Emergency Preparedness Month Week 5 – A NYC Hazard Guide

National Preparedness Month is an important chance for all of us to come together as families and communities to consider how we can better protect ourselves and others in the event of a sudden emergency. In observance of this month, SelectCare Home Care Services has dedicated all of our September blogs to different aspects of emergency preparation.

This week, we will review the emergency situations most commonly faced by New Yorkers and advice on how to overcome these hazards.

New Yorkers know that there is no such thing as a “normal” day in the city.  Whether it be visiting dignitaries or film shoots clogging traffic or subway delays stranding you in a hot train car, we all know to expect the unexpected.

Fortunately, while our day-to-day lives can be unpredictable, we as a city actually have a very clear understanding of the large-scale emergency events we might need to overcome throughout the year.  With that in mind, we will review the four most common emergency events in NYC and what you need to know in order to be prepared.

For a comprehensive, big-picture look at these hazards and more, the following NYC Office of Emergency Management and FEMA-sourced document is a great resource.

Hurricanes and Coastal Storms

Complete Guides from FEMA and NYC OEM

Hurricanes, Nor’easters, and Tropical Cyclones all vary slightly in terms of intensity and size, but all involve high-speed winds, heavy precipitation, and storm surges that can lead to inland flooding.  New York City is particularly hard-hit by these storms because the coasts of New York and New Jersey meet at a right angles, concentrating the force of the storm.

Hurricane Sandy - Photo by mconnors - via morguefile.com

Hurricane Sandy – Photo by mconnors – via morguefile.com

To prepare yourself for this hazard, you need two key pieces of information

  1. Hurricane warnings are announced well in advance of a possible storm.  Because evacuation or finding supplies during a storm is incredibly dangerous, this early warning is key to ensuring you are ready.  Notify NYC remains one of the best ways to get this information well in advance of a storm.
  2. Coastal storm experts have a very clear understanding of what parts of the city are most at-risk during these events. By knowing your flood zone, you can make an informed decision about whether to shelter in place or evacuate.

Additional Advice

  • If you own any outdoor furniture or other objects that might be picked up by the wind, either bring them inside, or securely tie them down to avoid injuring others.
  • Falling tree branches can lead to power outages in some parts of the city. Analog, landline telephones, flashlights, and batteries will help you stay connected to others and ride out the worst of the storm. Consider turning your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings to prevent spoiling in the event power is lost.
  • Beware of floodwaters if you are forced to evacuate. Just six inches of moving water is enough to sweep adults off their feet and the depth of floodwater can be extremely difficult to judge.
  • You may notice taller, high rise buildings sway slightly in heavy wind. Do not be alarmed, as this is a design feature in most modern buildings.  Additionally, you are more likely to lose water pressure in a high-rise, so be sure to keep a large emergency supply, as well as filling your bathtub and sinks.
  • If your home is being hit extremely hard by hurricane winds and does not feel safe DO NOT GO OUTSIDE. Instead, move to an interior room with as few windows as possible for shelter.

Extreme Heat

For a complete guide to NYC Extreme Heat Safety, visit the OEM’s page.

The term “Extreme Heat” describes temperatures and overall heat indices that hover at 10 or more degrees above the norm for an extended period of time.  High summer heat combined with NYC’s intense humidity and concentration of heat-trapping concrete surfaces combine to make this one of the most common emergency events we face.

To prepare for this type of hazard you will need two key pieces of information:

  1. Keep an eye on forecasts throughout the summer and limit your outdoor exposure and physical activity during periods of extreme heat. If you must perform strenuous activities in extreme heat, avoid doing so between 11am and 4pm, when temperatures are highest.
  2. Air conditioning saves lives. If you or someone you know does not have access to or cannot afford to operate an air conditioner during periods of extreme heat, it is strongly advised that you seek a city-run cooling center, which provides free air conditioning and some additional services.  These centers are typically found in publicly-owned buildings like libraries, as well as senior centers.

Additional Advice

  • Be sure to drink lots of fluids throughout the day, especially water. As we age, we become less sensitive to thirst, so be sure to have a glass before you feel thirsty.
  • If you are on any prescription medication, it is recommended you speak to your doctor and find out if the higher temperatures will impact your medication. Some medication needs to be stored at a specific temperature, while others can impact how your body regulates its heat or hydration levels.
  • If you are using an air conditioner in your home, resist the temptation to lower the temperature below 78 degrees. Doing so draws on additional electricity and can contribute towards a power outage.
  • Those with respiratory illnesses and/or asthma should be especially aware of air quality and remain in cool, air conditioned locations with well-filtered air.

Winter Weather and Heavy Snow in NYC

Complete Guides from FEMA and NYC OEM

Blizzard - Photo by KSAKSA - via morguefile.com

Blizzard – Photo by KSAKSA – via morguefile.com

Just as we are blessed with incredibly hot summers, New York City also enjoys incredibly cold winters.  While recent years have seen relatively fewer instances of snowfall, the snow that has landed and stuck to New York City streets has come in incredibly large amounts.  While extreme cold creates a less visible hazard than heavy snow, it can be equally, if not more dangerous.

To prepare for this type of hazard you will need two key pieces of information:

  1. Much like hurricanes, authorities generally have a good sense of when to expect heavy snowfall or severe cold. If you receive a warning about heavy snow or extreme cold, try to purchase any emergency supplies you may need well in advance of the storm to avoid chaotic last-minute shopping.
  2. When preparing for heavy snow, remember to store enough supplies to last several days beyond the duration of the storm itself. In the event of heavy snow, not all streets and curb cuts will be safe for use the following day and it might be some time before you can easily reach a local grocery store, especially if you have limited mobility.

Additional Advice

Prior to the storm:

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Know what winter storm watches and warnings mean.
  • Check on relatives, friends, and neighbors who may need assistance preparing for a storm.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions and avoid unnecessary travel.
  • Let faucets drip a little to help prevent freezing.

If your home’s main heating system fails:

  • Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use.
  • Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes, and carpeting at least three feet away from the heat source. NEVER drape clothes over a space heater to dry.
  • Always keep an eye on heating equipment. Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running.  Turn it off when you are unable to closely monitor it.
  • Be careful not to overload electrical circuits.

Final Remarks on Emergency Preparedness in NYC

While the publishing of this article marks the end of SelectCare’s National Preparedness Month celebrations, our efforts to protect our clients from all manner of emergency events will never be complete.  We work closely with state, city, and federal agencies to ensure our emergency preparedness policies remain at the forefront of the industry – not because it looks great on brochures, but because we have dedicated ourselves to being there for our clients when they need it most.

We all know what it is like to worry about the wellbeing of a loved one during an emergency – that’s why we as a company dedicate so many resources and so much time to ensuring that our community is prepared with complete communication plans, emergency supplies, and the information they need to protect themselves.

At SelectCare Home Care Services, helping our clients find stability, security and companionship during difficult times isn’t just our job – it’s our passion. To learn more about SelectCare and how we can help you or a loved one live independently and safely in the comfort of home, please call us today.