Hurricane season can be a scary time, especially your kids. Fortunately, it’s been 93 years since a major hurricane directly hit the Tampa Bay area.
Hurricane Charley in 2004 was our last real threat. In fact, some of you reading this might have been kids when Charley was coming this way. The forecast was one of doom. By landfall, Charley was expected to be a category 4 hurricane with a storm surge of 12-15 feet. I vividly remember sitting on the set of ABC Action News with then Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. She was explaining what it would take to rebuild Tampa after a category 4 hurricane. I told her I thought the storm would miss us, and her response is one I will never forget! “I like your forecast the best!” We certainly dodged a bullet.
Of course, we won’t always be that lucky. And when I go to local schools and talk about the weather, hurricanes and tornadoes are always at the top of the list of questions. Most of the kids weren’t alive when Charley was coming this way so they have no memory of the panic our community experienced. As far as I’m concerned that is a good thing. Hurricane safety is all about preparation not fear. An approaching storm or hurricane isn’t like a tornado where you may get a few minutes or seconds to react. You have days to prepare. If you’re really serious about keeping your family safe, you’ve done so months in advance. The hurricane season for us is always the same — June 1-Nov. 30.
When a hurricane warning is issued, you should already have your family’s plan of action in place and ready to roll. Step one of the plan is pretty simple. You must decide whether to leave or stay put. If you’re in an evacuation zone, you should already know where you will go. If you’re staying put, you must secure the structure of your home. There’s not a lot of gray area here. So how do we make it easier on our kids?
I have my kids help me prepare our hurricane kit every season. We put together a checklist and build our hurricane kit by making it like a scavenger hunt. It keeps them interested and gives them a sense of empowerment. Role playing can give them a taste of what to expect before, during and after a storm. Pretending there is a power outage is helpful, as many kids (and adults) are afraid of the dark. We have two dogs and two cats. I have my kids take responsibility for reassuring the pets so they’re focused on something else.
Consider limiting your kids’ access to TV and the Internet. There are frightening images before a storm and the mayhem associated with an approaching hurricane can be every bit as nerve-wracking as the storm itself. If the kids do watch, make sure you are there with them. By all means, let kids know it is OK to be scared but focus on reassuring and comforting them. Let them know you’ll all be OK because your family has a hurricane plan. Hugs are great, too. You may need a hug (or two) yourself.
Your teens will be concerned about their friends. If the Internet is down, texting is the best way to stay in touch. That’s true for you as well. Phone lines will likely be bogged down, and most people report texting is the easiest and most dependable way to stay in touch before, during and after a storm.
In many ways, the aftermath of a hurricane is much like a camping trip. Unless you have a generator, you probably won’t have electricity for several days. That means no air conditioning, no refrigerator and no Internet. (Gasp!) Planning a camping trip in advance, even just a night, it might give them an idea of what to expect.
Many people have said having your child document what’s happening can ease their stress. Have the kids record what they’re doing, feeling and seeing. It keeps their minds occupied.
Hopefully, this will be another quiet hurricane season. But the reality is that it really is just a matter of when. To give your family the best chance — prepare. Now is the perfect time to start your family’s hurricane preparedness efforts. If a storm does threaten our area, trust ABC Action News to help keep you and your family safe. Let’s do this together.
It’s important to be prepared for a storm, especially when you’re expecting or have small children. Following are tips to help:
- Talk to your health care provider about what to do in case of a disaster, especially if you’ve had complications with your pregnancy or you’re close to your due date.
- Be ready to follow evacuation instructions from your community or state. Decide where you will go if you have to leave and find a hospital in the new area where you can get care if necessary.
- Make a list of important phone numbers. Your cell phone is great, but your phone’s battery may run low.
- Get copies of your medical records, including a list of medicines you take, the prenatal vitamin you take and vaccinations you’ve had.
- If you have any signs of preterm labor (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), call your health care provider right away.
- Pack a bag of clothes, medicine, snacks and supplies, like batteries and flashlights.
- If you’re driving a long distance to evacuate, stop and get out to walk every 1 to 2 hours.
- If your home has been damaged, ask family and friends to help clean it up. Don’t do hard, physical work.
- Be careful of falling on stairs or when stepping over debris.
- Stay away from exposed electrical wires.
- Stay away from bacteria and mold that can get on walls, floors, furniture and other items. Hire professionals to remove mold from your home.
- Talk to your baby’s health care provider about what to do in case of a disaster. If your baby is in the hospital, ask about the hospital’s disaster plan.
- Make a list of important phone numbers.
- Get copies of your baby’s medical records, including a list of medicines and the vaccination record.
- Pack a bag of clothes and supplies for your baby, including clothing, baby care items, food, medicine, bottled water, hand sanitizer and thermometer.
- Keep appointments with your child’s pediatrician.
- Use bottled water until officials say the water supply is safe.
For a full list of must-have hurricane supplies, check out the ABC Action News Hurricane Survival Guide. Visit www.marchofdimes.com for more tips on staying safe during a hurricane.
Denis Phillips is chief meteorologist for ABC Action News.