tampabay.com

While there's still time

By TIMES WIRES
Published August 28, 2006


WHILE THERE'S STILLTIME...

Charge cell phones. Have a land-line phone handy. If the cellular network goes out, cell phones won't work (though text messaging may work when cellular circuits are busy). Cordless phones, which require electricity, won't work if the power is out. A land line may operate when nothing else does. Have change or a phone card available if a public pay phone is your only alternative.

Charge cordless tools. They'll come in handy once the storm passes to make repairs.

Take photos of your house and yard to before the storm. Be ready to photograph storm damage after the hurricane passes.

Trim loose branches and overgrown shrubbery. Bundle the debris put them in a garbage can, in the garage or other enclosed area so they don't become flying objects during the storm.

Bring in outdoor furniture, plants, accessories.

Designate one out-of-town relative as the family information center. Use that person as a clearinghouse for other concerned relatives.

If you haven't decided where you will evacuate, make that decision now. A hotel or a friend or relative on high ground are better choices than public shelters, which should be your last resort.

If you must stay at a special-needs shelter, call your local emergency operations center now (look in the blue pages in the front of the phone book) to register and arrange evacuation. If your medical condition requires that you be hospitalized during a disaster, your doctor must make those arrangements in advance.

If you have window protection - plywood, shutters, fabric - get ready to install it. Where are the fasteners and tools you'll need? Which shutter goes where?

Get your car ready. Inflate the tires. Make sure the spare is ready. Know where your jack and lug wrench are; know how to fix a flat. Carry an empty gas can in case you run out of gas. (Don't drive around with a full can of gas; the fumes are hazardous.)

In the garden, harvest ripe fruits and vegetables. Picking them eliminates another source of wind-borne debris.

If you use propane gas for home heating and cooking - a large permanent tank, not the 20-pound bottle for your gas grill - you may want to tie or chain the tank to a fence, gate or other stationary object. Propane is lighter than water so the tank could float away if the area is flooded, the Propane Education & Research Council says. Be ready to turn the supply valve off and turn off appliance pilot lights, control valves and manual shutoff valves on storm day. Since deliveries may be slow after a major storm, check the fuel supply and arrange for a delivery now if the tank is less than 20 percent full.

Gas grills may be your cooking lifeline if power is out, so refill your tank. Secure the grill to a post or fence so it doesn't blow away. The Propane Education & Research Council strongly discourages keeping grills and their fuel supplies in the garage.