Hurricane evacuation in the era of COVID-19 adds a new dimension of stress. Make sure your family is prepared.

The 2020 hurricane season is upon us, with an added twist – COVID-19. This means adding virus protection protocols to your evacuation planning.

Hurricanes can knock out power, block roads, disrupt emergency response services, and cause stores and pharmacies to close for an extended period. COVID-19 adds to this complexity. Prepare now so that you can meet your basic needs safely and with less worry.

Take COVID-19 protocols into consideration during evacuation preparation

The Centers for Disease Control has tips to help you safely prepare, evacuate, and shelter from storms while protecting yourself and others from COVID-19. The Red Cross also offers helpful information for many kinds of disasters, including downloadable checklists. These lists include information such as:

  1. Adjust your thinking. It’s important to understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Go about preparations systematically without rushing.
  2. Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your food, water, and medical supplies. If you can, use home delivery to buy disaster supplies. If that’s not an option, take the proper steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands.
  3. Fill prescriptions using a drive-thru window, curbside pickup, or mail order to limit in-person visits. The Red Cross recommends that your evacuation kit contains a one-month supply of prescription medication, as well as over-the-counter medications and medical supplies or equipment.
  4. Watch or listen to the news for local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, and make sure you know a safe place to go. Have several ways to receive weather alerts such as:
    1. The National Weather Service mobile phone alerts
    2. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Radio
    3. The NOAA Twitter alerts (@NWS)
  5. Don’t forget about your pets – they’ll need shelter, too. And create an emergency kit for them as well. Check for pet-friendly lodging. Also make a list of local boarding facilities and veterinary offices outside the “danger zone” that will be open and might be able to shelter your animals.
  6. When you check on neighbors and friends, follow social distancing recommendations by staying 6 feet away from them. Remember, if you’re evacuating to a new area, it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself and others.

Things to do if you evacuate to a shelter

When your state or local government orders an evacuation, or leaving makes you feel safer, true safety depends on protecting yourself from COVID-19 as well the hurricane. When you evacuate, be sure to follow CDC travel protocols.

If you may need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19:

  • Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Bar or liquid soap
  • Disinfectant wipes 
  • Two masks for each person

Remember that masks should not be used by children under the age of 2or by people who have trouble breathing, are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove their mask without assistance.

If you go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:

  • Practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from others
  • Wash your hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, and follow shelter policy for mask-wearing
  • Avoid sharing food
  • Follow all protection protocols set by the shelter
  • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces like handrails and door handles, and be especially aware in restrooms. After touching any of these surfaces, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Clean and disinfect your shelter living area, as well as frequently touched items like toys, mobile phones, other electronics, cooler chests, etc
  • Make sure children understand the rules and do not leave them unattended

If you feel sick when you arrive at the shelter or start to feel sick at any time, notify the shelter staff immediately.

If you lodge with friends or family, stay safe

If you’re fortunate, you have friends or family who live in a safe location within a reasonable driving distance. As with your drive to a shelter, follow CDC safety guidance. Then follow these tips for a safe visit:

  • Talk to the people you plan to stay with and come up with a plan so everyone stays safe. Be sure to communicate that plan to everyone, and if possible, put it in writing and post it around the house. Make sure children understand as well.
  • If anyone is at a higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, make sure everyone knows what they can do to keep themselves as safe as possible. Risk factors include:

Because COVID-19 is a new disease, there might be an increased risk for those with asthma, pregnancy, smoking, and other conditions. Review the complete list of conditions that might boost risk.

Follow the usual preventative actions we listed above. If living space is tight, follow the CDC guidelines for living in close quarters. These include: limit errands, separate anyone who is sick, and make sure those at highest risk avoid caring for children or anyone who is sick.

Make sure to plan what happens if someone should get sick with COVID-19.

Safety after a hurricane

The winds have calmed, the rain has stopped, and you’re ready to head back to your home. While the hurricane danger may be gone, COVID-19 is still lurking in the background, and it’s important to stay safe and mentally healthy.

  • Follow preventative measures to protect yourself and others.
  • If you’re injured or became ill during the evacuation, contact your medical provider, and keep any wounds clean to prevent infection.
  • Dealing with disasters is stressful and can cause strong emotions, and COVID-19 doesn’t help. You might feel anxiety, grief, and worry. This is natural. Get the help you need to cope; it will benefit you, your family, and aid community recovery.
  • If you have a preexisting mental health problem or addiction issues, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides communities and responders with behavioral health resources that help them prepare, respond, and recover from disasters. And, they make it easy to find local resources.
  • It’s not unusual after a hurricane for rats, mice, and other pests to try to find shelter in your home or building. There’s already increased rodent activity due to restaurant closures as they look for food. Follow CDC recommendations to keep these pests out of your home.

Make sure you’re covered for home and auto losses during a disaster

Take steps now to protect your home and auto so you can weather the upcoming hurricane season. Be sure you also contact a licensed insurance agent to ensure you have the coverage you need if the worst happens.

If you have questions about your insurance coverage or you’re interested in a quote, contact us today.

This blog and website are made available by the publisher for educational and informational purposes only. It is not to be used as a substitute for competent insurance, legal, or tax advice from a licensed professional in your state.