With the official hurricane season beginning June 1, Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal advises parish residents to be prepared. Although Washington Parish is not a coastal parish with concerns about rising tides and storm surges, there are valid concerns about wind and rising water. Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Isaac in 2012 are prime examples of damage that can be inflicted by high winds and flooding rains.
Common sense is the key to hurricane preparation. Residents should have a minimum three day supply of food for each member of the family, one gallon of fresh water per day for each family member, medications, and other essentials on hand throughout the season. Be especially attentive to supplies for babies, the elderly and dependent persons. In the event of an approaching storm, service and fuel all vehicles as far ahead as possible to avoid last minute lines at service stations. Have adequate fuel on hand for generators and outdoor grills.
The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness offers numerous suggestions for hurricane supplies on its website, www.getagameplan.org. Several practical items to have on hand include a battery operated alarm clock, a battery or crank operated radio or television, can and dried food, a non-electric can opener, a butane lighter, cash, fully charged cellular phones, extra pet food, cleaning supplies, extra batteries and a first aid kit. A flashlight should be on hand for each family member. It is also wise to have adequate clean up and repair supplies on hand, including chain saws and fuel.
Items that are often overlooked in storm preparation are valuable papers, including insurance policies, social security cards, birth certificates, wills, inventory of household goods, checkbooks, pictures and computer file backups. These can be useful in the event of a major disaster.
Before a storm strikes the parish, residents should carefully monitor weather reports, secure lawn furniture or other items that might be blown around, inspect and secure mobile home tie downs and otherwise prepare personal property for a wind event. Residents of mobile homes should seek other shelter when a hurricane warning is issued for the parish. Prior to the loss of power, it is a good idea to freeze containers of water to create ice and to fill bathtubs and large containers with water for sanitary purposes.
During a storm, residents are advised to remain indoors unless an evacuation order has been issued and to stay away from windows. Residents who use portable generators should only utilize them in well-ventilated areas and never in an enclosed area. Do not connect a generator to the main house power supply without proper installation by a qualified electrician.
After a storm, continue to monitor radio and television, if possible. Be aware that heavy cell phone use during and after a storm may cause disruptions in service and cellular phones should be used sparingly, primarily to report life-threatening emergencies. Texting may be more reliable after a storm. Assess your property for damage, including gas, water and electrical lines. Always assume downed power lines are live. Check on neighbors and any elderly persons who may live nearby.
It is very important to make plans for your family, but don’t forget animals. They, too, must be fed and cared for during a storm. Always try to provide shelter for animals and other pets during a storm event. As soon as possible after a storm event, check fences to prevent livestock from wandering off of your property.
If you need information or other assistance during a storm, call 211. This is an easy to remember telephone number that connects you to information about critical health and human services available during a time of crisis. 211 can be called from any cellular phone or landline in Louisiana and is staffed during a storm with trained specialists.
The Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office will have all available personnel on duty during a storm event. As long as telephone service is available, the Office can be reached at (985) 839-3434 for routine calls. When calling 911, be prepared to give necessary information including your name, your numeric address and a brief description of your emergency. Emergency 911 calls can always be made and residents are encouraged not to tie up the 911 number for non-emergency situations.
While the Sheriff’s Office will respond to calls during a storm event, residents should be prepared for the possibility of a delayed response due to roadways which might be blocked by fallen trees or rising water. Also, severe storm conditions might delay the ability of a deputy to be on the road and respond promptly.
Sheriff Seal stated, “The primary tool at your disposal before, during and after a storm event is common sense. Think ahead, be prepared and practice safety in all that you do. Do not become a statistic.”