Hurricane season officially began Monday, June 1, and the Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) encourages Louisianans to begin planning for potential storms and to sign up as a volunteer to assist during a crisis.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a below-normal season this year for the Atlantic region, which includes the Gulf of Mexico. Last week, the NOAA said there is a 70 percent likelihood that six to 11 named storms, of which three to six could become hurricanes, will develop this hurricane season. Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.
"We're happy to hear that 2015 should be a slow year for hurricanes, but Louisiana residents should still be proactive in preparing for a disaster," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert. "In fact, we've seen some of our worst storms during hurricane seasons that weren't supposed to be that bad, as slow-moving Category 1 or 2 storms can produce immense amounts of rain and storm surge."
Consider taking the following steps to prepare for hurricane season:
• Gather information such as phone numbers for relevant state agencies, local hospitals and your insurance agencies.
• Keep important health information on hand in case you have to leave your home.
• Assemble a disaster supply kit, which should include items such as water, food, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight and a first aid kit.
• Develop an emergency plan for yourself, your family and any pets you have, including potential evacuation routes.
• Follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's guidelines for food and water safety during a disaster.
• Take into account any special medical needs your family members may have, including the need for electricity to operate medical equipment, special dietary needs and any prescription medication a family member may be taking.
• Check on your friends and neighbors to make sure they have plans in place and won't need help during a crisis.
"When preparing for hurricane season, it's important for you to think about your health and your family's needs, especially if anyone has special medical needs," said State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. "Don't wait to the last minute to prepare for a disaster."
Residential health care facilities should also ready themselves for disaster response. These facilities should test their generators, refuel fuel tanks and ensure your plans for sheltering and evacuation are in place.
The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) has a campaign to help Louisianans prepare for emergencies. Visit www.getagameplan.org to find important information about putting together an emergency kit, making disaster preparations, staying informed and more.
Louisiana Volunteers in Action (LAVA) is LDH's volunteer management program. LAVA volunteers have assisted during several recent disasters and events, including hurricanes and Mardi Gras. Please consider signing up with LAVA at https://lava.dhh.louisiana.gov.
"Signing up to volunteer and support the state in the event of a disaster is one of the most important things you can do before an emergency if you're able," said Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T. Lane. "Volunteers enable the state to respond to a major disaster, help save lives and speed up recovery."
Although LAVA encourages doctors, nurses, teachers and other medical and specialty personnel to sign up, the only real qualification to register is an interest in lending a helping hand to your fellow Louisianans.
This is the third in a series of Summer Safety advisories the Department will send out this summer. Check back each Wednesday throughout the summer.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account and Facebook.