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Hurricanes: When To Stay, When To Go, How To Prepare

June 22, 2011

Hurricanes are a natural disaster that should be taken seriously, so stay inside and leave the front-line reporting to the professionals, according to an emergency public health expert at Baylor College of Medicine.

“Hurricanes can be deadly, and it’s dangerous to go outside to watch them,” said Dr. Bobby Kapur, assistant professor of medicine-emergency medicine) at BCM. “There are several precautions that people should take to be sure they are safe during a hurricane.”

When to evacuate

According to Kapur, high-risk populations should evacuate an area that is expected to be hit by a hurricane as soon as possible. This includes people with infants and children, the elderly and anyone with severe medical conditions. Because local sources of care may not be available in the event of a hurricane, it’s important to be outside the threat of the storm. These populations should evacuate early to avoid being stuck in traffic.

Disaster supply kit

Kapur also recommends that families have a plan for what to do when there’s a hurricane approaching. This includes preparing a disaster supply kit with the following supplies:

    * Water (one gallon per person per day for three to five days)
    * Canned and pre-packaged food
    * Paper plates, utensils and a manual can opener
    * Blankets and pillows
    * First-aid kit
    * Medications
    * Flashlight
    * Battery operated radio
    * Toiletries
    * Corded phone
    * Cash
    * Important documents, including insurance and medical information

Keep copies of important documents in a sealed plastic bag, so they are ready to go when necessary.

What if you stay?

Everyone may not choose to evacuate, so those families hunkering down should identify the safest place in the house that is away from windows and potential high water, and determine an escape route. Also be sure to have a plan in place for pets, said Kapur.

Have a pre-designated meeting point in case you must evacuate suddenly, and have a point of contact outside of the city.

Families should also know what to do in case of an emergency during a hurricane. Small scrapes and abrasions can be treated with supplies from the first-aid kit. However, if an injury occurs and bleeding cannot be controlled, get help as soon as possible. A puncture wound may also require immediate attention from a health care professional. Those with chronic diseases may see exacerbations of their symptoms during this time, so any issues with severe dehydration, dizziness or fainting, chest pain or trouble breathing should be treated as soon as possible by a health care professional.

Taking these precautions seriously during hurricane season can help prevent injury or serious harm, said Kapur.

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