Every year, the promise of summer, warm weather and vacations also brings with it the very real threat of a potential hurricane or tropical storm impacting the commonwealth, or worse, making landfall with a direct hit on Virginia.
In 2015, Hurricane Matthew hit parts of the coast, causing damage and flooding to businesses, homes and communities. In 2018, Hurricane Florence threatened the coast again before causing flood and wind damage further inland after making initial landfall further south. Less than a month later, remnants of Tropical Storm Michael caused additional damage across the commonwealth. With the official start to hurricane season on June 1, now is the best time to prepare for future storms in Virginia.
There are many ways to prepare for the Atlantic hurricane season. Start by knowing what resources are available, including checking with your local officials for community plans. Talk to your first responders, emergency managers and others about resources and plans at the community level — these plans may help you understand both your hurricane risk and what you can do to prepare yourself and your community. Turn those plans into action by taking initiative to prepare — does your locality have an alert system? If so sign up for Wireless Emergency Alerts to receive text notifications, email alerts or phone calls regarding potential storms. Develop a plan on how you’ll communicate with family, coworkers and neighbors. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have a wealth of information on their websites to help you plan and prepare for potential hurricanes.
Planning is critical to resilience in the face of a hurricane or tropical storm and will make the difference in how quickly you can recover. Consider your preparedness for:
» Insurance coverage: Are you protected from potential damages, such as flooding? Most homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood damage. Learn more at www.floodsmart.gov on how you can protect yourself.
» Financial security: Make extra copies of important documents, such as tax documents, insurance cards or more. Secure documents in a safe and waterproof container.
» Communications: How will you contact your loved ones? Talk to your family, employer and neighbors about how to reach you and check in. Consider setting up a rally point, such as an out of town family member or social media check in.
» Your situation: Consider the needs of pets, including extra food and water, or pet-friendly shelters. The same goes for medication or other circumstances unique to you — plan ahead for what you may need.
Hurricane Florence and Tropical Storm Michael have caused millions of dollars in damage, and FEMA and the commonwealth continue to work together to help impacted communities recover. However, hurricanes will not wait — the potential for future storms means we need to act today to prepare for tomorrow’s storm. Don’t wait — consider small but meaningful ways to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property from hurricanes and related hazards. Doing so will mean a world of difference in your recovery.
To learn more about VDEM, please visit www.vaemergency.gov. To learn more about the “Know Your Zone” campaign for Virginians living in coastal communities and to find your hurricane evacuation zone, please visit www.KnowYourZoneVA.org. To learn more about FEMA Region III, please visit http://www.fema.gov/region-iii.
Stern is the state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Tierney is the Region III administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.