Jamaica Health Tips Online - Protecting the Environment, Protecting your Health

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Jamaica Health Tips Blog

July 2012

Hurricane awareness and preparation

History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster. As we continue in the hurricane season it’s of vital importance that we put plans in place for the unexpected. It’s also never too late to know the meaning of words that are commonly used in the hurricane season, as this will ensure that the information you receive is clearly understood.

Hurricane hazards can present themselves in so many forms, so here are some important words and their meaning that is affiliated with the hurricane season. 
  • Hurricane watch: An alert for a specific area that hurricane conditions pose a threat to that area within 36 hours.
  •  Hurricane warning: Hurricane conditions (winds of 74mph or greater or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 24 hours or less. All precautions should be completed immediately.  

There are five categories of hurricane, category1(74-95 mph) being the least likely to cause any damage to building structure however, it may damage primarily unanchored buildings, shrubbery, trees, coastal flooding and minor pier damage. On the contrary a category 5 hurricane (winds above 155 mph) will likely result in complete roof failure on many buildings, massive damage to structure located less than 15 feet ASL (above sea level) and within 500 yards of shorelines. In this situation it’s imperative that evacuation of residential areas on low ground 5-10 miles of shoreline is enforce.

As stated on the American Red Cross website; steps that you can take to be prepared.   
  • Build a disaster supply kit or check the kit you prepared last year. Include a three-day supply of water and ready-to-eat non-perishable foods. Don’t forget a manual can opener, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries. Your kit should also have a first aid kit, prescription and non-prescription medications, and copies of important documents.

  • Prepare a personal disaster and evacuation plan. Identify two meeting places—one near your home, and one outside your area in case you can’t return home. Make plans for your pets. Select an out-of-area emergency contact person. Be informed. Know what a hurricane WATCH means.

  • If a hurricane WATCH is issued: Listen to weather updates from your battery-powered or hand-cranked radio. Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, hanging plants, bicycles, toys and garden tools. Anchor objects that cannot be brought inside. Close all windows and doors. Cover windows with storm shutters or pre-cut plywood. If time permits, and you live in an identified surge zone, elevate furniture or move it to a higher floor to protect it from flooding. Fill your vehicle’s gas tank. Check your disaster supply kit to make sure items have not expired. 

  • If a hurricane WARNING is issued: Listen to the advice of local officials, and leave if they tell you to do so. Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off electricity and the main water valve. If you are not advised to evacuate, stay inside, away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Do NOT use open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light. If power is lost, turn off appliances to reduce damage from a power surge when electricity is restored.  
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