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Avoid disaster and be prepared this hurricane season

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Knowing the steps to take before, during and after a hurricane could save your life. (Source: MGN) Knowing the steps to take before, during and after a hurricane could save your life. (Source: MGN)

(RNN) - The month of September is not only National Hurricane Preparedness Month, but also the anniversary of one of the worst hurricanes to hit the Southeast - Hurricane Hugo.

When Hugo made landfall in South Carolina on Sept. 21, 1989, it caused billions of dollars' worth of damage, took 21 lives on the U.S. mainland and left thousands homeless.

Ready.gov, FEMA and NOAA have drastically improved their efforts to increase awareness in recent years to prevent such devastation from occurring again.

If you venture over to ready.gov's website you'll find that this year's motto is “Be disaster aware, take action to prepare.”

According to the website, the universal building blocks of preparedness are to “be informed, make a plan, build a kit and get involved.”

Even if a hurricane isn't currently threatening your area, awareness could save your life in the case of any emergency.

We've outlined some of the important steps to take not only before a hurricane but also during and after one.

Before

Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.

Cover all of your home's windows, either with storm shutters or 5/8" marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape will not prevent your windows from breaking.

Learn the elevation of your property and whether or not the area is flood prone. This will help you know if your property will be affected in the case of flooding.

Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame of your home.

Reinforce your garage doors.

Unclog or clear all outdoor drains, rain gutters and downspouts.

Buy extra batteries.

During

Listen to a radio or TV for information.

Secure your home, close storm shutters and either secure your outdoor furniture or bring it inside.

If you're instructed to turn off utilities, turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting and keep the door closed.

Turn off propane tanks.

Stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors.

Close all interior doors.

Keep curtains and blinds closed.

Stay in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level of your building or home.

Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water to use for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets.

Experts warn to be extremely cautious even if there is a lull in the storm - the lull could be the eye of the storm and winds will pick back up afterwards.

Note: It is also important to evacuate if you are instructed to do so, particularly if you live in a mobile home. Mobile homes and similar structures are particularly dangerous during hurricanes, even if they are fastened to the ground.

After

Continue to listen to the radio for any updates.

If you have evacuated, do not return until officials say it's safe.

If you cannot return home for a period of time, text SHELTER plus your zip code (Ex: Shelter 1234) to 4FEMA (43362) to find the nearest shelter in your area.

If you have long-term housing needs, you can apply for FEMA assistance here. You can also search for rental housing using the FEMA Housing Portal

Before re-entering your home, walk around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks or any sign of structural damage. If there is damage, take pictures for insurance purposes.

Watch for wild animals, particularly poisonous snakes that could have been displaced during the storm and use a stick to poke through debris before walking through it.

Never use a generator inside your home, garage shed or any enclosed area because deadly levels of carbon monoxide can build up and remain for hours – even after the generator is shut off. 

Keep away from loose power lines and report them to your local power company.

Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you know it isn't contaminated.

Visit http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes for the complete list.

For more information on National Preparedness Month and how you can get involved in the campaign, visit www.ready.gov/september.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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