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Climate Challenges Are Making Hurricane Preparedness More Important Than Ever

Overhead view of a hurricane - Tulane School of Professional Advancement

Atlantic hurricane season is here, and it's essential to be prepared. In the U.S. alone, hurricane-related damages have been estimated at $136 billion in 2018-2019. It's hard to know what you should do before a storm hits, but with a degree from the Emergency & Security Studies program at Tulane School of Professional Advancement, you can prepare for a role that helps the nation whenever and wherever disaster strikes.

Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

Every year between June and November, tropical depressions are created when ocean water temperatures over reach a certain temperature. The storm then begins to rotate and eventually becomes more powerful as it takes on energy from the warm, humid air around it. Hurricanes and tropical storms are most often found in the Pacific, Atlantic, or Indian oceans.

Does Climate Change Increase the Risk of Hurricanes?

Scientists are still uncertain whether climate change will lead to more hurricanes, but there is some proof that warmer ocean temperatures and rising sea levels can intensify storms. Warmer sea surface temperatures could boost the wind speed of some storms. NOAA has said that an increase in category 4 and 5 hurricanes has become more likely, with wind speeds increasing up to 10%. The rise in sea temperatures is also causing hurricanes to be wetter, with 10-15% more precipitation expected from storms in a 2 degree C scenario. A real-life example of this can be seen in 2017's Hurricane Harvey, which became one of the scariest tropical cyclones in U.S. history, with a total of 60.58 inches of rain over land. It also created maximum wind speeds of over 130 mph. Additionally, the globally averaged sea level is expected to rise by 1-4 feet in low and moderate emissions scenarios during the next 100 years, according to c2es.org. This will amplify local storm surges, thus creating more damaging and deadly storms. A degree or certificate from the Emergency & Security Studies program at Tulane School of Professional Advancement can give you the tools needed for a job that can help your community when storms arise.

Know What to Do Before, During, and After a Hurricane

Before the Storm

Make sure you have enough resources and water on hand for everyone in your family, including pets. FEMA recommends one gallon per person. This will be useful if there is flooding or a loss of clean drinking water after the storm hits. If possible, purchase non-perishable food that is easy to prepare and doesn't require refrigeration, like canned meats, fruit, and peanut butter.

Have a plan for a shelter where everyone will meet if you are separated from each other during the storm or evacuation. If possible, you should also have an out-of-state family member designated as your point of contact in case anything happens to all members living locally.

During the Storm

Stay indoors and away from windows. If you have a safe room in your house, like a basement or interior bathroom with a tub, you should go there immediately when the storm starts to get dangerous.

After the Storm

Make sure any floodwaters are receding before leaving your safe area. It's important not to rush out into high water because it can lead to injuries and drowning. Check the news or social media for information on when it's safe to leave your home and where you can get necessities like food, water, and fuel if they aren't available at local stores.

What Can We Expect and What Can We Do?

Hurricanes and tropical storms will continue to be a part of life for years to come. It's important to remember that these events can happen even when there isn't an El Niño or La Niña event in the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, it's vital not to become complacent about preparedness just because we haven't had a natural disaster in a while. This is also why it's so important to have certified emergency management professionals in our communities.

Hurricane Preparedness Tips

If you live in a hurricane or tropical storm-prone area, it's essential to plan and take the necessary precautions.

Tips: Emergency Kits

Have these items ready to go in an accessible area:

  • Food and water
  • Battery packs
  • Candles/Lanterns
  • Tools
  • Hand sanitizer and other sanitation supplies such as a portable toilet
  • First aid kit
  • National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Important documents

Tips: Coping Strategies

Keep yourself safe and informed by:

  • Listening to the radio for updates
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Staying indoors and in safe areas to avoid flying debris
  • Using caution when driving or walking near floodwaters

Tips: What to Do If You're on the Road

The best way to stay safe is to avoid driving in dangerous weather. However, if you are caught on the road during a hurricane, consider the following:

  • Stay with your car
  • Turn on hazard lights to warn other drivers
  • Do not attempt driving through a flooded or washed out area

Other Potential Disasters

Other events can also cause significant damage to communities and require those with disaster and homeland security training to be on the front lines, ready to help their communities.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes occur during storms with rotating winds that lower from the cloud to the ground. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, almost all hurricanes that make landfall produce at least one tornado. While there are specific parts of the hurricane where tornadoes are more likely, they have been documented to occur anywhere from the outer rainbands to the inner core of a hurricane.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes occur when the plates in the earth's crust move and cause vibrations. Areas in the US that need to be wary of earthquakes are tectonically active regions like Alaska, California, and the Pacific Northwest.

Tsunamis

Tsunamis are large sea waves that form after undersea earthquakes or landslides. The Japanese word "tsunami" means harbor wave. People originally described these events as because they could only see them in harbors and bays before the rise of modern technology like seismographs to detect earthquakes. Tsunamis caused roughly 250,000 deaths around the globe between 1998-2017.

Hurricane Preparedness FAQs

What supplies do you need to prepare for a hurricane?

  • Food and Water
  • CDC-approved masks for COVID-19
  • Flashlight and Batteries
  • Candles/Lanterns
  • Tools
  • Sanitation supplies
  • First aid kit
  • Copies of your insurance policies
  • Contact information for family members
  • Radio or TV with local stations to get hurricane watch updates or guidance on evacuating orders if you need to leave your home. Consider an NOAA Weather Radio for more accuracy

What should you not do before a hurricane?

Don't Panic. Do not walk through floodwaters, and stay away from large bodies of water as they can quickly become dangerous during a storm. Do not drive into flooded areas, either. You will also need to be cautious about downed power lines as well as gas leaks if the storm has knocked out utilities in your area.

What's needed in a hurricane preparedness kit?

Once you have all of your supplies together, it's a good idea to make a checklist of everything you have and pack it in one bag. Keep the kit somewhere easily accessible, like your front door or garage, where you can grab it quickly if there are emergency hurricane warnings. Use waterproof containers so that they will still be dry even if there's flooding. You can also add other things like a wrench, pliers, and duct tape to help you seal windows or repair any damage done to your home during the storm.

How do you prepare for a hurricane at home?

If you're home during a hurricane, it's important to stay indoors and find a safe area of the house. Create shutters on your windows with plastic sheeting or plywood if possible. Take your hurricane preparedness kit and go on the lowest floor possible unless your home is flooding.

Where is the safest place to be during a hurricane?

The safest place to be during a hurricane is in your home. If you have no choice but to leave, only go outside when necessary and wear protective clothing like long pants, boots or sturdy shoes, gloves, and goggles if it's windy out.

Hurricanes are dangerous, life-threatening storms. Before, during, and after the disaster, coastal communities rely on well-trained emergency personnel to keep them safe and secure. The Emergency & Security Studies degree program at Tulane School of Professional Advancement provides a comprehensive overview of homeland security and emergency management. Recurrent natural disasters are helping to make homeland security a rapidly growing field with a high demand for skilled leadership and informed management. If you're interested in Tulane SoPA's Emergency & Security Studies program, take a look at the course description or contact us for more information.

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