WASHINGTON — You do have a plan, don’t you? And that plan is up to date, right? Your water, food, medicine and batteries are all good? Everyone in the family knows what to do, where to go and how to connect?
Or maybe not. First responders, forecasters and the people at the region’s biggest power company say: Now is the time to make your hurricane preparations.
“It’s been quite a while in the region since we’ve had our ‘Sandy’,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Strong.
Because of that, Strong, says few people in the Mid-Atlantic have a frame of reference like those in the Northeast who survived Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The National Weather Service is predicting between 11 and 17 “tropical cyclones” this year — systems ranging anywhere from below ‘name’ status to Category 5 hurricanes.
As always, Strong said, it’s a matter of when, not if, a devastating storm will hit us.
“Whether it’s a busy season or an inactive season, it really comes down to whether or not we get our turn for that big storm,” he said.
Strong, National Capital Region Red Cross CEO Linda Mathes and several Pepco managers gathered Friday to kick off hurricane season, which officially begins June 1. But they all agree that now is the time to prepare.
“This moment in time is a time to refresh, update, refine, fine-tune our plans,” said Mathes. And she said that starts with being hyperlocal.
“Know what emergencies can happen in your home … your neighborhood and your workplace.”
Is your home vulnerable to fire? Is there someone in the family who might have a medical emergency? Is your neighborhood flood-prone? Could a mudslide happen?
“It’s important to know them, think about them, plan for them,” she said.
Mathes said, communication within your family is another important part of the plan.
“Make plans in advance for how you’ll connect. Plan what you need to do if you’re directed to stay put or shelter in place,” she said. Often, that requires some specific actions or supplies.
The opposite is important too: Have a plan for what to do if you must evacuate your home.
If you’re home but without utilities, Pepco hopes you’ll keep in mind where your home falls on its priority list.
“We want to take care of those life-threatening situations first,” said Pepco Emergency Management Manager Pete Pedersen.
“Hospitals, 911 centers, water treatment, nursing homes. Those are all very high on our list of priorities,” he said. After that, it’s a numbers game.
“We look at how we [can] get the largest number of customers back in the shortest amount of time. If we get (a) substation back, we can literally pick up tens of thousands.”
Pedersen says it’s then down to feeder locks, line taps and other links in the chain, all the way down to that final customer on that last circuit.
“It is something we think about every day,” he said.