How to prepare for a hurricane, tropical storm or other major weather event

Tips for veterans and their families to prepare in case of an emergency

Abbie Bennett
August 28, 2019 - 10:22 am

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Stevens

Hurricane Season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. While the storms themselves pose many dangers, the coastal and inland flooding that proceeds and follows the storms themselves can often be just as -- if not more -- hazardous. 

Here are some tips from the National Hurricane Center, FEMA and the Department of Veterans Affairs to help you prepare for most major weather and emergency events near you: 

  • Stay up-to-date with the National Weather Service near you, the National Hurricane Center and local media for major updates.
  • Know the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch is put in place for an area where a hurricane or other storm-related hazard is a possible threat in the next two days. A warning is issued with a Category 1 storm or stronger are expected in less than two days. 
  • Create a family disaster plan ahead of adverse weather. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days. 
  • In your disaster plan: Find a safe room or area of your house, or a safe place in your community to go in the event of a storm; find escape routes and decide on places to meet if your family is separated; have an out-of-state friend or family member as a single point of contact; make a plan for your pets if you have to evacuate (most major emergency response organizations recommend not leaving pets behind); keep emergency numbers saved in your phone; check insurance coverage -- flood damage normally is often not covered by typical homeowner's insurance.
  • Check if your local VA hospital is open during emergencies using this location finder on VA's website. 
  • During natural disasters, if your medical center is closed or you can't access it, VA can activate its Pharmacy Disaster Relief Plan, which lets you take your VA ID and your written prescription or active prescription bottle to specific locations to get a 14-day supply of medication. Your location will be listed on the location finder under your primary VA hospital. 
  • Sign up for Direct Express Cardless Benefit Access (800-827-1000) so you can continue getting benefit payments even during emergencies when normal mail is interrupted. 
  • Keep a stocked emergency kit, including: 
    • A three-day supply of water per person (at least one gallon of water per day per person, or about 56 bottles per person for a week) stored in durable containers
    • Non-perishable, easy to prepare food
    • First aid-kit
    • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
    • Flashlights and batteries
    • Multipurpose tool
    • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
    • Extra clothes
    • Copies of important documents in zip-top bags
    • Cellphones, chargers and external battery packs
    • Extra cash
    • Emergency contact information
    • Pet carriers, leashes, vaccination records, and ID tags
    • Blankets or sleeping bags
    • Bleach
    • Extension cords
    • Rain gear and sturdy shoes
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Duct tape
    • Maps
  • Keep a selection of non-perishable food and other supplies for you and your pets. Here's what you should add to your shipping list, or keep at home, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Red Cross and other national organizations: 
    • Water
    • Juice, sports drinks, caffeinated beverages 
    • Milk (shelf-stable or powdered with water)
    • Cans: Soups, stews, vegetables, beans and others that can be eaten hot or cold
    • Meat: Dried meat like jerky, canned or vacuum-sealed pouches of tuna, chicken, potted meat or sausages
    • Snacks: Crackers, fruit with a longer shelf life (apples, oranges, pears), granola, dried fruit, trail mix, nuts, fruit cups, apple sauce, cereal, nut butters 
    • Pet food: Dry or wet food in cans or sealed containers, bowls, vitamins and medication, enough water for each pet
    • Manual can opener
    • Swiss Army knife or multitool 
    • Disposable plates, bowls, and utensils
    • Garbage bags, paper towels, hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes, storage containers
    • Fuel for cooking or vehicles
    • Emergency cooking supplies
    • Generator or other backup power supplies

For more information on how veterans and their families can prepare for major weather events and emergencies, click here

FEMA has added a veterans resource page to its Disaster Assistance website here

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Follow Abbie Bennett, @AbbieRBennett.

Keeping your VA benefits and services flowing during hurricane season