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Are You Ready?

Nurses Article   (819 Views 10 Comments 1,517 Words)
by spunkygirl1962 spunkygirl1962 (New Member) New Member

5 Likes; 3 Articles; 1,647 Visitors; 5 Posts

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This article describes my family, town and my experiences during a hurricane/disaster. It gives details of what to do and not to do during a disaster with recommendations and suggestions of how to prepare especially for a Category 4 hurricane. In addition, it gives insight into the emotions that occur during a hurricane.

Are You Ready?

As Hurricane Michael came ashore last fall with 155 mph winds, my mom, dad, daughter and I hunkered down on the family farmhouse in the Florida Panhandle.  Like many of our neighbors, we decided to ride out the storm at home, lulled by early forecasts that winds would not pose a grave danger to life and property. But my family (and our pets), were soon in the middle of one of the worst storms to ever hit the Sunshine State.

My family has lived in this rural area north of the Gulf coast since 1963.  We’d seen many hurricanes come and go over the years, but we were not prepared for what was labeled a “Monster of a Storm”.  I learned a big lesson: You can never be too prepared and if you have time, get out of the storm’s path. And never forget: forecasts can change by the hour.  I know from experience.

We spent 3 terrifying hours on Oct. 10 as catastrophic winds bent over trees and rolled over the top of the family home like a vengeful monster out to destroy everything in its path. I watched my daughter clutch her Rosary Beads in her hands and begin to pray as the wind grabbed a 40-year-old, 50 feet high sycamore tree and drop it like a toothpick.  All the surrounding trees that stood more than 40 feet tall snapped like twigs, one after another.

My parents’ house is over 45 years old built with bricks and a metal roof.  This house has withstood numerous hurricanes with little or no damage. On this particular day as Michael blew through our house/property, the winds started increasing in speed and the house began shaking like someone just picked the house up and shook it.  The windows rattled as if they were going to blow out and fly through the house. The rainwater started pouring in through the air-conditioning vents and windows. My mom and I were grabbing any and everything we could to stop the water from flooding the house. 

While we all had moved to a safer place in the house, we heard a terrifying noise of metal twisting. The noise turned out to be the roof lifting off of the house and being set back down.  I have been an emergency room nurse for many years.  I have seen and dealt with many things in my career, but that was nothing compared to this hurricane.  I have never been so afraid in my life of what this storm could possibly do to my family, my town, and me. Every time we thought the storm was over the wind and rain would start again.  My family and I attempted to comfort each other and stay positive.  

Finally, the storm was over. With tears in my eyes, I turned to my 85-year-old father and said, “I am so sorry.  We should have left as you suggested.”

We felt lucky that we came through without injury although the family farm was extensively damaged. Hurricane Michael was blamed for many deaths with the toll rising in the Panhandle and more than $5.6 billion in property damage.

In short, we thought we were prepared, but we were not.   Can you really prepare for a Category 4 hurricane? Listed below are recommendations from the Red Cross and my personal experiences to assist one to prepare for a hurricane or similar disaster.

  • Listen to NOAA weather station/local radio stations, weather band radio
  • Check your disaster supplies 
  • Water-one gallon per person (needed a lot more due to use to bathe in and flush toilets, fill the bathtubs for water for the toilets)
  • Non-perishable food
  • Flashlights/extra batteries (a lot of extra batteries)
  • First aid kit
  • Medications 7 day supply at least
  • Multi-purpose tool 
  • Personal and sanitation needs (baby wipes)
  • Copies of personal documents (insurance forms especially)
  • Cell phone with chargers (only had one cellular company up and running so may not help except to take pictures)
  • Fans that run on batteries and has USB port 
  • Family and emergency contacts
  • Extra cash ( credit/debit card system down due to no power)
  • Blankets
  • Maps
  • Baby and pet supplies
  • Tools for securing home (had to cut our way out of our road)
  • Extra set of car and house keys, clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Rain gear, insect repellant 
  • Camera for recording damages (recommend pictures before and after)
  • Lots and lots of batteries (used so many batteries)
  • Generator (wish we would have had one prior)

I personally recommend you retrieve these items before the disaster, due to supplies are limited after. Think of the “Black Friday Sale “after Thanksgiving and all the people vying for the same things. 

  • Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind
  • Close windows, doors, and Hurricane shudders If you don’t have Hurricane shudders, board up all windows and doors with plywood. (Please remember to take them down after. Stay away from windows and doors during the storm. Find a safe place in the house)
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer down to the coldest setting and keep them closed as much as possible (Ice is a hot commodity after the storm.)
  • Unplug small appliances and turn off propane tanks
  • Fill your car’s gas tanks (My daughter did not want to fill hers with regular gas before the storm, due to that is not what her car usually takes, but that was all that was left to purchase.  Gas was almost impossible to find after the storm without driving a long distance.) 
  • Evacuation Plan 
  • Your communities’ hurricane response plan: Shelters etc.
  • EVACUATE IF ADVISED BY AUTHORITIES (We were not in the evacuation area, but we should have.) 
  • Homeowner’s insurance plan (Please review this before a disaster! Many people in my hometown are paying the price for not knowing their policy.)

After the Hurricane:

  • Continue listening to the NOAA radio and the local stations (This is all that we had to keep us updated on information to survive the aftermath of in of the worst storms in history.  These radios stations were on 24/7 and supplied us with so much information that helped us through the weeks after the hurricane (yes I said weeks!)
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and flooding
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe. (Curfews are usually in effect too.)
  • Drive only if necessary (Many people were on the roads when need not to be. Very Dangerous!)
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company (Don’t forget cell phones, and the Internet does not work without power.  How we forget so easily that we need power to use pretty much everything today! Once again, I recommend listening to the local radio stations even if it’s in your car which is what we had to do.)
  • Stay out of any building that has water in it
  • Inspect your home for damages and take as many pictures as possible for the insurance company. (As soon as possible, call your insurance company. It can take weeks just to get them out to your home.)
  • Use flashlights in the dark. Do not use candles.
  • Avoid using or preparing food with tap water until you’re sure it is not contaminated.
  • Check refrigerator and freezer for spoiled food. 
  • Wear protective clothing and be careful when cleaning up debris etc. (sunscreen, protective clothes, and hats)
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control (Many of my friends lost their pets in the storm and/or pets are seen wandering around town lost.)
  • Use the telephone only for emergencies if able.  (Fortunately for us, 911 and emergency messages still came through on our phones,) 

There are so many other things that one can do before, during, and after the storm to prepare and survive.  I would recommend doing research on all the above to be prepared for by researching the internet and emergency management agencies’ resources.  Hopefully, one will never have to experience a hurricane or any other kind of disaster, but if one does, I sincerely hope that this article will help with the preparation and survival from disasters. Last but not least, a big thank you to all those who worked together following Hurricane Michael to begin to assist with piecing together the life’s of my town and family back together. “ #850STRONG”

Hurricane Michael (1)-5 (1).docx

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I have 28 years of nursing experience specializing in Post-Anesthesia Care and Emergency Room Care. I received my Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Florida State University and my Masters of Science in Health Services with an Emphasis on Wellness Promotion from Independence University. I recently experienced something that I hope no one else will ever have to experience. The combination of the two degrees, my nursing experience, and being in a Category 4 hurricane has inspired me to write this article to encourage and help others who have to face a disaster and to learn how to prepare.

5 Likes; 3 Articles; 1,647 Visitors; 5 Posts

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Daisy4RN has 20 years experience.

501 Likes; 1 Follower; 5,610 Visitors; 761 Posts

Great article! Thanks for the reminder that we need to stay vigilant about preparing for disasters. After living through many earthquakes i sometimes forget that at anytime we could have the "big one". I think i will update my kit/preparations!

I am glad that your family was OK! 

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OldDude works as a School Nurse.

937 Likes; 5 Followers; 1 Article; 27,731 Visitors; 4,559 Posts

Well written and excellent advise!! I can't add a thing about preparation. What I will contribute, and I think you will reaffirm, GET THE HELL OUTTA THERE!!! In the throes of the storm there is no where to go and that's when you realize how alone and helpless you, and your loved ones, are.

My family lived in a house trailer (nowadays called a mobile home) in 1970 when hurricane Celia hit the Texas gulf coast. So, we evacuated to a more substantial structure, locally, for the minimal, small, hurricane, as reported, just to be safe. Unbeknownst to us, hurricane Celia, slammed into the coast with a fury unexpected by everyone...wind gusts over 200 mph. Our evacuation haven was smack dab in the path of Celia's eye. I won't go on much of the destruction but I saw cars and trucks being slung around around like Match Box toys and buildings vaporized in the blink of an eye. One such building was where we were staying. One moment were were safe and the next moment the entire structure above us was gone...poof. Our only choice was to crawl to the downwind side of the concrete and lay in the mud as flat as we could to avoid the debris blowing over us until it was over. We lost everything. Our trailer was completely destroyed. Family photos, dishes, furniture, clothes...all gone. But we lived to tell the tale...praise be to God.

Fast forward to last year...Hurricane Harvey...I evacuated my family to my Sweet Petunia's parent's house over 100 miles inland...traditionally a safe place for hurricane evacuation. Guess what? Harvey had a different plan and made a bee line for where we were...smack dab in the eyewall path of the storm. As spunky.girl described, trees snapping off, roofs flying away, etc. The feeling is complete and total helplessness and, at one point, you simply pray and hope God answers your prayers. He did. A lot of "stuff" didn't make it but we did. As with those affected by hurricane Michael, we are far from returning to normal.

So, spunky.girl1962...thank you for your contribution and thank you for providing a wake up call for anyone thinking about "riding out" the storm. Don't do it!! Run as far as you think is safe and double it!!

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NurseSpeedy has 18 years experience as a ADN, LPN, RN and works as a Nurse.

79 Likes; 17,242 Visitors; 1,301 Posts

Growing up with hurricanes I know how scary they can be. I think one thing that some people don’t realize is the dangers that can come with the winds alone. As stated earlier, they can take off rooftops, blow in windows, or completely blow apart structures that aren’t equipped to handle the force. I’ve seen people just listen to the news and say, “I’m going to ride it out. I’m not in an evacuation zone”. They don’t realize that not being in an evacuation zone only means that you are not likely to DROWN in a FLOOD. It does not mean that your house built in 1980 it still be standing after the storm passes. This means anyone inside that building would essentially be OUTSIDE during the storm if it doesn’t hold up. That’s a death trap. People who survived Hurricane Andrew in the 1990s shared stories of taking shelter in their bathtubs with their mattress pulled over them when the roofs/walls were blown away.

My husband moved to Florida in 2000. During Irma he didn’t want to evacuate because we were not in a flood zone. Our crappy 1984 condo, especially it’s windows, was not designed to handle those winds. When it started coming our way unexpectedly, I insisted we go to a shelter. Staying there was an experience, memorable for sure, but it kept us safe. We ended up spared in the end with only category 2 winds, but the path couldn’t be determined prior. My advice would be if you don’t think your home can survive a good sized tornado for several hours, get the heck out. It’s not worth the risk. Property can be replaced-lives can not.

I also have a few things on after the storm-Generators-make sure that if you have one you know how to use it. Carbon Monoxide kills so make sure it’s ventilated properly. I know it can sound silly but the warnings are on the box for a reason-people have tragically died because of misuse. Do not install these on your screened in patio.

Make sure everyone stays hydrated and try not to overheat. Young children and elderly are especially vulnerable. In the event of severe dehydration/overheating occurring after the storm seek medical attention. In the aftermath of Irma a nursing home lost power and several residents died due to being in a hot, sweltering building. Ironically, there was a hospital within walking distance (obviously not walking distance for someone in need of medical help, but able to be transported there). These deaths were completely avoidable. 

 

 

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8 Likes; 137 Visitors; 9 Posts

I would add if you live in a hurricane prone area have that old fashioned land line connected to a corded phone.  During Wilma I peaked outside during the eye and saw what it had done to our pool, screen and flat roof.  I was able to call the insurance company while the winds were still blowing on the back side and at last start the process. We lost power and cell service for 3 weeks.

I really feel for the Florida Panhandle.  I think Michael has been the forgotten disaster.

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67 Likes; 264 Visitors; 47 Posts

One more piece of advice from a Hurricane Andrew (cat 5)   survivor.  I am a very strong and resilient person. The hurricane came and went, destroying our entire neighborhood.  Everyone around me was packing up and leaving. I went into survival mode and started just getting through everyday, preparing food (with no electricity), taking care of my kids, etc.  Couldn't  figure out why EVERYONE  was leaving.  Until about 5 days later, when the ceiling of the room we were sleeping in started to cave in....after we had already switched rooms twice because all the other ceilings caved in.  It FINALLY  occurred to me that our house was uninhabitable.   By now, every possible rental  was taken and the closest place we could find to live was an hour away, and we were extremely lucky to find that.   Retrospectively, I realized that I was in shock...not the kind of incapacitating, don't know what to do kind of shock, but the  not understanding reality kind of shock.   So the advice is, even if you were fully prepared, if you are the victim of large scale destruction, you need to GET OUT, find a place to live as soon as possible, so that you are safe, and can start rebuilding your life.

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3 Likes; 1 Follower; 4 Articles; 21,649 Visitors; 577 Posts

Another few things to have  (living in Gulf Coast Texas) are a small charcoal grill, aluminum foil and several large bags of charcoal, lighter fluid for them and MATCHES!!!  At least you will be able to cook your food if there is a prolonged power outage.

Edited by Kyrshamarks

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45 Likes; 179 Visitors; 58 Posts

My husband and step daughter stayed for katrina. A huge pine tree crashed through the kitchen in which they were sitting just moments before. He says it was probably his worst parenting mistake.

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DowntheRiver has 5 years experience and works as a Registered Nurse.

137 Likes; 13,423 Visitors; 815 Posts

My husband and I are both native Floridians. He is from Miami and I am from central Florida. He survived Andrew and nearly died. His family chose to remain in their house which they were re-roofing right as the hurricane came through. When the hurricane hit all they had on their roof was board, paper, and tarps and of course their roof crashed in. They had to run to their relatives house directly behind their house after the roof caved in. My husband was young at the time, only 6, and when running to the other house some debris hit him and he almost literally blew away. When the hurricane passed, their house was destroyed. They bought a camper which they placed in their back yard and lived there for 12 months before their house was habitable again. Two adults and three boys (two teenagers) in a camper for a year made for some interesting stories. 

I've been through so many hurricanes now I've lost track. Gosh, I remember those back to back storms in 2004. My freshman year in college and my parents made me leave Tallahassee because they thought it would be hit only for it to hit central Florida instead. 

Michael may have been forgotten outside of Florida, but I promise you that there are those of us that remember and try to help. I have a lot of patients that come from the panhandle and I try to accommodate their needs as much as possible. 

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Thank you everybody for sharing your experiences and adding to what one needs to prepare for a hurricane and what to do afterwards! I hope no one ever has to go through anything like this, but always be prepared to the best of your ability. Stay safe! 

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