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Be prepared in case big storms hit us

Wednesday 31 October 2018 | Written by Richard Moore | Published in Weather


Be prepared in case big storms hit us
A storm surge could go inland for several kilometres. 18103011

With three cyclones predicted to approach the Cook Islands this cyclone season it is time to do a check list of how prepared you and your family are for an emergency situation.

One of the main things to remember is that in the event of a major cyclone authorities may not be able to come to your assistance right away and so you have to be self-sufficient for a number of days.

That means having enough bottled water for each person you are responsible for in your home.

Experts believe that each person needs four litres of drinking water a day in average outdoor temperatures. In the heat of Rarotonga’s cyclone season they say the maximum time people can survive without water may be three days.

And water from the tap is unlikely to be safe so it needs to be boiled for three minutes to kill dangerous bacteria before being safe to drink, or cook with.

In your food stockpile it is important to have non-perishable goods in cans, or dried goods.

They can include soups, tuna or corned beef, packets of crackers, health bars.

And don’t forget to ensure you have a working manual can opener.

See the sidebar story for more details on what to stock up on.

Depending upon the severity of the cyclone the winds will be anywhere from 125km/h to 280 km/h.

Cyclones come in five categories ranging from the weakest, Category 1, to Category 5.

The potential damage done by a Category 1 storm will be minimal house damage, and crops and trees will be hit. By the time you get to Category 4 with winds of more than 225km/h, there is significant roofing damage likely, widespread power failures and dangerous airborne debris.

So emergency management experts ask people to clean up around their property and make sure there is nothing for high winds to pick up and hurl around. Putting tape across your windows will lessen the risk posed by flying shards if the glass breaks.

Ensure your roof is secure and tied down and keep everyone inside when the winds start to pick up.

The major cause of fatalities during cyclones or hurricanes is water. Tides can surge for kilometres inland.

During this year’s Cyclone Florence in the United States, the storm surge — essentially the water pushed ashore by all that wind — was four metres above the normal water level.

Weather expert Carl Parker says a 1.5 to 3-metre storm surge means “... you're not going to get out of there. You're done."

So if the authorities order you to evacuate and move to a shelter then do so, it may save you and your family.

If you are not evacuated then your hou se needs to have an emergency kit with a portable battery radio, torch and spare batteries; matches, fuel lamp, portable stove, cooking gear, eating utensils; and a first aid kit, masking tape for windows and waterproof bags.

When the cyclone strikes disconnect all electrical appliances and listen to your battery radio for updates.

Stay inside and shelter - well clear of windows - in the strongest part of the building. When things have calmed down stay inside until you are officially told it is safe to venture out. Be careful of downed power lines and stay off your phone as it may interfere with emergency network usage.

Check on your neighbours to make sure they are okay.

Water and other vital things to have

The most important thing to stock up on is bottled water as a cyclone could knock out any hope of assistance for a week or more.

You need to set aside at least four litres a day per person and that equates to 28 litres a week for everyone in your home.

Things can also be included sports drinks, fruit juice, and other drinks in boxes or plastic bottles.

If you need to get water from the tap it must be kept at a rolling boil for at least three minutes to kill bacteria. If you don’t have water purification tablets then 1/8 of a teaspoon of new, unscented household bleach will do the trick.

Cartons of long-life milk are also good, as unlike powdered milk they do not require water to be added.

Cans of food - soups, stews, vegetables, beans - are a must as they are non-perishable foodstuffs. They can also be eaten hot or cold.

Canned tuna, corned beef or vacuum-sealed pouches of sausages can also be lifesavers.

Long shelf-life snacks: Crackers, apples, oranges and pears, health bars, dried fruit, nuts, cereal, peanut or other nut butters. Stay away from bread and other items that need refrigeration as they will go bad in a short time.

If you have pets make sure you have enough for them as well.

Do not forget to check that your can-opener works.

Other necessary items are:

• Swiss Army Knife or other multi-purpose tool.

• Disposable plates.

• Garbage bags, zip-top bags, paper towels, hand sanitizer or wipes, storage containers.

• Fuel for cooking or for vehicles.

• First aid kit and any medications.

• Flashlights, batteries.

• Cell phone, battery radio.

• Blankets or sleeping bags, sturdy shoes, extra sets of clean clothes.

• Sun screen, bug spray.

• Hygiene items.