Virginia Cooperative Extension is encouraging residents to plan ahead during National Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 15-21, 2016. Hurricanes are one of the most common natural disasters that Virginia experiences. In addition to high winds, other hazards follow hurricanes including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, and tornadoes. Hurricane season begins June 1, so begin planning now.
One of the greatest hazard risks for Virginia residents during hurricane season is flooding. This risk is particularly high in the many coastal communities of Virginia where the elevation is very low and the impact from storm surge is increased. However, inland areas are also susceptible to flooding, especially along rivers and streams that can overflow their banks during intense and sustained periods of rainfall. Even if you have never experienced a flood in the past, it doesn’t mean that you won’t in the future.
What many homeowners don’t know is that standard homeowner’s insurance policies do not typically cover flooding. In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program to help provide a means for property owners and those who rent property to financially protect themselves. However, to be eligible for flood insurance, you must live in a community that participates in the NFIP. Fortunately, most communities in Virginia do participate in the NFIP. To find the listing, go to: https://www.fema.gov/cis/VA.html In addition, not all insurance companies participate with the NFIP to sell and service flood insurance policies, so check with your local provider to find out if they do.
Virginia has not experienced a significant number of hurricanes in the past couple of years, but there is always the exception. In 2004, Virginia experienced five significant hurricanes, which produced 59 tornadoes. The most significant hurricane of that year was Hurricane Ivan, which produced 40 tornadoes in one day. Power outages are common during storms and can impact the ability to store and prepare food or to have access to potable water. “Having an emergency kit which includes food and water supplies for at least three days is important” says Michael Martin, Virginia Cooperative Extension emergency response and preparedness coordinator. “It is also important to make preparations for taking care of any household pets and making plans for sheltering in case of evacuation.”
Family communication plans are another important part of planning for an emergency. A written plan indicating where to meet and a primary person to contact should be given to each family member. In addition, having an emergency plan for the elderly and those family members with a disability or special medical situation must also be considered. Martin also suggests that families keep cars at least half filled with fuel because, in an emergency, fuel may not be available.
For more information on making plans for hurricane preparedness, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s website at http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/makeaplan or the Virginia Cooperative Extension disaster education website at http://www.ext.vt.edu/topics/family/vceden/index.html.