Chief Timothy Grenno and the Whitman Fire Department are encouraging residents to take a series of precautions in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane.
Gov. Charlie Baker has proclaimed July 12-18, 2020 to be Hurricane Preparedness Week and is emphasizing the importance of staying safe during storms. Even if severe weather doesn’t strike Massachusetts directly, the state is still at risk of feeling a storm’s impact, which can include heavy flooding and destructive winds.
“It is vital to be prepared for all storms, but this year it is especially important due changes in emergency response and management prompted by COVID-19," said Chief Grenno. "We recommend that residents modify their emergency kits to not only include basics like food and water, but to also include face coverings, hand sanitizer and other disinfectant supplies."
The Atlantic Hurricane Season began on June 1 and will end on Nov. 30. Historically, hurricanes and tropical storms in August and September have had the greatest impact on New England communities. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting an above normal number hurricane season this year, which would produce between 13 and 19 storms. Between three and six of those storms are predicted to be major hurricanes.
While continuing to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) remains committed to ensuring that the Commonwealth is prepared for other disasters including hurricanes and tropical storms. MEMA is working closely with the Department of Public Health and the newly established Pandemic Disaster Mass Care Working Group to develop guidance for evacuations and mass care during COVID-19.
Hurricane and Tropical Storm Safety Tips
MEMA offers several safety tips for residents in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm in our area:
- Stay informed by signing up for emergency alerts.
- Know your zone. Massachusetts has defined hurricane evacuation zones for areas of the state at risk for storm surge flooding. Even areas not directly along a coastline may be at risk for storm surge flooding during a tropical storm or hurricane.
- Develop a family emergency plan by establishing meeting locations, creating an emergency contact plan, planning how to evacuate and learning how to shelter in place. Practice your plan with your entire family, and make sure the plan accounts for individuals who have access needs, seniors, children and pets.
- Acquaint yourself with the emergency plans at places where your family spends considerable time, such as your workplace or your children’s school.
- Assemble an emergency kit. Be sure to include cleaning and disinfectant supplies that you can use on the go (tissues, hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol and disinfection wipes). Ensure that you have cloth face coverings, such as masks and scarves, for everyone in your household who can wear one safely.
- Those receiving medical treatment or home health services can work with a medical provider to learn how to maintain care in the event of a hurricane that requires evacuation.
- Consider purchasing a generator. If you do, be sure to familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions to use it safely. NEVER run a generator indoors, in a garage or with the exhaust facing the home or home air intakes.
- Take photos or videos of your possessions to create a record for insurance purposes.
- Prepare your home if a storm is coming by securing outdoor objects, clearing rain gutters, covering windows with shutters or plywood (do not use tape), turn off propane tanks that aren’t being used, elevate items in your basement in case of flooding, check your sump pump, unplug sensitive electronic equipment, clear nearby catch basins, park vehicles in areas that are unlikely to flood, and remove any boats from the water.
- Do not go out during a hurricane or tropical storm, if possible.
Lightning and Flash Flooding Safety Tips
Flash flooding and severe thunderstorms typically offer low predictability. Therefore, it’s very important to follow the latest weather updates.
- Be informed by receiving alerts, warnings, and public safety information before, during, and after emergencies.
- Stay indoors during a storm. If outdoors, seek shelter immediately. Stay inside until at least 30 minutes after you last hear thunder or see lightning.
- Avoid showering, bathing, washing dishes, or doing laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
- Consider unplugging sensitive electronic equipment before flooding occurs. But, do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
If you must evacuate or are traveling during flooding, remember:
- Do not walk through flowing water. Most drownings occur during flash floods. Six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off of your feet.
- Remember the phrase “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!” Don’t drive through flooded roads. Cars can be swept away in only two feet of moving water. If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If the water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof.
Additional information on preparing for a disaster amid COVID-19 can be found on FEMA’s website and the Red Cross.