Hurricanes: How To Be Ready If The Worst Happens


With Hurricane Irma having so far claimed at least 24 lives across the Atlantic and left thousands of people homeless, we take a look at how best to prepare if a powerful storm is expected.

Britain is rarely troubled by hurricanes, because for a storm to be classed as one it has to be caused by low pressure over tropical or subtropical water.

The UK is not near tropical oceans - but it can feel the remnants of hurricanes, as well as suffering from other types of storm.

As recently as 2015–16 six people were killed and around £1 billion of damage caused by a series of storms in the UK and Ireland, while numerous British holidaymakers have recently been affected by events in hurricane regions.

The US government has extensive guidelines online on what actions to take before, during, and after a hurricane. Find out some of their top tips below...

1. Knowing What You're Facing



Hurricanes present a number of threats - from high winds to heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents and tornadoes.

A significant number of the deaths associated with hurricanes are caused by inland flooding.

Knowing how to best keep yourself safe from these threats is key when preparing for an oncoming storm.

2... And When To Expect It


Hurricane Irma

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.

Typhoon season typically runs from April to December, meanwhile, and cyclone season from November to April.

'Hurricanes' take place in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, while they're known as 'typhoons' in the Northwest Pacific and are called 'cyclones' in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

The UK's storm season traditionally runs from November to March.

3. Getting Prepared



There's a number of things you can do to prepare yourself if a hurricane is imminent. Start by finding out where you'll go if you need to evacuate.

You can then put together a bag of crucial items: a torch batteries, cash, first aid supplies, medications, and copies of your important personal information in case you need to evacuate.

If you are not in an area that's told to evacuate, make sure you have enough supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.

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Also make sure your family knows how to contact each other, that you're subscribed to any available text or email alerts from authorities in your area, and that you have a plan for how to care for any pets.

If you're in Britain, you can check your risk of flooding online and sign up for alerts from the Environment Agency.

There's also a free Emergency App from The British Red Cross for targeted emergency alerts and information, and you can find out about your council's emergency plans and services here.

4. Making Your Home A Safe House


Red Cross survival kit

Strong winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so if you live in a hurricane area trim or remove damaged trees and branches before hurricane season.

Other ways to make your property more safe include securing loose rain gutters and clearing clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage, and retrofitting to secure your roof, windows and doors, including garage doors.

You could also buy storm shutters and/or a generator for use during power outages.

You may also consider buying flood insurance - while some people even build safe rooms and storm shelters designed for protection from high-winds.

5. When A Hurricane's Imminent



Let friends and family know where you are. If you have them, close your storm shutters and stay away from windows to prevent injury from flying glass.

Charge your mobile so you'll have battery in case you lose power, and make sure your car is full of petrol, in good working condition and stocked with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.

Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become dangerous in high winds - such as patio furniture and rubbish bins - and anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (like propane tanks).

Turn on your TV/radio and regularly check online for the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

You can also consider turning your fridge or freezer to the coldest setting and opening it only when necessary. If you lose power, this will make food last longer.

6. What To Do Afterwards


Hurricane damage

Continue to listen to local officials for updates and instructions. Check-in with your family and friends by texting or using social media.

If you've been evacuated, only return home when authorities indicate it is safe.

Watch out for debris and downed power lines and avoid walking or driving through flood waters.

Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away. Flood water can also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and could hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.

You should also do what you can to prevent further damage to your property - for example by putting a tarpaulin over a damaged roof - as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm. Photographing the damage to your property can also assist in filing an insurance claim.

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