As Caribbean people, a part of our life centers around preparing for the annual Hurricane season and hoping that we never have to pick up the pieces after such a calamity strikes.
However, for some of our brothers and sisters in Dominica and Puerto Rico that is a reality that they must cope with daily as they rebuild their lives – sometimes from the ground up.
The 2018 Hurricane Season is upon us and with it our yearly look at if we are indeed hurricane ready, and some tips to help you if you find that you are a little short of the mark.
There are approximately 4.4 million people in the Caribbean that live in Low-Elevation Coastal Zones. These are coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level.
Due to the tourism product and the prevalence of fishing villages and the blue economy, many individuals live in those LECZs.
It is no surprise then that when Hurricane Irma in 2017 affected the Turks and Caicos, 85% of homes in those areas were destroyed.
Luckily, the governments in the region have recognized this as a concern and have plans to fortify these areas like what was done in Florida after Hurricane Andrew.
For Caribbean islanders, the focus may also be relocating to areas more inland that are less at risk from aspects of hurricanes like storm surge, flooding, and coastal erosion.
Building codes differ across the region, but there are a few things that are agreed upon that can reduce the ill-effects of a hurricane.
- Storm Surge Protection: Structures that are built along coastal areas are recommended to be built on higher ground. If waves are still able to reach the property then it should be elevated on steel or concrete; or anchored to solid rock.
- Roof Protection: During high winds, it is a known fact that roofs are especially vulnerable. This can be counteracted by anchoring your roof using roof trusses, roof hurricane ties, and/or securing the upper structure through the walls all the way down to the foundation.
- Window and Garage Door Protection: Other weak points are windows and garage doors. Airborne flying debris can compromise these points during severe weather. The use of Bahama, or aluminum rollshutters can provide protection. Another option is to install windows made of plastic, or shatterproof glass.
Naturally, in the advent of an impending storm, it makes sense that you familiarize yourself with all of your local emergency services and your nearest public hurricane shelter. For localized online information about your country, you can log on to CDEMA here. Accuweather.com is also a great resource for up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and satellite imaging.
What Can You Do?
As the storm approaches, we have prepared a step-by-step plan to stay safe and survive a hurricane.
- Sign up for local alerts or stay tuned to your local weather channel for updates to the hurricane. Hurricanes are natural weather phenomena and can change direction without warning.
- Preparing to evacuate if necessary is a good move. Pack your bags and plan your route to your nearest shelter or predesignated place to stay. If there is a flood warning, move to higher ground.
- Stock emergency supplies such as clean drinking water, non-perishable foods, and gasoline are among the more important things. These suggestions are not an exhaustive list of emergency supplies.
- Create a hurricane safe room. Having a safe place to stay in while the storm rages has been shown to increase survival rates should the integrity of the property fails.
- Protecting your property isn’t only securing windows and doors, but also reviewing insurance policies and cataloguing your belongings. Collect and safeguard all of your important financial, medical, educational, and legal documents.
- Invest in standby power for your home in the event that the electricity goes off during the hurricane.
- After the storm do not drink tap water until the authorities gives it the all clear.
- Do not go ‘exploring’ after the storm has passed. There may be many hidden dangers like exposed live wires.
In summary, our region is ranked as the second most dangerous place to live on earth primarily because of hurricanes, but with proper planning and initiatives from our local governments, we can be hurricane ready!