Executive Rushern Baker Prepares County for Hurricane Landfall

For Immediate Release:
August 25, 2011
For Information Contact:
Scott L. Peterson
Acting Director of Communications
Office of the County Executive
(240) 619-9400
Prince George’s County Hurricane Irene Preparation Information

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III Releases Safety Tips for Hurricane Conditions

Upper Marlboro, Maryland – As part of Prince George’s County’s ongoing coordination and preparedness efforts for Hurricane Irene, the Office of County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III has released the following information on how to prepare for inclement weather and potential emergency conditions.  Additionally, Prince George’s County will be holding a hurricane pre-planning meeting that will include representatives from all County agencies tomorrow, Friday, August 26.
“The safety and security of all County residents is our top priority, and my office is working closely with the Office of Homeland Security, the State of Maryland, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to prepare for the hurricane,” said Baker. “However, it is essential that all residents take the necessary precautions to secure their homes and protect their families. This information will help citizens properly prepare for and react to inclement weather and any emergency situations.”
The Prince George’s County Office of Emergency Management advises residents to be both informed and prepared before the hurricane weather reaches the State this weekend. The following paragraphs contains important information about preventing and mitigating damage before, during and after a hurricane. Disaster prevention includes modifying homes to strengthen them against storms so that it is as safe as possible. It also includes having the supplies on hand to weather the storm. The suggestions provided here are only guides. Residents should use common sense in their disaster prevention.
In general, residents should have basic supplies on hand such as flashlights and batteries, first aid kit, medicine, water, non-perishable foods, can opener, utility knife and a battery-powered radio.  Residents should also ensure that important document such as medical records, deeds, insurance and banking records and birth certificates are copied and kept in a safe place.  For more information on preparing for emergencies, citizens may visit www.Ready.gov or Listo.gov for tips on creating family emergency plans and putting together emergency supply kits. Residents can also visit www.redcross.org  to download the Be Red Cross Ready- Hurricane Checklist. It is also possible to track Hurricane Irene’s path at this link: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/#IRENE
STAY INFORMED
Hurricane hazards come in many forms: lightning, tornadoes, flooding, storm surge, high winds, even landslides or mudslides can be triggered in mountainous regions.  Look carefully at the safety actions associated with each type of hurricane hazard and prepare your family disaster plan accordingly. But remember this is only a guide. The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a hurricane threat is to use common sense.
You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it might take days. In addition, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days, or even a week or longer.
Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a hurricane.
·       Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.
Learn the difference between a Hurricane Watch and a Hurricane Warning
·       Hurricane Watch—Hurricane conditions are a threat within 48 hours. Review your hurricane plans, keep informed and be ready to act if a warning is issued.
·       Hurricane Warning—Hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. Complete your storm preparations and leave the area if directed to do so by authorities.
Hurricanes are severe tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and in the eastern Pacific Ocean.  People who live in hurricane prone communities should know their vulnerability, and what actions should be taken to reduce the effects of these devastating storms.  The information on this page can be used to save lives at work, home, while on the road, or on the water.
EVACUATION
One of the most important decisions residents have to make is “Should I Evacuate?” If you are asked to evacuate, you should do so without delay. But unless you live in a coastal or low-lying area, an area that floods frequently, or in manufactured housing, it is unlikely that emergency managers will ask you to evacuate. That means that it is important for you and your family to HAVE A PLAN that makes you as safe as possible in your home.
·       If ordered to evacuate, do not wait or delay your departure.
If possible, leave before local officials issue an evacuation order for your area. Even a slight delay in starting your evacuation will result in significantly longer travel times as traffic congestion worsens.
·       Select an evacuation destination that is nearest to your home, preferably in the same county, or at least minimize the distance over which you must travel in order to reach your intended shelter location.
In choosing your destination, keep in mind that the hotels and other sheltering options in most inland metropolitan areas are likely to be filled very quickly in a large, multi-county hurricane evacuation event.
 
·       If you decide to evacuate to another county or region, be prepared to wait in traffic.
The large number of people in this state who must evacuate during a hurricane will probably cause massive delays and major congestion along most designated evacuation routes; the larger the storm, the greater the probability of traffic jams and extended travel times. If possible, make arrangements to stay with the friend or relative who resides closest to your home and who will not have to evacuate. Discuss with your intended host the details of your family evacuation plan well before the beginning of the hurricane season.
·       If a hotel or motel is your final intended destination during an evacuation, make reservations before you leave.
Most hotel and motels will fill quickly once evacuations begin. The longer you wait to make reservations, even if an official evacuation order has not been issued for your area or county, the less likely you are to find hotel/motel room vacancies, especially along interstate highways and in major metropolitan areas.
·       If you are unable to stay with friends or family and no hotels/motels rooms are available, then as a last resort go to a shelter.
Remember, shelters are not designed for comfort and do not usually accept pets.  Bring your disaster supply kit with you to the shelter. Find Pet-Friendly hotels and motels.
·       Make sure that you fill up your car with gas, before you leave.
DEVELOP A FAMILY PLAN
·       Make a Family Emergency Plan: You should keep a written plan and share your plan with other friends or family.
·       Discuss the type of hazards that could affect your family. Know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind.
·       Locate a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. In certain circumstances the safest areas may not be your home but within your community.
·       Determine escape routes from your home and places to meet. These should be measured in tens of miles rather than hundreds of miles.
·       Have an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.
·       Make a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.
·       Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
·       Check your insurance coverage – flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.
·       Stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit.
·       Use a NOAA weather radio. Remember to replace its battery every 6 months, as you do with your smoke detectors.
·       Take First Aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes.
You should also consider:
Have a Disaster Supply Kit Ready
There are certain items you need to have regardless of where you ride out a hurricane. Create a disaster supply kit. The disaster supply kit is a useful tool when you evacuate as well as making you as safe as possible in your home.
·       Water – at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
·       Food – at least enough for 3 to 7 days
o   non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
o   foods for infants or the elderly
snack foods
non-electric can opener
o   cooking tools / fuel
paper plates / plastic utensils
·       Blankets / Pillows, etc.
·       Clothing – seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
·       First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
·       Special Items – for babies and the elderly
·       Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes
·       Flashlight / Batteries
·       Radio – Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
·       Telephones – Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
·       Cash (with some small bills) and Credit Cards – Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods
·       Keys
·       Toys, Books and Games
·       Important documents – in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag
o   Insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.
·       Tools – keep a set with you during the storm
·       Vehicle fuel tanks filled
·       Pet care items
o   proper identification / immunization records / medications
o   ample supply of food and water
o   a carrier or cage
o   muzzle and leash
You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car in case you are told to evacuate.
Make your home secure
It is important to secure your home. There are things that you can do to make your home more secure and able to withstand stronger storms.
 
Retrofitting your home:
·       The most important precaution you can take to reduce damage to your home and property is to protect the areas where wind can enter. According to recent wind technology research, it’s important to strengthen the exterior of your house so wind and debris do not tear large openings in it. You can do this by protecting and reinforcing these five critical areas:
·       A great time to start securing – or retrofitting – your house is when you are making other improvements or adding an addition.
·       Remember: building codes reflect the lessons experts have learned from past catastrophes. Contact the local building code official to find out what requirements are necessary for your home improvement projects.
 
Flood Insurance:
·       The National Flood Insurance Program is a pre-disaster flood mitigation and insurance protection program designed to reduce the escalating cost of disasters. The National Flood Insurance Program makes federally backed flood insurance available to residents and business owners.
·       Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.  Do not make assumptions.  Check your policy.
·       For the National Flood Insurance Program call
1-888-CALL-FLOOD ext. 445, TDD# 1-800-427-5593
Hurricanes cause heavy rains that can cause extensive flood damage in coastal and inland areas. Everyone is at risk and should consider flood insurance protection. Flood insurance is the only way to financially protect your property or business from flood damage. For more detailed information on how you can protect your property, view the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration’s printer-friendly handout Avoiding Hurricane Damage
In addition to insurance, you can also:
  • Cover all of your home’s windows with pre-cut plywood or hurricane shutters to protect your windows from high winds.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Keep all trees and shrubs well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Secure your home by closing shutters, and securing outdoor objects or bringing them inside.
  • Turn off utilities as instructed. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Install a generator for emergencies
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency by visiting www.FoodSafety.gov.
Prepare Your Business
Businesses have a critical role in preparedness. Putting a disaster plan in motion now will improve the likelihood that your company will survive and recover.  Ready Business outlines commonsense measures business owners and managers can take to start getting ready.
Go Online
There are web sites that can give you information about your communities vulnerability to specific hazards. These include hurricanes as well as other weather related hazards.
Here are some Online Resources:
·       FEMA ONLINE HAZARD MAPS – FEMA and Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI) have formed a National Partnership aimed at providing multi-hazard maps and information for U.S. residents, business owners, schools, community groups, and local governments. Visitors can create custom hazard maps, by entering a zip code and selecting from a variety of hazard types to help determine disaster risks in any community.
·       NWS STORM-READY – Ninety percent of all presidentially declared disasters are weather related, leading to around 500 deaths per year and nearly $14 billion in damage. To help Americans guard against the ravages of severe weather, the National Weather Service has designed StormReady, a program aimed at arming America’s communities with the communication and safety skills necessary to save lives and property
·       The COMMUNITY VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT TOOL (Ex. North Carolina) is an informational aid designed to assist communities in their efforts to reduce hazard vulnerability through strategies relating to awareness, education and mitigation. This product contains a methodology that helps State and local governments determine and prioritize their locality’s vulnerabilities to coastal hazards. Physical factors such as the location of critical facilities and infrastructure relative to high-risk areas, the distribution of vulnerable populations such as the elderly, poor and under-insured, significant environmental resources and the vulnerability of primary economic sectors are all included as issues for consideration.
Here are some Social Media Resources:
·      
·       Department of Homeland Security
On Twitter @DHSJournal
On Facebook www.facebook.com/homelandsecurity
·       FEMA
Blog Updates from FEMA
On Twitter @FEMA
On Facebook http://www.facebook.com/FEMA
·       Ready Campaign
On Twitter: @ReadydotGov
·       NOAA/National Hurricane Center
Tracking Hurricane Irene
On Twitter: @NHC Atlantic
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/US.NOAA.NationalHurricaneCenter.gov
·       American Red Cross
Latest updates
On Twitter: @RedCross
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/redcross
Pet Care
Before the disaster:
·       Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations.  Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.
·       Have a current photograph
·       Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.
·       Have a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal – carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand  and turn around.
·       Plan your evacuation strategy and don’t forget your pet!  Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm’s way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster. If you plan to shelter your pet – work it into your evacuation route planning.
·       For more information on pet care during a storm, see this link: Care for pets
USE 9-1-1 CORRECTLY
Please remember that 9-1-1 is to report emergency situations and to request the dispatch of Police, Fire, EMS or other emergency services personnel.  9-1-1 does not provide hurricane information. Do not call 911 for information about the status of the hurricane or storm, only to report an emergency.
If there is a need to evacuate or relocate residents of any area to a shelter, the local radio and cable companies will be used to distribute that information.  Do not call the non-emergency dispatch number, 301-352-1200, to request information or to request updates on the status of the storm.  Remember, the same people answering 9-1-1 calls are also answering the non-emergency number.
Know all of the options you have to communicate with 9-1-1 during an emergency, including all of your family members’ wireless phones and/or your home phone. In an emergency, having a dependable connection to dial 9-1-1 is essential. The more ways you have to contact 9-1-1 and reach emergency assistance, the better.
Be sure you have a “Hurricane Phone.” It’s a good idea to have a regular-type wired line phone on hand that is not dependent on electricity in case of a power outage. Cordless landline telephones usually have receivers that are electrically charged, so they won’t work if you lose your power. Also multi-line phones may need electricity.
Keep your cell phone/wireless phone batteries charged at all times. Have an alternative plan to recharge your battery in case of a power outage, such as charging your wireless device by using your car charger, generator or having extra mobile phone batteries or disposable mobile phone batteries on hand.  Also be aware that cellular service may be interrupted during power outages and high call volume time periods.

Keep your wireless phone dry. The biggest threat to your device during a hurricane is water, so keep your equipment safe from the elements by storing it in a baggie or some other type of protective covering.

Try text messaging your family if voice does not seem to work. During an emergency situation, text messages may go through more quickly than voice calls because they require fewer network resources. Important: you cannot send a text message to 9-1-1 at this time, but you may notify a family member you need help.  That family member may be able to call for emergency services.

If you are relocated as a result of the storm, moved to a shelter or staying with friends or family, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and have the exact address written down.
When the 9-1-1 call taker answers the phone, you will be asked the location of your emergency and to describe exactly what happened.   Please provide the exact street address, remain calm and briefly describe the type of incident you are reporting.  Stay on the line with the call taker; do not hang up until the call taker tells you. Let the call-taker ask you questions.
The professional 9-1-1 call takers have been trained to ask questions that will prioritize the incident, confirm your location, and dispatch an appropriate response.  It is very important to understand that the questions are not delaying the dispatch and response of the emergency response personnel.  Emergency units are responding while the call taker continues to ask additional questions or to obtain ongoing information.

It is also a good idea to make sure your burglar alarm system is in proper working order.  Make sure your battery back-up system is in place to prevent false alarms during power outages.

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