State Agency Urges Pennsylvanians to Prepare for Hurricane Irene

by Jonathan Weaver

As Pennsylvania residents are recovering from experiencing earthquake tremors earlier this week, they might quickly have to prepare for hurricane winds and heavy rains this weekend.

Hurricane Irene is expected to travel up the East Coast this weekend and impact state residents, prompting Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Glenn Cannon to warn homeowners yesterday.

“The approaching hurricane means all residents should be sure emergency supplies are ready in our homes, and to secure outdoor items so they don’t cause more damage when the winds come,” Cannon wrote in a press release. “As this week’s historic East Coast earthquake reminded everyone, being prepared at all times is critical.”

PEMA Deputy Press Secretary Ruth Miller said the agency has had conference calls with the National Weather Service all week and updated weather conditions as of Thursday evening.

“From what I understand through the National Weather Service, we expect to start feeling the effects of the storm sometime Saturday afternoon/evening in the eastern part of the state,” Miller said. “The track of the storm could still change if it moves further out to sea. If the storm moves further east, the impact will be lessened in Pennsylvania.”

Miller said time is a luxury Pennsylvanians have and shouldn’t waste it.

“People should take the time now to prepare emergency kits for their home and create emergency plans for their families,” Miller said. “With a natural disaster like this, once the danger has passed, emergency responders can not reach everyone right away, so people really need to be prepared to survive in their own homes without outside assistance for at least three days.”

A disaster preparedness kit includes:

- flashlights and extra batteries

- portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries

- a first-aid kit and manual

- emergency food and water

- non-electric can opener

- essential medicines and prescriptions

- cash, credit cards and important legal documents

- sturdy shoes

Regardless of area, Miller encouraged all residents to be prepared for this weekend’s storm activity.

“The earthquake earlier this week, we couldn’t predict and didn’t know was happening. But this we can, and emergency preparedness starts at home,” Miller said. “We encourage all citizens, whether you live in the eastern part of the state that may have more impact than someone in the western part of the state, we encourage everyone to take care of those things now.”

If residents are ordered to evacuate, they should do so without hesitating, and should take important papers with them including:

 - checkbooks;

 - driver’s license;

 - credit card information;

 - birth certificates;

 - Social Security cards or other forms and documents proving ownership/identity

Agency officials urge residents to never drive into low-lying areas or over roads and bridges that are already under water. Just a few inches of moving water can sweep away the average car.

Individuals and families need to have a communication plan in place in order to contact or find each other if separated. As the storm approaches, residents should listen to and closely follow instructions from local and state authorities.

For more information on emergency preparedness, residents are urged to visit www.ReadyPA.org or call 1-888-9-READYPA (1-888-973-2397).

Updated emergency information can also be found at alert.pa.gov, where residents can sign up for text messages and/or e-mails.

So far, Hurricane Irene will be the only one to impact Pennsylvania. But hurricane season runs through November 1.