If you’re in the path of possible wrath from Hurricane Dorian, here are some quick reminders. (And even if you’re not, consider these tips to help you get ready well before any future natural disaster strikes.)
- Know your emergency procedures. Sign up for community-wide or installation-wide alerts, and follow leaders’ instructions.
- Know your orders. When military family members are traveling with evacuation orders in hand, you’re eligible for certain reimbursements for lodging and meals. There are procedures for submitting requests for travel advances, and for submitting claims.
- During disasters and emergency evacuations, the services and DoD have systems set up to help officials account for their personnel in the areas affected. For disaster and evacuation emergency contact information, visit www.militaryonesource.mil/emergency-contacts-for-disasters-evacuations.
- Fill your vehicle’s gas tank. (And make it a habit in the future to keep at least a half a tank full of gas at all times.) Check the availability of fuel at your exchange gas station on base. But note some bases in the expected area of impact are under evacuation orders, which generally means closures of facilities.
- Get your prescriptions refilled now, if at all possible. If not, there are options.
- Know Tricare’s policies related to health benefits during disasters. Currently, there are temporary emergency refill policies in effect for all counties in Florida, and 12 counties in Georgia, as well as all areas of Puerto Rico and all counties in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Check back at https://www.tricare.mil/Resources/DisasterInfo/DisasterAlerts/08_27_19_Dorian for updates that will likely happen. These emergency policies are in place through Sept. 6 in Puerto Rico, and through Sept. 9 in the other areas.
This means you can get an emergency refill at any Tricare network pharmacy. It’s best to get the refill at the pharmacy where the prescription was filled, but you can get the refill at any pharmacy in the network. Take your prescription bottle with you.
Tricare beneficiaries not on active duty don’t need a referral to get care from Tricare-authorized urgent care providers. This allows you to get nonemergency care for illnesses or injuries if the primary care provider is unavailable because of weather disruptions, or, for example, you’ve evacuated the area.
Tricare has also temporarily suspended the requirement for a physician referral for Prime and Prime Remote beneficiaries in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, due to Hurricane Dorian. Thus, those who have evacuated from these areas don’t need to get a referral from their primary care provider in order to receive care in the community where they’ve evacuated. This waiver applies until Sept. 30.
- If you still need emergency supplies, check with installation stores. Commissaries have been running specials on a variety of emergency supplies, and will continue to do so through Oct. 31; and they always adjust to add extra storm-related supplies. Commissary officials always work with their suppliers to adjust inventory before and after a storm, said Defense Commissary Agency spokesman Kevin Robinson. Stores in Florida and Georgia have sufficient hurricane supplies to meet customers’ needs. Additional pallets of water came in Thursday, with more scheduled for today, he said. Store officials also work with installation leaders to adjust commissary hours -- the commissary at Patrick Air Force Base is staying open until 8 p.m. for the second day to give troops and families extra time to prepare. The exchanges also lay in extra supplies needed for natural disasters. For example, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores had been building inventory on critical emergency supplies including water, batteries, flashlights and generators since earlier this year.
- Make an emergency communication plan. Decide on a point of contact – a friend or family member in another state or region not expected to be affected by the storm – so that family members dispersed locally can stay in touch. Make sure everyone has cellphone numbers, so you can call or text. You may decide to use email or social media. Keep cellphones charged and have your on-the-go charging equipment ready.
- Document your property. You can do this quickly, by taking cellphone videos of each room, describing items as you go. Perhaps take pictures of items and appraisals or other documentation, and load them on a disc or thumb drive, or use cloud storage. Take additional videos if you’re still there when flooding happens; and when you first return to your home, to record the damage.
GET THESE ITEMS READY NOW
- Documents. In a waterproof container, put passports, birth certificates, marriage license, Social Security card, shot records, insurance policies, important medical or military information and documents, and important phone numbers. As you go, grab you drivers’ licenses, military ID cards, checkbook, debit and credit cards.
- Cash. Stash what you can ahead of time, because cash will be king if there’s no power, no working ATMs, no writing checks or using any sort of electronic payment at stores.
- Goods. If you’re leaving without a vehicle, you’ll be limited to what each family member can carry. You’ll want water, nonperishable food, clothes and shoes, toiletries, first-aid supplies, a cellphone charger, a battery-operated radio and batteries. If you’re leaving in a vehicle, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends adding things like a three-day supply of food and water for each family member, including infant formula and diapers; other necessities to meet special needs of family members, such as the elderly; and consider sleeping bags and blankets, and paper plates, cups and utensils;, moist towelettes; books and games and other activities for children. If you have a pet, don’t forget food, supplies and extra water.
SECURE THE PREMISES
- If you’re living in base housing, follow the instructions of base officials or your housing manager for securing your home.
- Bring items inside that could become projectiles in high winds – such as lightweight patio furniture and garbage cans, kids’ toys and bikes. Anchor items that can’t be brought inside, such as propane tanks. Get rid of branches and yard debris. Declutter drains and gutters.
- Follow instructions for shutting off the water, natural gas, electricity and other utilities.
- Cover your home’s windows.
For more information, visit www.fema.gov and www.Ready.gov/hurricanes.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.