What if Agha Siraj Durrani is wrong and a cyclone does in fact hit the coast of Pakistan and soaks Karachi? Ask people in that city what their cyclone preparedness plans are and the usual tongue-in-cheek response is that they’ll all head down to Seaview to get a close-up view of nature’s fury. That’s only partly a joke as this phenomenon has been seen every time Karachi’s been under some kind of cyclone warning, and authorities have instantly sealed the beach for the duration of the cyclonic weather conditions.
If you happened to listen to the local media most just raised an alarm about the impending cyclone and potential damage it could cause. What went missing though were public service messages from the authorities on how to prepare for a cyclone. What to do with your homes? Where to go? What are the emergency numbers that residents could call? Were the hospitals prepared to handle potentially large number of casualties?
Well what we can do here is provide you with a basic guide to cyclone preparedness. By the time this prints the cyclone may well have passed, but this will serve as a handy reference for the future and also for similar emergencies.
Do you know how to be prepared for a really, really rainy day? Read on
Before the Cyclone
Make a list of all items you may need to bring inside in the event of the storm
Secure your property, board up windows with plywood that can easily be fixed in place
Trim trees and shrubs around the house (as winds can topple them over)
Clear all drains on the roof
Ensure you have sufficient water supply both for drinking and for sanitary purposes.
Keep water purifier pills in stock
Refresh the first aid kits with essential medicines
Secure any loose items in the yard or on the balcony such as movable clothes lines, buckets, garden chairs, flower pots etc.
Stock up on candles, match sticks, dry food items
Stock up on batteries and torches
Recharge all torches and rechargeable fans, lights
If you live in a low lying area prepare sand bags and plastic sheets to seal entrances and prevent flooding of your home. Remember once the warning has been issued you must leave the low-lying areas for safer grounds
If you have pets that are kept outside plan to bring them in quickly
Monitor the news channels on tv, radio and internet for information
Prepare your grab-bag and keep it in a easily accessible location
Keep some cash with you as banks and ATMs may be inaccessible for a significant duration
Keep phones charged. Even if the networks go down initially you should keep your phones charged for when connections are restored
Immediately recharge your prepaid mobile and internet accounts (especially if you are low on balance)
Ensure that family members are well rehearsed in how to reach a safe location and to communicate in case they’re spilt up when the cyclone hits
Designate a secure room within the house. (The room should have the least amount of windows and should be towards the middle of the structure)
Fill up your car tank. In case of an evacuation you may have to drive long distances
Turn the fridge and freezer to the coldest settings. Opening and closing only when needed and doing so quickly. This will keep perishable food items edible for longer periods.
Once cyclone watch begins and during the cyclone
Stay indoors until the authorities declare it safe to step out. Remember: don’t step out even if the weather appears to have calmed down as it could be temporary lull
Put valuables, especially important documents (IDs, passports, house, vehicle ownerships) in water proof containers
If you are caught out on the streets then move to a secure building and take shelter. Don’t stay on the streets
Continue to monitor the news feeds wherever possible
Switch off the gas to geysers and other appliances
Unplug all small electrical appliances as they may burn out in a power surge
Expect extended rainfall and subsequent flooding: If the waters begin to rise lay the sandbags at the entrances to block the water
Keep away from the windows even if they’ve been shuttered closed.
Bring the pets inside
Park your vehicles under a secure shelter where items flying through the air can’t strike them
If your home is significantly damaged make sure you move to a safe location within your immediate neighbourhood
After the cyclone
Continue to monitor the news feeds to be alert to any other risks such as major gas leaks, power lines tripping, oil pipelines rupturing/spilling etc.
Stay alert for more rain and floods even after the storm has weakened
Stay away from the flood waters
Drive only if absolutely necessary. Remember roads could be significantly damaged
Stay on firm ground and avoid walking over debris
Wear closed shoes or slippers as open toe shoes may result in injury from sharp objects
Help others where possible to do so without endangering yourself
Avoid areas that are declared disaster zones
Avoid loose wires or other power cabinets and poles
Look for electrical damages
Only switch on electrical appliances that are not wet
Use electrical torches when examining the house and not candles in case of gas leaks
Don’t turn on the gas supply and make sure any open valves are closed. Leaks from damaged lines could trigger explosions
Check for damage to water and sewage lines
Do not pump the water from the underground tank to the overhead tanks. The water most likely will have been polluted
Open the doors and windows to ventilate and dry the home
Check the fridge and discard spoilt food immediately
Use water prudently as the regular water supply may not resume for days
When moving on the roads remember billboards may be weakened and if not down already could fall at any time. Same goes for trees.
If the basement of the home or building is flooded pump out water gradually to avoid structural damage as walls could collapse from the outsider water pressure.
It is important to understand that while a cyclone may not directly strike your area the associated rains could cause significant difficulties, too. Therefore always plan for the worst and hope for the best. Stay safe.
Norbert Almeida is a safety & security advisor.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 2nd, 2014