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As the official start of hurricane season begins June 1, the federal government is urging residents to get prepared.

From Maine to Texas, the United States coastline is filled with homes, condominium towers, and cities built on sand. In fact, there are more than 45 million permanent residents who live in potential hurricane areas, according to the National Hurricane Center. And the number of residents increases 10- to 100-fold on weekends and holiday periods in some coastal areas.

"With no major hurricane striking the United States in the last two years, many people living along hurricane-prone coastlines may be feeling a false sense of security," said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe M. Allbaugh. "President Bush is calling on us to do our part in reducing the loss of life and property from hurricanes and prepare for this very real danger."

Allbaugh says that properly preparing families and homes for hurricane season, which begins next week, is crucial. Getting ready for a hurricane - a tropical storm with winds that have reached a constant speed of 74 miles per hour or more - is more than just securing your home. If you live in a southern or eastern coastal area, you should develop a family plan, create a disaster supply kit, set up a destination in case of evacuation, get a plan in place to ensure the safety of pets, FEMA says.

Developing a family plan

The National Hurricane Center recommends you put together a family disaster plan, which entails:

  • Determining your home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding, and wind.
  • Locating the safest room possible, whether it's in your home or within your community.
  • Scouting out the best escape routes and select a meeting place for your family members.
  • Selecting an out-of-state friend as a family contact.
  • Making a plan for your pets.
  • Post emergency numbers by the phone. Make sure your kids know how and when to call 911.
  • Checking your insurance coverage. Homeowners insurance usually doesn't cover flood damage.
  • Stocking emergency supplies and a supply kit.
  • Using a NOAA weather radio. Remember to replace the battery every six months.

    Finding a place to go

    As part of your plan, you'll need to find a safe place for your family. Some of the things to keep in mind include:

  • Don't delay if you're ordered to evacuate. If possible, leave before evacuation is ordered so you can reduce your travel time. Traffic will worsen the longer you wait.
  • Select an evacuation destination close to your home, keeping in mind that inland metro areas will fill up quickly. Also, keep in mind that choosing a destination in another county or area will likely mean a long wait in traffic.
  • If you're going to a hotel, make reservations before you leave.
  • Go to a shelter as a last resort.
  • Fill your car with gas before you leave.

    Your pet plan

    For starters, you'll want to ask your veterinarian or local humane society about how best to prepare your pet for an emergency. Then, make sure your pets are current on their vaccinations, have a current photo of your pet, keep an ID collar on your pet, and include what you will do with your pet in your evacuation plan.

    If you take your pet to a shelter during an emergency, be sure it has proper ID, a carrier or cage, a leash, food, water and food bowls, medications, and newspapers or trash bags for clean up.

    After the disaster, walk your pet on a leash. Familiar scents and landmarks might be altered and confuse your pet. Also, downed power lines could pose a threat. If your pet can't be found after a disaster, contact your local animal control office. Bring a picture of your pet.

    Animals may become aggressive or defensive after a disaster, so you'll want to monitor their behavior.

    For more information on preparing for a hurricane, Click Here

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