How to Prepare Your Family for Hurricane Dorian
Safety tips, emergency kits and how to talk to your kids
Hurricane Dorian is moving slowly toward Florida and the Southeast U.S., but its exact track remains somewhat uncertain. Forecasts say Dorian may spare the U.S. coast a direct hit, but will move close to Florida's east coast late Monday. Dorian is expected to affect the South Carolina coast Wednesday or Thursday. Hurricane Dorian is still expected to shift to the north, bringing the possibility of strong winds, heavy rain and rough surf to the Carolina coast starting Tuesday. Tropical-storm force winds, or winds 39 mph or greater, could hit South Carolina at about 8 p.m. Tuesday and North Carolina at about 8 a.m. Wednesday, forecasters say. States of emergency were in effect for all of Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina, along with 12 counties in Georgia. Mandatory evacuations are underway in some parts of Florida.
The governors of North Carolina and South Carolina have both declared a state of emergency.
“State assets are being mobilized now and Team South Carolina is working around the clock to be ready, if necessary,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement Saturday. “We encourage all South Carolinians who may be impacted by Hurricane Dorian to be vigilant and prepare now – there is no reason for delay.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also said residents “should prepare, and listen to local leaders for updates on severe weather.”
Hurricane Safety Steps
- Find a shelter by visiting redcross.org or by downloading the free Red Cross Emergency App. The Emergency App also puts real time information about the storm and hurricane safety tips at your fingertips. The app is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.
- Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest news reports and weather forecasts.
- If your neighborhood is prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate quickly if necessary.
- Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe to do so. Take your home emergency kit with you if you evacuate. If you don’t have an emergency kit or communication plan, it’s not too late to create them — more on that below.
- Head for higher ground and stay there.
- Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
- Turn around, don’t drown. If driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
- Keep children out of the water.
- Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to see flood danger.
- Make sure you have a plan and supplies for your pets. Download the free Red Cross Pet First Aid App for emergency preparedness tips, a pet-friendly hotel locator and an animal hospital locator.
- Wake County residents who have non-emergency questions or issues can contact Wake County at 919-856-7044 or ReadyWake.com.
Create an Emergency Kit
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety recommends creating an emergency kit with enough water, food and supplies for three to seven days for each person and pet in your home. You most likely already have several of the items on the list. You just need to gather them and place them in a container. Keep in mind that you may be on your own several days after a disaster with emergency services unable to reach you. Water, power and phones may also be out.
- If you evacuate, take your pets with you. Never leave your pets behind or tether them to poles or trees, which prevents them from escaping high waters and getting to safe areas.
- Make sure all pets are wearing ID tags with up-to-date contact information. The ASPCA also recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification, should collars or tags become lost.
- Create a portable pet emergency kit with items including medical records, water, water bowls, pet food and your pet’s medications.
- Choose a designated caregiver, such as a friend or relative outside the evacuation zone, who can take care of your pet in the event you are unable.
- Download the free ASPCA mobile app, which allows pet owners to store crucial pet records needed for boarding pets at evacuation shelters. It includes a disaster preparedness checklist.
During the Storm
- Stay indoors.
- Don’t walk on beaches, riverbanks or in flood waters.
- Use flashlights in the dark if the power goes out. Do NOT use candles.
- Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
- Don’t forget your pets. Bring them indoors and maintain direct control of them. Prepare an emergency kit for your pets, including sturdy leashes or pet carriers, food and water, bowls, cat litter and pan, and photos of you with your pet in case they get lost.
Talking to Your Kids
The uncertainty of hurricanes and other natural disasters can be frightening for all ages. Keep misinformation to a minimum and be open to listening and answering your child's concerns. The American Academy of Pediatrics says parents should "reassure children when able to do so, but if their fears are realistic, do not give false reassurance."
- Talk about Hurricane Dorian: Take time to explain to your children that a hurricane is a natural event and not anyone’s fault. Using simple, age-appropriate words and explanations about what disasters are or what happened during a disaster can give them a sense of understanding and control. Let them know your top priority is to keep them safe.
- Reassure Kids: Let your children know you’re planning ahead to keep them safe. Reassure them that during an emergency, many caring adults — including parents, teachers and first responders — will be working to keep them safe.
- Identify Evacuation Routes: Find out if you live in a Hurricane Dorian evacuation area, and assess your risks from a storm surge, flooding or wind damage. Together with your kids, identify the best evacuation routes, so you can all be ready to evacuate quickly and safely.
- Fill out Contact Cards: Make Emergency Contact Cards for all your children, which include three emergency contacts that any first responder or caregiver can reach out to, in case you are separated during the hurricane. Since local power and phone service can be disrupted during emergencies, it’s also important to have one out-of-town contact. Practice learning these numbers with your children.
- Pack a ‘Go-Bag’: Put together a “Go Bag” with each of your children, which can include a favorite stuffed animal and the comforts of home, as well as an emergency contact card and activities to pass the time, like books or games, if you need to evacuate to a shelter. Every family should also have an emergency preparedness kit, complete with nonperishable food items, a flash light, medicine and other medical supplies, water and personal hygiene items like baby wipes and hand sanitizer.
Here are additional tips to help calm children's fears and prepare for the possible strike of Hurricane Dorian.
Post-landfall, if you are safe and able to help the community, the Red Cross would greatly appreciate volunteer support. The Red Cross is in need of volunteer who can sign up for a 6-12 hour shift and help maintain/set up sheltering facilities, register clients, maintain client information, and serve meals, among other tasks. Licensed nurses and mental health professionals are encouraged to volunteer with Red Cross in the local community. Those who live in Eastern North Carolina and are interested in volunteering are urged to sign up at redcross.org/enc. Following sign-up, a Red Cross team member will contact applicants directly. Due to the expected high-volume of applications, Red Cross asks for patience as the organization reaches out to volunteers.
Sources: American Red Cross, American Academy of Pediatrics, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Wake County Government, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Salvation Army of Wake County, Save the Children