator that can run for more than a week. I do now!

So Wilma became known as the Urban Storm because it took out so many trees that took out so many power lines. Some people were without juice for close to a month. Ours came back on Halloween afternoon, eight days after Wilma hit. There was one bit of good fortune. The cold front that forced the hurricane to turn right and race across Florida pushed through right after the storm exited bringing cool, bearable October weather.

Six weeks later as Christmas approached, the Wilma effect resulted in an odd holiday shopping trend. The hottest selling gifts were coolers, flashlights, and propane powered stoves. A manager at Outdoor World told me, “We’ve had people come in here and actually buy for their kids three, four, five different types of stoves and they’re going to give them as Christmas gifts.”

One woman bought thirty, I’m not kidding, thirty lanterns. An author even wrote a book called the “Storm Gourmet Cook Book,” how to prepare good meals without power. It sold out just in time for Christmas.

It has now been a decade since Wilma and a decade since South Florida has been hit. You have to wonder with so much time for complacency to set in, would the result be any different now? Or would we again be Christmas shopping for propane stoves and storm cook books?

17 Flood Safety and Cleanup Tips from FLASH

1: Avoid flooded areas or those with rapid water flow. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. It takes only six inches of fast flowing water to sweep you off your feet.

2: Don’t allow children to play near high water, storm drains or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water.

3: Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. Remember, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”  Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. Water only two feet deep can float away most automobiles.

4: Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when threatening conditions exist.

5: Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to see flooded roads.

After the Flood: Structural Considerations

6: Outside –

  • Check for building stability before entry – sticking doors at the top may indicate a ceiling at risk of collapse.
  • Check foundation for any loose or missing blocks, bricks, stones or mortar.

7: Inside

  • Assess stability of plaster and drywall – any bulging or swelling ceilings indicate damage that should be removed. Press upward on drywall ceilings. If nail heads appear, drywall will need to be re-nailed but can be saved.
  • To prevent warping of wooden doors, remove, and disinfect all knobs and hardware, and lay flat and allow to air dry completely.
  • Remove wet drywall and insulation well above the high water mark.

After the Flood: Insurance Tips  

8Take extensive photos and video for insurance claims. Only flood insurance typically covers damage from floods.

9: Remove damaged items from the home. If you need evidence of damage, save swatches (carpet, curtains, etc.) for your insurance adjuster

After the Flood: Mold & General Clean Up

10: Wash and disinfect all surfaces, including cupboard interiors with a solution of 1/2 cup bleach to two gallons of water. Remove sliding doors and windows before cleaning and disinfect the sliders and the tracks.

11: Clean and disinfect concrete surfaces using a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water. Mix according to manufacturer’s directions and apply to entire surface.

12: Liquid cleaners can remove mud, silt, and greasy deposits. Liquid detergents work on washable textiles. Use diluted bleach if item is safe for bleach.

13: The National Archives has information on how to clean up your family treasures. Although it may be difficult to throw certain items away, especially those with sentimental value, experts recommend that if you can’t clean it, you should dispose of it, especially if it has come into contact with water that may contain sewage

After the Flood: Home air quality considerations and mold prevention

14: Clean and disinfect heating, air conditioning, and ventilation ducts before use to avoid spread of airborne germs and mold spores.

15: Use fans and allow in sunlight to dry out interior spaces.

16: To avoid growth of microorganisms, household items should be dried completely before they are brought back in the house. Although the drying process can take a long time, homeowners should be patient because it is necessary to keep a home’s air quality healthy. Some household items may take longer than others to dry, such as upholstered furniture and carpets.

17: Remove wallpaper and coverings that came into contact with floodwaters. Don’t repaint or repair until drying is complete and humidity levels in the home have dropped.

For information visit  FLASH or FEMA.

Ten Post-Flood Tips from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH)® offers the following cleanup, insurance, and safety tips for families preparing to return to flooded homes.

  1. Stay tuned to local news organizations for important announcements, bulletins, and instructions.
  2. You may not have immediate access to your home. Roads could be blocked, power lines could be down, and people may be trapped or in need of assistance.
  3. Make sure you have current identification. You may have to pass through identification checkpoints before being allowed access to your home/neighborhood.
  4. Do not attempt to drive through floodwaters. Remember the slogan, Turn Around, Don’t Drown® as there could be unseen dangers such as downed power lines, debris, or washed out roadways.
  5. Outside
    • Check for building stability before entry – sticking doors at the top may indicate a ceiling at risk of collapse.
    • Check foundation for any loose or missing blocks, bricks, stones or mortar.
  1. Inside
    • Assess stability of plaster and drywall – any bulging or swelling ceilings indicate damage that should be removed. Press upward on drywall ceilings. If nail heads appear, drywall will need to be re-nailed but can be saved.
    • To prevent warping of wooden doors, remove and disinfect all knobs and hardware, and lay flat and allow to air dry completely.
    • Remove wet drywall and insulation well above the high water mark.
  1. Take extensive photos and video for insurance claims. Only flood insurance typically covers damage from floods.
  2. Remove damaged items from the home. If you need evidence of damage, save swatches (carpet, curtains, etc.) for your insurance adjuster, and learn more about insurance from the newly-updated insurance guide, If Disaster Strikes Will You Be Covered?
  3. Consider having licensed, bonded professionals inspect your home for damage and help in repairs.
  4. Clean-Up
    • Wash and disinfect all surfaces, including cupboard interiors with a solution of 1/2 cup bleach to 2 gallons of water. Remove sliding doors and windows before cleaning and disinfect the sliders and the tracks.
    • Clean and disinfect air conditioning, heating, and ventilation ducts before use to avoid spread of airborne germs and mold spores.
    • Use fans and allow in sunlight to dry out interior spaces.
    • To avoid growth of microorganisms, household items should be dried completely before they are brought back in the house.
    • Remove wallpaper and coverings that came into contact with floodwaters. Don’t repaint or repair until drying is complete and humidity levels in the home have dropped.
    • The National Archives Websitehas information on how to clean up your family treasures. Although it may be difficult to throw certain items away, especially those with sentimental value, experts recommend that if you can’t clean it, you should dispose of it, especially if it has come into contact with water that may contain sewage.

For more information on protecting your home from flooding, visit www.flash.org, or FEMA at www.ready.gov.

Top Heat Wave Safety Tips from FLASH

With temperatures rising, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® provides the following tips for before and during extreme heat, and how to identify heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Extreme heat is a fatal weather risk in the United States, and everyone is at risk, especially the elderly, very young, and those who work outdoors.

Before the Heat Wave:

  1. Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.
  2. Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
  3. Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
  4. Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
  5. Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.
  6. Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes, keep your NOAA weather radio or FLASH Weather Alerts App handy.

When Temperatures Soar:

  1. The coolest part of the day is normally sunrise, so plan any necessary strenuous activity for the morning.
  2. Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine.
  3. Drink plenty of water even if you don’t feel thirsty as water is most hydrating liquid to drink during a heat wave.
  4. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can intensify the negative effect on your body.
  5. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect some of the sun’s energy.
  6. Never leave children, elderly, or pets in the car even with the windows down. Although the outside air temperatures may seem comfortable, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise 40 to 50 degrees and swiftly create deadly, oven-like conditions.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion:

  1. Cool, flushed, moist, or pale skin
  2. Heavy sweating and high body temperature
  3. Headache
  4. Nausea
  5. Vomiting
  6. Dizziness

Signs of Heat Stroke:

  1. Hot, red skin
  2. Changes in consciousness
  3. A rapid, weak pulse
  4. Rapid, shallow breathing
  5. A very high body temperature – even as high as 105 degrees F.
  6. If the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise, skin may be wet; otherwise, it will feel dry

For more information on heat safety, visit www.flash.org or view extreme heat safety information from FEMA at ready.gov.

About FLASH

Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is the country’s leading consumer advocate for strengthening homes and safeguarding families from natural and man-made disasters. FLASH collaborates with more than 120 innovative and diverse partners that share its vision of making America a more disasterresilient nation including: BASF, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Florida Division of Emergency Management, The Home Depot®, International Code Council, Kohler® Generators, National Weather Service, Portland Cement Association, Simpson Strong-Tie®, State Farm™, and USAA®. In 2008, FLASH® and Disney opened the interactive weather experience StormStruck: A Tale of Two Homes® in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Learn more about FLASH and gain access to its free consumer resources by visiting www.flash.org or calling (877) 221- SAFE (7233). Also, get timely safety tips to ensure that you and your family are protected from natural and manmade disasters by subscribing to the FLASH blog – Protect Your Home in a FLASH, and following the FLASH Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Last House Standing™ … Edu-tainment, App-style

Jay Hamburg, FLASH Consumer Writer

Many of us know that where and how we build is a critical factor to surviving disasters, and now the new, fun, and free app from FLASH is spreading that message to players of all ages.

FLASH designed the engaging and informative Last House Standing (LHS) game with inspiration from research such as FEMA’s Preparedness in America report on public preparedness and perceptions. The report showed that 58% of 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed failed to recognize disaster safety as a priority. Survey respondents said they needed information, but did not know “where to begin” to become protected and resilient in the face of natural disasters.

Last House Standing solves that problem with a fun, fast-paced game. Each player starts with a budget of $100,000 and has three minutes to choose from many building parts and design pieces to create the best blend of great style and disaster resistance. After building your home, the game tests your design against hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and more.

“Our goal is to introduce players to the idea that their choices help determine their level of disaster resilience,” said FLASH President and CEO, Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “The app does this by wrapping serious options about whether to build using a code or other strengthening features like metal connectors inside dozens of fantasy options from space domes to yurts. With only three minutes and a $100,000, players have to think fast to survive the disasters, but they learn that it can be done.”

Players also choose the locale of their home, which means they need to be aware of which natural disasters are most likely to affect the area. FLASH worked with many partners and volunteers to create a game that’s inviting, exciting, and provides easy-to-understand lessons about the importance of design and location in creating a safe, resilient home.

“With more than one hundred feature choices and millions of potential outcomes, the game will keep every audience engaged,” said former Walt Disney Imagineer and FLASH Board Member, Joe Tankersley. “In today’s crowded app world, serious games have to be informative and fun. FLASH has accomplished this with Last House Standing.”

Last House Standing is available for free on both iPhone and iPad here, and in Google Play here. LHS requires iOS 7.0 or later, and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. While the app is optimized for iPad 4 and later, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus, it will operate on older models.