Everything You Need to Know about Hurricane Preparation in Puerto Rico
- Posted: August 23, 2019
- Posted by: Sheila Olson
- Last Reviewed: August 23, 2019
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. The failure to prepare reached the highest levels of government. In September 2018, then-Governor Rosello upgraded the country’s hurricane preparation plan, beginning with additional warehouses stocked with food and bottled water and improved satellite communications infrastructure.
As welcome as the governor’s focus on hurricane preparation might be, however, it’s not enough for individuals and families weathering a storm at home. If you live in Puerto Rico, here’s what you should know about preparing for the next dangerous hurricane.
Be aware of storms during hurricane season
Technically, Puerto Rico’s hurricane season runs from June through November, but most hurricanes take place between August and October. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains the National Hurricane Center website which gives up-to-date information about developing storms.
Check it often during hurricane season and have a plan to evacuate or shelter in place long before a storm is bearing down. Keep an NOAA weather radio and extra batteries in your emergency kit.
Buy a generator and stock up on gas
There’s a good possibility you’ll lose electricity if a hurricane strikes, and it may take several days before power is restored. Buy the smallest possible generator that will meet your needs—most people only need something to power a fan, charge a few devices, and keep a small refrigerator cold.
Remember to follow the directions for safe generator use; never plug your generator directly into the wall to avoid backfeed that may injure powerline workers.
Don’t forget to keep enough gas on hand to fuel your generator for several days. It’s a good idea to keep 8 to 10 gallons on hand in case fuel trucks can’t get to your part of the island to restock local gas stations.
Prepare an emergency supplies kit
In addition to a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food per person, FEMA reminds everyone to remember these other essentials:
- Devices to communicate with family either by phone or email
- A seven-day supply of any daily medications you take
- First-aid kit
- Pet food and other necessary pet supplies
- Birth certificates, passports, and other critical documents (stored in a waterproof container)
- Matches, flashlights, and a multi-tool with can opener
- Trash bags, bathroom tissue, and other hygiene supplies
- Sleeping bag or blanket and pillow
- Books, cards, or other items to help pass the time
- Irreplaceable items you cannot afford to lose
Keep a go-bag in case you need to evacuate
Each member of your family should have his or her own bag; a backpack or drawstring nylon bag are good options. Have a change of clothes, daily medications, device chargers, and copies of your birth certificate or ID and insurance cards.
If you’re the head of your household, keep copies of everyone’s documents in your go-bag. Buy a flash drive and store photos of all your household possessions in case you need to file an insurance claim later. It’s a good idea to scan all your family’s important records and documents, as well, such as medical and vaccination records, passports, and Social Security cards. If you own your home, scan your deed or title documents.
Keep a week’s worth of cash on hand at a minimum. When the power goes out, credit and debit cards are useless. After the storm ends, banks may limit the daily amount of cash you can withdraw for awhile, so make sure you have cash to cover your needs.
Stay safe after the storm
If you evacuated, don’t re-enter your home until it has been inspected and declared safe. The electrical lines and sewer system may be damaged.
Throw away any food in your fridge and any other foodstuffs exposed to floodwater. It’s better to be overly cautious and throw away anything you’re not sure about. Don’t drink tap water until you know it’s safe. Boil it or use a purifying system if you don’t have bottled water on hand.
Floodwater is packed with germs and bacteria. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you come in contact with it. Thoroughly disinfect any surfaces in your home affected by flood.
Follow the government’s warnings about flooded roads; avoid and report any downed power lines.
Protect against insects
Bug populations multiply in the standing water after a hurricane. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using insect repellent with DEET to protect against floodwater mosquitoes.
Use a product such as Mosquito Dunks on any standing water near your home to kill mosquito larvae.
Be prepared for an explosion of fire ants after a hurricane. These nasty ants are actually waterproof and flock together for survival in a flood. Wear cuffed gloves, rubber boots, and long pants when you’re cleaning standing water in your yard in case you run into a fire ant colony.
Hurricane season in Puerto Rico is stressful, but you can do a lot to secure yourself and your property if you stay informed and prepared. Have your evacuation route planned in advance and keep your car’s gas tank at least half full during the season. It’s also a good idea to have life vests for every member of your family, including your pets.