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Preparing For A Disaster During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Planning and preparing for hurricanes and other natural disasters can be stressful, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Know how the COVID-19 pandemic can affect disaster preparedness and recovery, and what you can do to keep yourself and others safe.

Understand which hazards you are likely to face

Determine your exposure to each hazard for your location – where you live, attend school, work, or play. Contact your state or local government emergency management agency for help understanding the hazards likely to affect your location, including storm surge, flash flooding, river flooding, high winds, tornadoes, and rip currents.

  • Learn about your community’s response plan for these hazards and determine if these plans have been adapted because of COVID-19. Stay current on advice and restrictions from your state and local public health authorities as it may affect your actions and available resources.
  • Teach all adult and teen family members how to shut off electrical, gas and water utilities.
  • Find out if you live in a designated hurricane storm surge evacuation zone. Many communities have designated evacuation zones and routes. Make yourself familiar with them, so if local authorities issue an evacuation notice, you’ll know if you are affected and where to go.
  • Find out if you live in a flood zone. Flood zones are areas mapped by the federal government, to inform residents of their risk for flooding.

Prepare to meet your basic needs

Hurricanes and other severe weather can knock out power, block roads, disrupt the response of emergency services, and cause stores and pharmacies to close for an extended period. COVID-19 adds to this complexity. Prepare now so that you have the critical knowledge, skills, and supplies to stay safe and meet your basic needs.

Learn critical skills

Take the time now to learn critical skills that you may need.

  • Learn First Aid and CPR. The Red Cross has a variety of online classes to learn these skills. Also, download the free First Aid App.
  • Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19 at and
  • Learn how to turn off your utilities in case you are instructed to do so. Learn how to use equipment safely i.e. generator, backup-battery supply for medical equipment, etc.

Gather emergency supplies

Assemble two kits of emergency supplies and a one-month supply of prescription medication. Start with this basic supply list. Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your supplies. Home delivery is the safest choice for buying supplies; however, that may not be an option for everyone. If in-person shopping is your only choice, take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands. Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Sign up for mail order delivery or call in your prescription ahead of time and use drive-through windows or curbside pickup, if available. Customize your kits to meet your needs. Stock food items that do not need refrigeration. Regularly replace items like water, food, medications, and batteries that go bad over time. Include cleaning, disinfectant, and hygiene items to protect against COVID-19.

  • Stay-at-home kit (2 weeks of emergency supplies): Include everything you need to stay at home for at least 2 weeks with items such as food, water, cleaning and disinfectant supplies, soap, paper products and personal hygiene items.
  • Evacuation kit (3 days of supplies in a “go bag”): Your second kit should be a lightweight, smaller version that you can take with you if you need to evacuate. Include everything you need to be on your own for 3 days – food, water, personal hygiene items, and cleaning and disinfectant supplies that you can use on the go (tissues, hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol and disinfection wipes). Ensure that you have cloth face coverings, such as masks and scarves, for everyone in your home who can wear one safely. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unable to remove it without help. Remember, wearing a cloth face covering is not a substitute for physical distancing. In public, be prepared to continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others AND wear a cloth face covering if you can do so safely.
  • 1-month supply of prescription medication, as well as over-the-counter medications like cough suppressants and fever reducing drugs and medical supplies or equipment. Keep these items together in a separate container so you can take them with you if you have to evacuate.

Evacuation Planning

Learn your community’s evacuation plan. Then, make an evacuation plan with your household members. Know where you will go, how you will get there, where you will stay, how you can protect yourself from COVID-19, and what you will bring. Ask friends/relatives outside your area if you would be able to stay with them. If they have people in their home at higher risk for serious COVID-19 illness, make other arrangements. Check with hotels, motels, and campgrounds to see if they are open. Find out what sheltering resources are available from local emergency management officials, and if sheltering plans have been adapted because of COVID-19. Familiarize yourself with the CDC recommendations for staying safe in a public disaster shelter during COVID-19. Don’t forget to have a plan for your pets as well.

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