Early Response Teams respond in a Florida community in the wake of Tropical Story Debby in 2012.
By Susan Kim*
The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) shares the top five preparation tips offered by disaster responders in the United States to help you prepare in advance of the next storm. How many can you check off your list?
1. Strengthen your ties – to your neighbors, your church, your city. It's one of the most-emphasized recommendations in UMCOR's Connecting Neighbors Leadership Training Program, which gives volunteer trainers the tools and information they need to guide the development of local church disaster-response ministries. Your local efforts to broaden community ties will be further strengthened by UMCOR at a national level. Greg Forrester, assistant general secretary for U.S. Disaster Response, who has been elected to the board of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), says “As I work to strengthen UMCOR’s ties to other U.S. disaster response organizations, I urge you to strengthen your ties on the local level as well.”
2. Avoid “hurricane amnesia.” In Florida, Pam Garrison, who serves as disaster response coordinator for the Florida Annual Conference, is concerned that people have gotten complacent about major hurricanes. Although forecasters have predicted that the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be “below normal,” they are still predicting that two storms – either tropical storms or hurricanes – will make landfall in the United States. “All it takes is one,” said Garrison. Because the strongest winds in a hurricane are not located precisely at the center, it's possible for a storm to affect conditions over land even if landfall does not occur. For a hurricane survivor whose house is destroyed during a “quiet” hurricane season, the label is meaningless.
3. Buy flood insurance while you can. Reforms to laws governing the National Flood Insurance Program have slowed the rate increase in flood insurance premiums, pointed out Garrison. Simply put: “Buy flood insurance while it's cheap,” she recommended.
4. Go online and look at preparation lists. The Florida Annual Conference website has many hurricane preparation tips, as does the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website. Your state's emergency management website may also be a good source of information.
5. Follow the forecasts in your area. There are many ways to get the latest news on hurricanes in your area, pointed out Mike Yoder, disaster response coordinator for the North Georgia Annual Conference “We ask people to watch weather channels or listen to radio stations that offer the forecasts,” he said. “If the forecaster tells you to evacuate – move,” he added. “Don't try to ride the hurricane out.”
Prepare yourself and prepare UMCOR to respond immediately and over the long-term to hurricanes this season. Please give to UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response, Advance #901670.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.