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