Are You Ready For The Cape’s Next Big Storm?

HYANNIS – Cape Cod can get hammered by both hurricanes and blizzards. Since a weather emergency can strike on short notice, it’s good to follow an ongoing practice of being prepared, said a local expert.

“Being on Cape Cod, we should always keep an eye on the weather,” said Sean O’Brien, coordinator of the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee and interim director of the county’s Department of Health and the Environment.

“After a tropical storm comes off the Bahamas, it has the potential to move quickly. The hurricane of 1938 moved north at 35 mph. It takes hardly any time to move from the Carolinas to southeast New England. Hurricane Bob in 1991 did the same thing. That’s why you need to maintain constant weather vigilance.”

Winter storms can also move quickly and unexpectedly.

Asked for the main thing for people to keep in mind, O’Brien replied, “Don’t panic but know your situation. Know if your house is in a flood zone and know where emergency shelters are located.”

Make a Plan

The county has lots of great information on the emergency preparedness section of its website. The advice falls into three categories:

  1. Get a kit
  2. Make a plan
  3. Be informed.

Crucial items in an emergency supply kit, according to O’Brien, include:

  • A flashlight
  • A radio
  • Non-perishable food
  • Medications, if needed.

“Water is also important, especially if you live in an area with a private well that depends on electricity,” he said. “Don’t forget to take care of your pets. Have food and water for them.

“Be sure to charge your cell phone in advance of a storm. It’s also good to have a landline, because a basic old phone may still work when the power is out.”

Planning ahead is also a necessity, O’Brien said. Depending on the situation, you should be ready to evacuate, shelter in place (at home) or go to an emergency shelter.

“Let your family members who are off-Cape know where you’re going to be,” O’Brien said. That will ease their concern, and they can also serve as a point of contact if your Cape family members get separated.

Staying informed is the third key area of preparedness.

“Use the Internet, apps or the TV – whatever works for you. It’s important and that’s what we do at the county,” he said.

Know Where Shelters Are

The county recently created a short animated video that gives an overview of the six emergency shelters on Cape Cod. The shelters are located at:

  • Sandwich High School
  • Falmouth High School
  • Barnstable Intermediate School (in Hyannis)
  • Dennis-Yarmouth High School (in South Yarmouth)
  • Cape Cod Regional Technical School (in Harwich)
  • Nauset Regional High School (in Eastham).

There’s also a shelter at Nantucket High School.

“Shelters are bare bones,” said O’Brien. “We’re there to give you a safe haven for a short time before you go back home. Don’t expect the Ritz. Bring food if you have a special diet. It’s a good idea to bring food in any case.”

The county’s video recommends packing for a shelter like you’re packing for a three-day trip, in terms of clothes and personal supplies.

Visit the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee website for the full list of components in an emergency supply kit and for other tips about disaster preparedness – and do it before the next big storm strikes.

By BILL O’NEILL, Cape Cod Health News

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