With 40% of U.S. hurricane landfalls happening in Florida, hurricane season can be very stressful for Keys residents, and especially so for expectant parents and families with young children. To stay safe and be prepared, families are encouraged to start getting ready now, before a storm approaches.
It is important for families to have a family plan as well as an emergency kit with supplies and necessary items. You may not have time to gather items and formulate a plan with an impending storm so begin slowly preparing your plan and gathering items now.
The first step is to develop and practice your family’s emergency plan. Some things to consider are 1). knowing your home’s specific risks,
2). preparing several evacuation or shelter options for your family,
3). making an emergency kit with ample supplies for each person and pet,
4).gathering items to secure your home,
5). being sure all family members know whom to call if separated, and letting family or friends in other locations know your storm plans.
Pregnant women should also include an alternative birth plan in emergency preparations, in case of evacuation. During major storms, Monroe County officials may issue a mandatory or voluntary evacuation. Many local services such as emergency response and hospitals are closed or limited during evacuations, so pregnant women are encouraged to heed orders to evacuate. An alternative birth plan should take into account finding a hospital in a safe location away from the storm’s path, locating a place for herself and her family to stay near the hospital and notifying her local doctor of her hurricane plans.
For the health of their unborn baby and themselves, pregnant women should continue healthy habits such as exercising, reducing stress, taking prenatal vitamins, nutritious eating and following up on their prenatal care during and after a storm.
If needed, pregnant women or families with children that have special needs may also register with the Monroe County Special Needs Registry for evacuation transportation to the Special Needs Shelter. Depending on the storm, this shelter may be located in or out of the county. Residents who are evacuated to a Special Needs Shelter are returned to their home once the “all clear” has been given and their area has been cleared for available power and water as well as an exterior verification for damage to the residence.
After developing an emergency plan, families should begin compiling their emergency supply kit. Preparing for a storm doesn’t have to be difficult. However, in times of stress, basic necessities can be forgotten so start slowly stock-piling and/or identifying necessary items before a storm approaches.
First, prepare a standard hurricane preparation list of items needed for your home (such as shutters, sandbags, coolers, and flashlights) and each family member and pet (food, water, medication, clothing and personal items). In addition, pregnant women and families with young children may use the checklists of suggested items (below). This will help ensure you have everything you need while you are away from home.
By beginning now to pack your supply kit and make arrangements for emergency storm plans, you will be better prepared to make decisions and take action to protect your family in the event of a hurricane. For printable checklists to prepare your family for hurricane season, click on the link below.
Keeping babies and children safe and happy during and after a storm should also be an important priority. If you choose to stay at home during a storm, be aware of child hazards such as heavy, sharp hurricane shutters, downed power lines and flooded streets, filled bathtubs as a drowning risk, and be sure to store gas and operate generators away from children.
Children are affected by changes in mood and environment due to disasters just as much as adults, causing fear, anxiety, and stress that may last long after the initial impact. That’s why parents should do everything they can to minimize the effect. Experts suggest parents limit a child’s exposure to media coverage of the storm, as well as listening to and comforting your child to ease their fears, and establishing routines and norms even if away from home. If evacuated, pack your child’s favorite things such as blankets, dolls or music to comfort her and include games or toys to help pass the time.
The Florida Health Department has produced some information for hurricane preparedness, which is available here. Click on any of the links below to download a .pdf version that is printable.