August 29th, 2008
10:02 AM ET

3 rules to get your family ready for a Hurricane... and 2 are free

Editor's Note: Anderson Cooper 360° is in New Orleans tonight, as Tropical Storm Gustav barrels toward the Gulf of Mexico, expected to reach Category 3. We'll look at whether New Orleans is ready, after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina exactly three years ago today. Watch our special report tonight at 10p ET.

David M. Reisner
AC360° Digital Producer

The Hurricane season has picked up this past week, with one storm headed for the Gulf Coast, and another on course to become the 8th named storm of the year.

General Honoré was known best for serving as commander of ‘Joint Task Force Katrina.’ He was responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina-affected areas across the Gulf Coast. Now retired, he spends much of his time in the region, and works to prepare families for future natural disasters.

I caught up with the general as he was traveling from his Georgia home to New Orleans last week. Our conversation covered as much ground as the general did, and we will share with you parts of that conversation over the course of the day.

We talked about how families readiness. How people can't simply rely on the government to bail them out, as we saw in Katrina. He provides us with 3 rules that every family in a danger zone should follow, and plan for.

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You’ve taken hurricane preparedness to the next level – how can people prepare themselves?

I’m a Red Cross volunteer, so i follow that doctrine. It’s time proven, and the Red Cross is the gold standard for family readiness.

  • Rule # 1: Have a plan. If you live in a hurricane prone area, you must have a plan as to where you are going to evacuate to… and what time you should leave. If you live in Tampa and say the storm gets to Key West, say ‘we have to leave.’ Now you don’t have to leave at that point , but if you don’t, guess what, you can spend 12-15 hours sitting on the road trying to get out of the hurricane danger zone. You saw on this week with “Fay”, people leaving Key West – a lot of people were stuck in traffic 4-5-6 hours. Everybody tried to leave at the same time. If you look at most of the deaths from hurricane Rita, it came from people who were trying to evacuate Houston... not from the storm itself. So having a plan and determining when you are going to leave and where you are going.
  • Rule #2: Stay informed. We stay informed by watching TV, and watching local news, but they key to staying informed is to have a weatherproof radio. One of those radios that will wake you up in the middle of the night, if there is a tornado warning, or it alerts you that the eye of the hurricane is coming and will be of danger…
  • Rule #3: Have an emergency kit. Have a 3 day supply of food and water and have an emergency preparedness kit. If you have to leave in a hurry you grab that kit and leave. The key parts of that that kit are food water and emergency rations, important papers and documents, and maybe a fresh set of clothes for you to wear.

The first two rules don’t really cost you money; having a plan and staying informed.

What is the biggest threat we pose to ourselves?

I think the biggest thing that makes a difference is personal readiness, family readiness. There is only so much the government can do. You expect your government to have good roads, levees, bridges, and hospitals but – when you look at preparedness for hurricanes, if families don’t prepare, and they are not prepared to spend 3 days to be rescued or waiting for the power to come on, that’s the biggest threat I see. Because the government is not going to put a generator in everybody's home. Katrina closed the roads, it’s flooded the city, it destroyed the cell towers. it prevented us from being able to flush toilets. Katrina did all of that. If families aren’t prepared then it will take the government a long time to help them.

According to the Red Cross for every dollar you invest in preparedness, you save six dollars after disaster during recovery. That’s a pretty powerful statement isn’t it. if people do self preparedness its going to increase their chance of survival, and saving their property during and right after disaster.

Then we need to look at policy – there are things the government has not done, that we have learned from Katrina. Particularly along the gulf coast. We made specific recommendations that drug stores be required to have generators. You might say, well why is that? After Katrina, we saw perfectly good drug stores that couldn’t stay open to sell to customers and give out medicines. We need to fix that.

When a drug store license is issued, we need to say ‘OK, you have to have a generator before we give you your license. Oh by the way, we are going to give you an incentive, a tax credit on that generator when you buy it. Because you’ve put a generator in and you've made our community more resilient. Same is true for gas stations.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. mike

    need to do a story about how people who was forced to sell their home because of loseing jobs & get a call 2plus yrs later from la road home 7 days after u close on the sale of their home they had lived in for 9 plus yrs before katrina that u had been awared $57,000.00 how they get screwed out of federal gov money givein to the state of louisiana & get a big nothing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 29, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  2. Julie San Diego, CA

    Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

    Thanks guys and gals for giving some pro-active advice from a top-notch source.

    Thanks also for having your priorities straight and heading out to New Orleans after that outrageously expensive, 4-day Denver political love-fest that could have paid for the rebuilding of many NOLA homes.

    I think you meant to say "weather radio", not "weatherproof radio". For those who aren't familiar with them, weather radios stay silent until a weather alert is issued by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association – the weather guys). They're invaluable if you live in a place with severe weather (like tornadoes) as they often get the alert out faster than the municipal siren warning system.

    They used to be fairly expensive ($100+), but I see that on-line retailers (think that big jungle in South America...) are listing them for as low as $25. If you live in a severe weather area, and that price is still out of your budget, seriously consider pooling spare change with the neighbors and purchasing a neighborhood radio. They can (and do) save lives.

    Or maybe the DNC would like to contribute some cash towards purchasing weather radios for the people of the gulf coast. In light of the current economic situation in this country, that lavish party for 80,000+ last night just felt obscene. We have better things to spend the money on.

    August 29, 2008 at 12:16 pm |
  3. Tonya

    I love AC because every year he goes back to New Orleans to survey the progress or regress that's happening. He always keeps it honest, unlike other Medias. I'll definitely watch AC360 tonight. I really hope they still don't have people living under the bridge, especially with the wait of Gustav headed towards the Gulf Region.

    August 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm |
  4. Jim

    I have my own plan-
    #1 Do not live where Huricanes,Tornados,EarthQuakes occur frequently.
    2. live near a source of fresh water near enough to walk to but high enough that you won't get washed away in a 10,000 year flood.
    3. Have enough food ,t.p., coffee,sugar,salt,ammo to last one year.

    August 29, 2008 at 10:49 am |
  5. Annie Kate

    People need to be educated on the usage of generators if they get one – in Birmingham we had our electricity go down for a week over most of the metro area. Some people got generators if they could find them but did not realize the generator could put carbon monoxide in the air if it was in an enclosed non-vented place and there were several families who had to be rescued by the rescue squad and hospitalized because they put their generator in their living room.

    Is there a list of what type of "important papers" to routinely have packed? Is there a list of suggestions someplace for adults and children?

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 29, 2008 at 10:16 am |
  6. Cindy

    Honore is right up to a point. It is up to people to take care of themselves and to make sure that they have emergency food, water, and all. And also having a plan is great. The main thing is that they need to leave when told! There is no reason what so ever to risk your life for material things!

    But it is up to the government to make sure that the levees are safe. The community sure can't. Saying that they shouldn't rely on the government to have the roads, bridges and levees safe is ridiculous! That is their job! When these things fail it's because of them and their shoddy ways not the community. Who should they rely on to keep these things safe if not the government?


    August 29, 2008 at 10:14 am |