September - The Middle of Hurricane Season!

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September, Emergency Preparedness Month, marks the halfway point of hurricane season. Probably not a coincidence. You may also have noticed there is, in fact, a hurricane, Florence, heading toward the southeastern coastline of the U.S. as I write this (9/10/18).

Current predictions are for Florence to slam into the Carolinas with a Category 4 level storm Thursday evening or Friday morning. If the predictions hold true, it will be the strongest hurricane to make landfall this far north along the Eastern seaboard.

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If you live along the east coast from Northern Florida (predicted storm tracks have been known to shift) to southern Virginia and inland as well, you would do well to consider this your ‘late stage” preparation time.

The comprehensive list making I suggested in the first part of this series will have to wait. Your more immediate concerns are for extra water, food, fuel, and protective measure for your family, home and property.

Remember, as you go about securing the added supplies you’ll need, this is the type of emergency that affects your whole community. Try to reasonably estimate what it will take to get you and yours through the next 4-5 days once the storm hits your area and wherever possible, leave some for your neighbor, as well.

Thankfully, this is not the 50’s or 60’s when we were building bomb shelters and storing enough food to survive a “nuclear winter.” In addition, power companies are getting pretty good and pre-positioning equipment and crews (from all over) ready to begin restoring power as soon as the storm passes.

If you own or rent a house, a portable generator can provide some helpful comforts until power is restored. It can really save your bacon (and the other perishables in your refrigerator) as well as power a fan, light or radio. If you do not have a generator available, make sure you have a supply of extra batteries and remember to charge up cell phones and power storage devices.

Food choices should be nutritious, filling and require little or no cooking. Medications should be stored in a clean dry location with enough for a week if possible.

When you’re getting extra water, you may want to get a few gallon jugs for minor cleaning up in the sink and fill your tub with water before the storm arrives. You can use this water for flushing toilets (If you are without power, the pump to refill your toilet tank will not operate).

Secure your house or apartment as best you can; clear or bring inside outdoor furniture, toys, or equipment that could easily take flight. Flying debris is another level of threat. While you’re out there, check to see if any neighbors need help getting ready, especially the elderly and those who may have medical or mobility challenges.

As I mentioned in part one, information is essential, so check with federal Websites such as www.ready.gov and listen for local updates about the location and timing of storm movement and evacuation instructions. Fill up your escape vehicle in case you’re directed to leave the area.

Regardless of where you are, take time to assess your specific weather-related emergency risks and prepare. Your individual circumstances will dictate what you need to do, but the important thing is, do it, NOW. Good luck.

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James Benson, Chief Communications Officer

James Benson is a career public relations executive with over 38 years’ experience communicating with diverse audiences in a wide variety of venues. A retired Air Force officer, he spent the latter half of his Air Force career as a public affairs officer enjoying a series of one-of-a-kind positions with equally unique communication challenges. From arranging press conferences, to producing news and training videos, to explaining research, development and contracting issues to the media, he enjoyed tuning in to each audience to ensure the message was received and understood. As the marketing director of a mid-sized hospital, Mr. Benson directed the advertising and promotion of membership and referral programs and community health fairs, conducted outreach efforts to rural health care clinics and community education programs, created a trade show display and produced and hosted a radio health program. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Benson served as a senior public affairs executive responding to media requests, preparing senior officials and subject matter experts for media interviews, hosting a magazine-style television program with benefit information for Veterans and providing emcee support for numerous department and public ceremonies and special events. As an adjunct professor, Mr. Benson has taught classes in communications for the past 10 years. Currently, Mr. Benson is providing strategic communications, media relations and marketing support to B & G Educational Innovations, LLC, makers of ReaLifeSim clinical simulation training products