Tuesday's earthquake on the U.S. East Coast shows what can happen when a big event happens with no warning. The cell phone network was overwhelmed, people poured into the streets and social media exploded. I think an earthquake has to be the scariest natural disaster to encounter, because you don't know it is coming.
Hurricanes are a whole different story. With all the sophisticated satellite, radars and computers the world has at its disposal, we know days in advance that Hurricane Irene – churning near the Bahamas on Wednesday – is heading toward the Carolinas and will likely pound the Northeast over the weekend. While you can't stop a hurricane from damaging things, you can protect yourself and your family by preparing.
Have a portable disaster supply kit – It's important to gather some things before a storm, because supplies may be gone after the storm hits. This to-go bag should be portable, and it should contain:
–Blankets and pillows
–First-aid kit and any medicine you need
–Flashlight and extra batteries
–Radio or NOAA weather radio
–Cash (ATMs may not be available for several days)
–Pet care items
Have a plan
–Know if your home is vulnerable to storm surges, flooding and wind.
–Have a safe room/area. The safest area may not be in your home, but may be a shelter in your community.
–Know the route away from danger. Some communities have hurricane evacuation zones. Have a primary and alternative route.
–Plan places where your family can meet in and out of your neighborhood
–Have an emergency contact who everyone in your family knows and can contact.
–Secure your home. Forget about taping your windows (This will not stop any objects hurled through the air by 90 mph winds). Have plywood custom-cut to fit your windows and pre-drill holes in the plywood for screws. Custom shutters can also be made ahead of time. Also, remove all dead or loose limbs from trees and shrubs on your property.
–Local television and radio stations
–Your local National Weather Service forecast office