Hurricane Andrew: 20 Years Later

As we watch Tropical Storm Isaac weave its way through the Atlantic, it’s hard to believe that Friday marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.  On August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida as a Category 5 storm, causing more than $26 billion of insured damage in 2012 dollars.

This week’s anniversary of Hurricane Andrew serves as a reminder that a disaster can strike at anytime, and the best thing we can do is to always be prepared.

 “Being prepared is a family’s best defense against disaster,” said Hugh Quinn, Interim CEO, American Red Cross Heart of Carolina Region. “All households should create a family disaster plan to make sure they are ready for the next emergency or disaster.”

 Remembering Andrew

On August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew roared into south Florida with sustained winds of 145 mph and gusts up to 174 mph. Forty people were killed and hundreds of thousands were left homeless. A twelve-foot tidal surge flattened homes, mowed down trees, and destroyed Homestead Air Force Base. Damages totaled $26.2 billion.

Prior to Andrew’s arrival, the Red Cross prepared for the disaster by setting up shelters for evacuees. Following the storm, damage assessment teams helped the organization understand and respond to the unprecedented magnitude of the catastrophe.

Four months after Hurricane Andrew struck, the Red Cross closed its last disaster service center in Homestead, but Red Cross workers continued to supply assistance for at least another year until the storms victims were able to stand on their own two feet. Some 14,800 Red Cross disaster workers were involved in the Hurricane Andrew relief operation, which cost about $84 million.

Beating disaster with preparedness

As no one knows when or where the next emergency will occur, the best time for people to get ready is now.

Don’t know where to start? The three keys to being prepared are to build a kit, make a plan and be informed.

An emergency preparedness kit should be stored in an easy-to-carry container that you can use at home or take with you in case you have to evacuate. It should contain a three-day supply of water (one gallon, per person, per day), non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, a 7-day supply of medications, a multi-purpose tool, sanitation and personal hygiene items and copies of important personal documents.

The Red Cross also recommends having at least two weeks worth of supplies at home. The Red Cross Store has items available for a kit, ranging from a hand-crank radio to a fully-stocked deluxe emergency preparedness kit.

All members of a household should work together on an emergency communication plan. Each person should know how to reach other members of the household. The plan should also include an out-of-area emergency contact person, and where everyone should meet if they can’t go home.

To be informed, you should know what types of disasters are most likely to occur where you live. For those who live in hurricane-prone areas, the American Red Cross Hurricane app is a great place to start. It is also important to take a first aid and CPR/AED course—a vital component of disaster preparedness in case emergency help is delayed. Smart phone users can download the new American Red Cross First Aid app so they’ll have information on what to do for everyday emergencies right in their hands.

 

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