As hurricane season swiftly approaches, Americans may need to prepare differently as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
According to Dr. Samantha Montano, an assistant professor of emergency management at University of Nebraska at Omaha, many cities are changing their hurricane plans and residents not only need to be aware, but also need to adjust their own individual plans.
“We say in emergency management it only takes one hurricane to cause a problem,” Montano told InsideEdition.com. “Any hurricane or bad storm that occurs during the next several months is going to interact with the pandemic, to the point that it could cause more impact than what we normally see.”
With hurricane season beginning on June 1, scientists say we may need to brace ourselves for one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, estimating 13-24 tropical storms this year, according to Penn State's Earth System Science Center.
Montano said an evacuation plan in case of an emergency is essential, especially in a time of pandemic.
“Generally, we could expect that evacuation is going to be more complicated due to the pandemic, there are concerns about keeping people being safe while sheltering, there are concerns about people being able to afford to evacuate, and being able to afford renting another apartment if their house is destroyed.”
Montano urges people to come up with an individualized plan.
“Public officials tend to give out generic advice about how to prepare for disasters. It’s important that individuals prepare their own personal plans and to think through each stage of that, rethinking through evacuation plans. I know it’s a difficult thing to be asking people in the current economic situation, but people should also put money aside.”
Montano also said after a hurricane, cities rely heavily on volunteers from out of state to come in and help, but with restrictions on travel at the this time due to the pandemic that may not be possible. She urged residents to sign up to the emergency alert system from their cities.
Montano included a list on Twitter about some things people should start thinking about now, including: stocking up on supplies like food and water, access to a generator, as well as transportation options, among other things.
“Where are you going to stay? Generally, there are three options and right now, none of them are great. First, you stay with family or friends. You need to communicate with those people now. Are they high risk? Are you high risk? This might not be the year to stay with grandma,” Montano wrote.
She also suggested finding out if your town will provide shelters amid the pandemic and with social distancing rules in place.
“Of course, we know from research that even when local government/the Red Cross doesn't open a shelter someone in the community will do it anyway (they're called emergent sheltering),” Montano wrote. “If people need shelter from a hurricane, they need shelter from a hurricane. But this also means that there won't necessarily be set guidelines on how to safely run these shelters (something the RC is working on) because it's just a random person opening them.”
While Montano said she didn't want to envision a worst case scenario, the reality of one is very real, and "it involves multiple major hurricanes in multiple major cities in the middle of a second wave."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also preparing and has drafted a document entitled "COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season," Axios reported. To learn more about FEMA's disaster preparedness campaign, click here.