Hurricane Evacuations Unlikely Due to COVID-19 Concerns

by Gwen Newell

With hurricane season officially underway, a new study has revealed that North Carolinians are seemingly hesitant about evacuating this year primarily due to the impact of COVID-19.

According to a recent  AAA Consumer Pulse Survey , 23% of North Carolinians are more concerned about the 2020 Hurricane Season than they were last year, and 37% say they are less likely to evacuate for a storm this year due to fears of contracting COVID-19.

Most often, residents’ decision to evacuate depends on the severity of the storm. Of those who would evacuate, 52% would leave for a Category 3 hurricane or greater. Additionally, 31% said they would not leave their homes at all if they were warned to evacuate.

More than half (59%) of North Carolinians do not have an emergency plan or make advanced preparations for hurricane season. AAA encourages implementing the following tips to prepare for severe weather.

Protect your Home

  • Secure Your Home – Inspect your home for minor repairs needed to roof, windows, down spouts, etc. Trim trees or bushes that could cause damage to your home in case of high winds.
  • Take Inventory – Update your home inventory by walking through your home with a video camera or smart phone. Keep a record of large purchases including the cost of the item, when purchased and model/serial numbers as available. Store important documents in a portable waterproof container.
  • Stock Emergency Supplies – Plan for a week’s worth of non-perishable food and water. Be sure to have flashlights, extra batteries, battery-powered radio, medications, first aid kit, blankets, toiletries, diapers, cleaning supplies, etc. Prepare a portable kit to keep in your car should you need to evacuate.
  • Identify a Safe Room – Identify a room where family members should gather, in case of emergency. This is typically an interior room with no windows.
  • Protect Your Property – Review your homeowners insurance with your insurance agent to determine if you have adequate protection. Discuss your deductibles. Be aware that flood insurance is not typically covered under your homeowner’s policy. Flooding coverage for your automobile is available via an optional ‘comprehensive’ inclusion to your auto insurance policy.

Prepare for Evacuation

  • Make a Contact Plan – Identify ways to contact each other, alternate meeting locations, and an out-of-town contact person. Anticipate limited cell phone service.
  • Know Your Evacuation Route – Track the recommended evacuation route for your region.
  • Choose Multiple Destinations – Identify several places you will go in an emergency, such as a friend’s home, in another town, a hotel or shelter. Choose destinations in different directions so you have options during an emergency.
  • Research Shelter Availability – Check with local officials about the availability of evacuation shelters. Your regular shelter may not open this year due to COVID-19. If you evacuate to a community shelter, follow the latest guidelines from the CDC
  • Prepare your Pets – Identify a place to stay that will accept pets. Most public shelters only allow service animals.
  • Prepare your Vehicle for Evacuation – Have your vehicle professionally inspected so it is ready for evacuation. Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.
  • Gas Up – If an evacuation seems likely, ensure you have a full tank of gas. Do not hoard gasoline you do not need. The pre-storm surge in gasoline demand often leads to temporary fuel outages before the storm. After the storm, be aware that gas stations may be closed or unable to pump gas due to structural damage or fuel power outages. As a result, begin looking for a refueling option when your tank is half full.

FEMA advice for preparing for the hurricane season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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