It may not matter too much for folks in Nebraska or Nevada, but for people up and down the Atlantic side of the U.S., it’s officially hurricane season.
Going into the weekend, the National Hurricane Center is predicting that Florida will be hit by a tropical storm on Saturday. That will be followed by a barrage of showers and thunderstorms that analysts say will kickstart above-average hurricane activity for the year.
Experts predict that we will see as many as 21 named storms, 10 hurricanes (with winds of more than 74 mph), and as many as six “major” hurricanes (with winds of 111 mph or higher).
Prepare to hunker down
It doesn't matter what federal agency you ask; they all say that getting out ahead of a storm is key. Once a storm is imminent, stores, gas stations, and other businesses will be besieged by folks who waited until the last minute to get necessary items. Anything that can be done in advance will put a person in a more advantageous position to escape the storm successfully and safely.
To help consumers prepare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a list of essential tips that storm area residents can take to keep them out of harm’s way. Those include:
Phone numbers: Write down emergency phone numbers and keep them on the refrigerator or near every phone in your house. Program them into your cell phone too.
Emergency kits: Prepare an emergency supply kit that includes everything from emergency power sources (like flashlights) to personal ID documents. The American Red Cross has suggestions for what the public should put in those kits.
Shelters: Locate the nearest storm shelter and know the different routes you can take to get there from your home. If shelter locations in your area have not been identified, learn how to find them in the event of a storm.
Pet owners: Pre-identify shelters, a pet-friendly hotel, or an out-of-town friend or relative where you can take your pets in the event of an evacuation. Local animal shelters may be able to offer advice on what to do with your pets if you are asked to evacuate your home. Pet owners should also consider making a separate emergency kit specifically for their pets.
Unplug your appliances: Turn off the gas, electricity, and water to your home to prevent additional damage if the storm hits your home.
Fill clean water containers with drinking water: Do this in case you lose your water supply during the storm. You can also fill up your sinks and bathtubs with additional water.
Clear your yard: Make sure there’s nothing that could blow around during the storm and damage your home. Move bikes, lawn furniture, grills, propane tanks, and building materials inside or under shelter.
Another suggestion that ConsumerAffairs found is to add some emergency/disaster apps to your phones. Verizon and AT&T have their own lists of suggested apps, and T-Mobile provides "emergency alerts" of its own.
Beware of scammers after a storm
The last thing anyone should have to worry about in a disaster situation is someone who's trying to scam them or fleece them for an extra buck or two, but that's the world we live in now.
Teresa Murray, who is a consumer watchdog at the U.S. PIRG, says con artists have posed as federal employees, insurance agents, and housing inspectors to steal information and money after past disasters. She also noted that consumers may receive fake flood robocalls that promise victims money in exchange for providing personal information.
Murray advises anyone who is in disaster safety mode to ask for appropriate identification from anyone who contacts them.
"Don’t give out personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank account information, policy numbers or anything else to someone you didn’t contact independently," she suggests. "And don't pay in cash or with a wire transfer or gift card."