Today we released the 2016 National Preparedness Report, an important guidepost in our work to build a stronger, more resilient America. The findings of this year’s report are significant. This vital information is analyzed to gauge the progress that community partners—including all levels of government, private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based organizations, communities, and individuals—are making to prepare for a wide array of threats and hazards. We should be prepared for all hazards, from hurricanes and tornadoes to earthquakes and terrorist attacks.
The good news is that this year’s report shows an increase in community resilience over the past three years. This matters because we know that the more resilient communities are before a disaster hits, the faster and stronger they’ll bounce back if disaster strikes. The bad news is that this year’s report also shows that the percentage of Americans who have developed and discussed a household emergency plan with their families has fallen for two years in a row. We must avoid becoming complacent in taking deliberate steps to be prepared for the unexpected.
Being prepared for disasters is a shared responsibility among all of us. And today, as we mark the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, I want to encourage everyone – families, communities and businesses – to take action now to prepare.
We’ve been lucky over the past several years. The United States has not had a significant impact from a hurricane or tropical storm since Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012. But luck isn’t a strategy when it comes to being ready. As we’ve seen too many times before, all it takes is one major hurricane or tropical storm to devastate a community, neighborhood, or family.
When a hurricane hits, it can bring high winds, heavy rainfall, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and even tornadoes. Storm surge produced by hurricanes poses the greatest threat to life and property along the coast. The destructive power of storm surge can travel several miles inland, and large battering waves can result in loss of life, buildings destroyed and road and bridge damage along coastal areas. That’s why if you live in an area where hurricanes are a threat, you need to know where you’d go before the danger arrives and makes evacuation impossible.
We are not powerless against the threat of these disasters. Here are three simple steps you should take today to prepare:
- Know your evacuation zone. Evacuation zones are areas that may be impacted by hurricane flooding. Many communities have designated evacuation zones and routes to get citizens to safety. This information can often be found on the websites of your state, county, or town emergency management offices. If a hurricane threatens your community and local officials say it’s time to evacuate, don’t wait.
- Download the FEMA app. With the FEMA smartphone app you’ll have all the information you need to know what to do before, during, and after a hurricane. You can also receive weather alerts in your area from NOAA’s National Weather Service, find lifesaving safety tips, and have access to disaster resources should you need them. You can download the app from the Apple App store or the Google Play store. The FEMA app is also available in Spanish.
- Make a plan and build a kit. When a hurricane hits, communications systems can go out, transportation can be limited, and it could be days before emergency responders are able to reach your community if you need help. Making a plan – and practicing that plan – helps to ensure you and your family are safe and ready for these challenges. Your plan should include:
- Family communication plan: Talk with your family members about how you will contact one another in an emergency. Know how you will check in with family members in different locations, how you will care for children or members with access and functional needs, and how your family will get in touch if cell phone, internet, or landlines don’t work.
- Emergency Supply Kit: A ‘go kit’ is a bag that contains basic items you and your family may need, during an emergency. Kits should contain non-perishable food, water, and other supplies, such as flashlights, local maps, and a battery-powered radio, to last you and your family for at least 72 hours. Visit Ready.gov for a complete list of items.
- Pets: Many local shelters do not permit pets, but laws require them to accept service animals. Know what you will do with your pet if you need to evacuate.
We want everyone to enjoy the summer without having to worry about what to do when severe weather threatens. The best way to do that is to prepare now and know what you’re going to do in the event of a hurricane. Planning ahead gives you more options and better control over situations that could become chaotic at the last moment if you’re not ready. To learn more about how to prepare for a hurricane visit ready.gov/hurricanes.