Choosing not to evacuate when told to do so puts you and your family at risk. By not evacuating, you risk being cut off from all emergency services during the height of the storm and potentially for days after. Most emergency services vehicles are pulled off the roads when sustained winds reach 45 mph. This means, that during a hurricane, you will spend a long period of time without any way of receiving emergency help. Many people who choose not to evacuate ahead of a storm quickly change their mind as conditions very quickly get very bad. Consider the worst case scenario…fire, or a health emergency. If you chose to stay, there will most likely be no help available in those scenarios.
You should have your fully stocked hurricane kit ready well before a storm approaches. Once the windows are boarded and loose items from the yard are secured it’s time to hunker down. Start building a “nest” in the room that’s the safest area of the house…that’s typically an interior room like a bathroom or closet with no windows. Put down a mattress or pillows, have some snacks and water handy, make sure you have a radio and flashlights all with extra batteries. Close but don’t lock all your interior doors to limit flying debris or wind flow should a window break. Also, be sure to have your pet carriers there for smaller animals. This keeps them protected and easier to move if needed. Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings and keep doors closed to preserve food as long as possible. Use cell phones sparingly. Fill your bathtub with water so you have clean water for cleaning or flushing toilets should you lose water access. Find a few activities for the children of your family that don't require electricity. Tune in to weather updates as often as possible. And finally, don't try to move to another location in the middle of the storm. Roads could be blocked by water or debris.
Shelters are only considered a last resort. They are uncomfortable and only contain the most basic of necessities. They do not allow pets and are often crowed and noisy. The best option is a hotel or with family members. If you are traveling well outside of the area, keep in mind that hurricanes can deliver strong winds and flooding hundreds of miles from the coast. It will be very important to take note of the potential impacts of the storm in the area you are evacuating to.
Even though mass care shelters often provide water, food, medicine and basic sanitary facilities, you should plan to take your disaster supplies kit with you so you will have the supplies you require. Mass care sheltering can involve living with many people in a confined space, which can be difficult and unpleasant. To avoid conflicts in the stressful situation, it is important to cooperate with shelter managers and others assisting them. Keep in mind that alcoholic beverages and weapons are forbidden in emergency shelters and smoking is restricted. Wherever you live, find out which shelters are closest to you. Make sure you know how to get there -- and practice the drive. Information about which shelters are open in your area will be available. Be aware that shelter locations can change quickly, so stay informed. Most public shelters are run by the Red Cross, but that doesn't mean medical care will be available. Some shelters will have food, others will not. It is best to bring your own. Don't expect to find a bed. Be ready to set up a home away from home on the floor. Hundreds of other people will be in the shelters, so be prepared to live with strangers at close quarters for an indefinite period of time. Go to a shelter as soon as an announcement is made that it is open; space is limited. Remember to secure your home and shut off water, gas and electricity before you leave.