Operation Hurricane Prepare is designed so that individuals, organizations and community groups can be prepared in the event of this natural disaster. This project guide is for organizers but could easily be adapted to help individuals and families prepare as well.
Hurricanes are notable for their scale, unpredictability or both. A hurricane can leave devastation in its wake, with impacts that are often most severe for people who failed to plan ahead. You probably have friends, family and neighbors who have no plans for how to act when a hurricane is imminent, or how to respond after one has struck.
Note: These activities are presented as steps, but you can choose to do one, some or all, in any order. You can also either organize a group or simply help one neighbor or friend with these ways to prepare. Your efforts, big or small, could save lives.
Step 1: SECURE VITAL DOCUMENTS
A hurricane can erase the vital documents and records of our lives instantly. Organize a group effort to help people in your community have copies of all their important documents available in one place. When you set up a group document duplication event, community members can meet in one central location to make copies quickly and easily. This activity is suitable for business sponsorship, so consider this as you make your plans.
Set up your system to ensure that people can keep track of their materials. Exercise vigilance so documents are not lost, misplaced or left unprotected. In addition to making hard copies, consider advising attendees on how to store information in a secure online location.
What you'll need for the event:
- Vital Document Checklist for advance distribution - in this kit
- A central meeting location with a high-volume copier – consider community centers, churches, and local businesses
- A date, preferably a weekend day
- Reams of copy paper to accommodate your group’s size. Consider asking a business for sponsorship and donation of materials.
- Gallon-size, plastic zip-close bags to act as weatherproof totes
- Check-in desk or greeting table/chairs
- Copies of the checklists and tips provided below
- FEMA also offers a free resource to help people gather and safeguard critical documents, the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit, which you can print and share, or direct attendees to access electronically.
- A small team of volunteers, who can greet participants, help them with document copying, keep lines moving and be vigilant about document security. People will be justifiably concerned about their documents.
Get the word out:
To invite neighbors and community members, send out an invitation at least 3 weeks prior to the event. A sample invitation is below to help get you started:
Learn how to take the first step in being prepared for a hurricane by securing important documents and identifying other tools to help get your life back in order after an emergency. Bring all your important documents, and we’ll help you make copies of them. To help someone else, bring a friend along!
The members of (group) are invited to a Document Photocopying Event on (date, time). (Consider whether or not an RSVP should be required, especially if anticipating high attendance or if limited space is available for your event.)
For questions, contact (project organizer name) at (phone, email).
Step 2: PREPARE BASIC EMERGENCY SUPPLY KITS
Emergency supply kits should have the essentials to meet someone’s basic needs for a few days. Many people have these items in their homes but have not organized them into a kit. Your team can help people gather supplies into a kit, or even purchase items (possibly with donated funds) and assemble kits to be distributed in the community.
Ideas to get started:
- Distribute the Basic Emergency Supply Kit Checklist (in this kit) to neighbors and friends so they can assemble their own kits, or at least check to see which items they already have.
- Identify community members who might need assistance and assemble their kit from items they already have in their homes. Provide a donated bucket or other container for central storage and consider purchasing any missing items for them to ensure that their kit is adequately stocked.
- Make copies of all of the Operation Hurricane Prepare Checklists to distribute as well.
If you choose to buy items for people’s kits:
- Determine where you will get funds: From your group’s dues or funds? Corporate sponsorship? Fundraiser? Donations? Depending on the scope of your effort you may want to use a combination of funding sources. If you raise more money than you need you can always donate the extra cash to a disaster relief organization.
- Decide if your group could benefit from purchasing the basic emergency supplies in bulk.
Step 3: DEVELOP AN EVACUATION PLAN
Ensure that ALL members of the community have a plan that works for them. Create an evacuation plan that considers older friends and neighbors and their specific needs.
An evacuation plan provides a sense of order during an emergency, which can be a chaotic and frightening time. Learn how to create an evacuation plan by inviting a local official or expert on the subject to come speak to your group. Or think local - and lead an evacuation planning event for your own street, neighborhood or subdivision.
- Plan a date and place to meet (home, local community center, church, school, etc.).
- Invite an emergency response expert to speak to your group. Also consider connecting with your local Citizen Corps Council and/or Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). Find local Citizen Corps contacts at https://community.fema.gov/Register/Register_Search_Programs
- Ask your speaker if he/she has any materials (documents, DVDs,etc.) to hand out.
- If a speaker is unavailable, you can download training tools and handouts about a range of emergency preparedness topics, including evacuation, (and take an online training, Community Preparedness: Implementing Simple Activities for Everyone) through FEMA at http://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=is-909.
- Secure a computer and projector setup if needed for showing maps or highlighting evacuation routes.
- “Test drive” your presentation on that equipment before presenting live.
- Make copies of all Operation Hurricane Prepare Checklists and Basic Tips for distribution.
At the Event
- Share the below checklists and tips for hurricane planning and encourage distribution to friends and neighbors who did not attend.
- If you have video capabilities and are targeting an older audience, you may also want to show FEMA’s Preparing Makes Sense for Older Americans video.
- Lead the group discussion on ways to help neighbors, should your community be evacuated, especially those living alone or who may have limitations.
Step 4: DISTRIBUTE INFORMATION
To help protect community members during and after a disaster, make copies of the Hurricane Prepare Checklists that are best suited for your group, distribute them and ask people to commit to helping someone else get prepared. If your neighborhood has an email listserv, you can also send documents and links electronically. Include a link to http://www.ready.gov/.
Checklists and Tip Sheets include:
An emergency or disaster can erase the vital documents and records of our lives instantly if we haven’t prepared in advance. Using this Vital Document Checklist, collect all the important papers that apply to you. Make copies and store them in a weatherproof tote — even a large, plastic zip-top bag works. Keep your packet of documents in an emergency supply kit some place easily accessible so that you can get to it quickly in the event you need to evacuate in a hurry.
- Personal identification like passport, driver's license , voter ID card, Medicare or Medicaid card
- Personal Medication Record and medical and immunization records
- Social Security card
- Health insurance cards
- Financial records like recent tax returns, bank statements, retirement accounts, credit card numbers and records of any stocks and/or bonds
- Insurance policies
- Deed(s) to your house or other properties
- Family records like wills, birth, marriage, divorce, adoption, child custody, and death certificates
- Legal titles (home, auto) and/or lease agreements
- Important phone numbers of family members, friends, doctors, insurers, caregivers, medical facilities an accessible transportation company — anyone who needs to know where you are
- Records of passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs)
- Video and photo inventory documenting your valuables and the interior and exterior of your home
- Cash and/or traveler’s checks
- The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit
- “Basic Tips for Emergency Planning” handout
List your other valuable documents here:
Be prepared for an emergency or disaster by gathering basic supplies you’ll need to endure a crisis that leaves you without utilities, telephone or Internet and will provide nourishment for several days. A good rule of thumb is to have enough supplies to last each person at least three days. Make sure to include any items for people with disabilities and others with access and function needs, including babies. Rotate food and water to ensure nothing has expired and check or replace batteries as needed to keep your kit up-to-date. Remember to prepare for your pets too. For a complete list of supply-kit items and more information on creating a kit, visit www.ready.gov.
The right container will vary in a number of ways, depending on size, weight and storage space available. Ideally, the container you use should be portable, durable and waterproof.
- Water (one gallon per day per person)
- Food (canned and dry goods, high-calorie food bars)
- Personal first-aid kit
- Battery-powered flashlight (with extra batteries)
- Battery-powered radio (with extra batteries)
- Personal Medication Record
- Hygienic items (toothbrush/hand sanitizer/etc.)
- Extra clothing
- Rain poncho
- 12-hour light sticks
- Whistle (to alert rescue parties)
- Face mask (to avoid dangerous bacteria)
Other essential items:
Important Websites and Phone Numbers to Have on Hand
- Disaster Assistance Hotline (toll-free): 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) – www.disasterassistance.gov and www.fema.gov
- American Red Cross (toll-free): 1-800-RED CROSS (733-2767) - www.redcross.org
- For more information on preparing for an emergency, visit www.ready.gov
An evacuation plan provides a sense of order during an emergency, which can be a chaotic and frightening time. In the event of a disaster, listen to local news reports for status updates and evacuation instructions. Follow instructions of your local officials for evacuation procedures and do not wait until the last minute to leave. Before you head out, make sure to check on family, friends and neighbors to ensure that they are taking the appropriate steps for their own safety and security.
For additional tools and information to share with your community about evacuation planning, check out FEMA's free online training module.
Essential items you need to take:
- Vital Document Packet — Ensures you have all your important papers
- Emergency Supply Kit — Provides basic-living necessities for a few days
- Cash and traveler’s checks (in case power and electronic payment methods are unavailable)
- Maps: The official evacuation route, alternate routes and a list of shelters. You can find a list of open shelters at http://www.redcross.org/find-help/shelter
- Car keys and keys to the place you are going (if applicable)
If you have only moments before evacuating and haven’t prepared a Vital Document Packet or any emergency supplies, grab these items quickly and go! (Note: Use travel routes specified by local authorities. Shortcuts could be impassable or dangerous.)
Essential Items Checklist – Grab and Go!
- Driver’s license or personal identification
- Basic supplies: Water, food, first-aid kit, hygiene items
- Prescription medications, glasses or contact lenses, hearing aid batteries
- Maps: The official evacuation route, alternate routes and a list of shelters
- Car keys and keys to the place you are going (if applicable)
- Cash and traveler’s checks (in case power and electronic payment methods are unavailable)
List your other essentials here:
- Provisions are likely to be limited, so plan on using your own supplies.
- Many organizations have created pet-friendly shelters, but sometimes pets are prohibited. Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter, or animal control office to find out which shelters in your area do accept pets. Shelters, by law, accept service animals.
- Smoking, alcoholic beverages and weapons are prohibited.
- Expect and plan for confined and uncomfortable conditions.
The following provides some general tips for staying safe and fortifying your home. To be completely prepared, visit www.ready.gov for this information on planning for hurricanes and other resources.
Ahead of Time
- Inventory the contents of your home and take photos or videos of both the exterior and interior. Be sure to record contents of closets, cabinets and drawers. Keep copies in a safe, separate location if possible.
- Create a family emergency communication plan so that you will know how to reconnect following a disaster.
- Arrange with family or neighbors to have a contact number or location where you can check in to report on your safety or new whereabouts. Be sure to include an out-of-town contact because long distance lines may get through when local phone lines are busy.
- Gather your vital documents and records and make duplicate copies to be stored in a weatherproof container – or place them on a password-protected memory stick.
- Review all of your insurance policies to ensure that what you have in place is what is required for you and your family for all possible hazards.
- Take life safety training such as CPR, First Aid or You Are the Help Until Help Arrives.
- Many communities provide email and text-message alerts and warnings; visit your city or county website to find out what's available and how to sign up.
Just Before and During a Hurricane
- Close and lock all windows and doors.
- Stay tuned to local news stations via battery-operated radio and be prepared to evacuate if ordered.
- Move electronics or valuable objects away from windows and wrap in plastic garbage bags to keep dry.
- Have a supply of bottled water on hand; fill sinks and bathtubs with water to use for bathing, washing clothes or flushing the toilet.
- Shut off water at the main valve and electricity at the main fuse or breaker box.
- Bring indoors outdoor objects that may fly around, such as trash cans and patio furniture.
- Understand exactly what your insurance policy covers in the event of a disaster.
- Do not endorse and cash any payment from your homeowners insurance company that says “final” unless you are sure it is an adequate payment under your policy’s coverage.
- Call your mortgage company to see how claims payments from your home insurance company will be handled. It is important to understand that some insurance payments are made directly to your lender and then disbursed by your lender to you.
- Consider mediation if you are not satisfied with negotiations with your homeowners insurance company. In many areas, there is a free public service offered by your state’s insurance commissioner.
- Before you consult an attorney, which will cost you money, investigate free services offered by your insurer, your state insurance commissioner or local groups, including groups coordinating with FEMA. You often can reach a satisfactory resolution without having to pay for it.
- When it comes to flood insurance, your options are a little different. Work closely with your agent and adjuster throughout the claims process. If you have a problem with your claim, you have the right to appeal a decision on your flood insurance claim directly to FEMA. For issues with your flood insurance claim, visit: https://www.fema.gov/got-problem.
Fraud and Scams
- Don’t pay cash to a contractor for home repairs and never give your credit card number unless you are paying the bill with it.
- Be sure you have a signed contract detailing the work you want to have done and don’t make a final payment until the work has been done to your satisfaction.Make sure that any contractors, plumbers, electricians or roofers are bonded, licensed or registered in your state. You can check their license status with your state or Better Business Bureau.
- Beware if visitors or callers solicit personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers; they may not be legitimate.
- Please note: Federal workers do not solicit or accept money.
- Try to get several bids before agreeing to any work; a one-third down payment is considered appropriate.
- Beware of home repair loan brokers who guarantee you a loan if you first pay a fee.
- If you suspect you have been taken advantage of, call your state attorney general’s office.
Important Websites and Phone Numbers to Have on Hand: