08:19 AM

Reach out - help a neighbor

Their first hurricane season could have been a disaster

Relocating to a new state is challenging. But, when you arrive during hurricane season, it could be overwhelming as well.

The destructive force of a hurricane can be devastating with heavy winds, tornadoes, and storm surges. It can cause severe damage and life-threatening injuries. These things are challenging to the average person, but, even more so, to those who may need help to navigate the storm.

If you have neighbors who may need to rely on others before and after a disaster, there are many ways you can help them.

For Cory and Laura VanPutten, their first hurricane season in Florida was less stressful than they feared, thanks to helpful neighbors.

On the first day in their new home, Laura met their new neighbors, Tim and Lisa Smith, across the street and they became fast friends. As a new Florida resident, Laura was a little concerned about hurricanes.

Their new friends lost no time ensuring Laura and Cory understood the importance of protecting themselves, their property, and preparing for the worst.

“We were aware of the need to prepare, but we didn’t know where to start if a hurricane came ashore in Florida. Lisa suggested a list of supplies, such as bottled water and flashlight batteries to keep on hand. In addition, creating a home inventory and evacuation kit in case the storm might enter our path are essential.” said Laura.      

Protecting the residence and keeping a “few” creature comforts are important, as well. Cory and Tim discussed exterior preparation such as, bracing the garage doors, portable generator operation and safety, extra heavy-duty extension cords, and removal of any items on the property that may become missiles when high winds hit the area.

Cory noted, “And if evacuation is not necessary, a window air conditioner is a nice luxury. It was so reassuring to have good neighbors across the street. We cannot thank the Smiths enough for guiding us through our first hurricane season here in Central Florida.”

While it’s important to help all neighbors, the elderly are particularly vulnerable during hurricanes. They may have a harder time preparing and evacuating. Taking the time to check-in on your neighbor before, during, and after a hurricane can make a huge impact.

Help them prepare before a hurricane hits: 

  • Help your neighbor gather any supplies they may need.  
  • Suggest they create a home inventory of their possessions. This can be a written list, captured on a digital app or video — or a combination of these tools − whatever is easiest for them. 
  • Prepare with water. Fill containers, buckets, or tubs so they can flush toilets and wash hands, in the event they are not required to evacuate, and their water supply is cut off. 
  • Assist in storing any non-secure items around their property in the home or garage, such as patio furniture, garbage bins and landscaping ornaments.

Help them evacuate: 

  • Check to see if they have put together a basic emergency kit. For the elderly, it’s particularly important to include their medical prescriptions. 
  • Help them make contact with relatives or friends not affected by the storm so they have a safe place to evacuate. 
  • Car safety: Help them make sure gas tanks are full and they have a hurricane evacuation kit ready to go in their vehicle.

Check-in after the storm passes: 

  • After the storm and when it is safe to do so, check-in with your neighbors to assure them you are safe and ask how they weathered the storm. 
  • Make sure they are comfortable and have any emergency numbers or supplies they may need. 
  • If you can, continue to check in every few days.

Remember to check for the latest health and safety guidelines from your local officials and the CDC.

Natural disasters can be scary and life-threatening. But as the VanPutten’s can attest, coming together to check on each other can make a big difference. These two couples have inspired other neighbors to help each other, not only during hurricane season, but year-round. Maybe they’ve started a trend.

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