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Be prepared for hurricanes, storms

As all of us in Louisiana know, hurricane season began on June 1.

I’ve been impressed by the precautionary measures taken at the state and local levels, but we also need to take the appropriate steps to ensure that our families are ready to face the challenges that may lie ahead. It is very important that you are informed and prepared, since it’s never too soon to start planning how you and your family will react to an approaching storm.

Pre-season forecasts of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season predict up to 20 named storms and as many as 11 hurricanes, with between three and six of them predicted to be major hurricanes.

In Louisiana, we are acutely aware of how dangerous and damaging these storms can be. And we also know that making preparations early is the best way to help ensure the safety of our families, since it is impossible to predict when disaster will strike.

For those living in coastal and other vulnerable areas, the first step you should take is to decide where you and your family will evacuate. It is a good idea to have an out-of-state friend or family member serve as a contact for your entire family. In the event that you and your family become separated, this contact will give you a common point of reference and a means to communicate with each other. Since cell phone communication can be compromised during a storm, this contact is essential to giving you the peace of mind that everyone is safe.

But preparation should not be limited to those in the most vulnerable areas. If you do not live in the coastal regions, you may have family or friends there. Consider inviting friends and family from the southern part of the state into your homes, since vacant hotel rooms are scarce during evacuations. Such generosity is crucial to those that must evacuate on such short notice.

It is important to also remember that even homes in northern parts of Louisiana can be vulnerable to damage. As we’ve seen in New Jersey, Oklahoma and Iowa, threats such as tornadoes, widespread rains and flooding often occur anywhere. So if you live far from the coast, you should still be mindful of these threats and can benefit from taking the necessary precautions to protect your home.

The National Hurricane Center recommends that you take steps such as creating a plan for your family, locating a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard, making a plan for your pets and taking first aid, CPR or disaster preparedness classes.

These are just a few of examples of how you can best prepare for the hurricane season. Hurricanes are part of life every year in Louisiana, but advance preparations can help reduce their impact on your family. I urge you to take hurricane watches and warnings seriously, and please plan ahead for your family’s safety and encourage your neighbors to do the same.


Sen. David Vitter represents Louisiana on the U.S. Senate.