2009 APHA Get Ready Scholarship Winning Essay

The importance of emergency preparedness during a hurricane
By Katelyn M. Kersey, winner, Get Ready Scholarship

I live in Florida and nearly every summer we worry about the possiblity of a hurricane. It is very important to be prepared before a hurricane comes. Every year, everyone in a "hurricane risk" area should make sure they have plenty of batteries, flashlights, a battery operated radio, candles, enough bottled water and canned foods to last two weeks, matches or a lighter, sterno or a grill.

It is also important that all of your prescription drugs that are getting low are refilled in case you can't get out, or the pharmacies are closed. You need to make sure you have cash on hand in case the ATMs go down or the banks close down for any period of time. It is also important to make sure you fill your gas tank. Every time we hear of hurricane coming, the gas stations run out of gas. Your tank should be full in case you need to evacuate your area.

When we see that there is a possibility that a hurricane is heading our direction, our county starts setting up shelters for people who may be evacuated from their homes such as those who live on the beach, and several of those who live in mobile homes. The fire department also starts filling sand bags for those who have low lying homes and businesses, to put in front of their doors to help prevent water damage.
In 2004, Hurricane Charley was heading directly for us. When there is a hurricane out there, it is extremely important to keep watching the news. The main television stations kept us tuned in 24 hours a day to keep us updated with their radar, and gave the coordinates for people who were tracking the hurricane on their own. As the hurricane blew closer, all of the businesses began closing and the schools were closed so that everyone could be with their family.

The people that lived near the beaches were evacuated from their homes because flooding was expected, and it would be dangerous for them to remain there. The town was very quiet because everyone was ordered to stay home. Everyone who had hurricane shutters had them closed. Several others used masking tape across their windows to prevent their windows from shattering, and the glass flying in to their homes. We were told to bring all patio furniture, garbage cans, plants, animals and anything else that can blow away, indoors. Many of the businesses had their windows covered with plywood.

We filled both of our bathtubs with water because if we were without water for any amount of time, we would need one to wash dishes, etc., and the other to wash ourselves up in. It was very frightening, they were reporting that it turned into a category four, which can be very dangerous. The winds were now up to 145 miles per hour. The anticipation was terrifying. We had never been through a hurricane that strong before and we didn't know what to expect. We were as prepared as we could get, but what kind of damage can wind of 145 mph cause? We were all glued to the television set. It was due to be a direct hit, in just a matter of three or four hours.

Suddenly, to everyone's disbelief, Hurricane Charley made a quick turn to the right, just before it got to us. We sighed with big relief, but felt sorrow for the people of Punta Gorda, Arcadia and Port Charlotte. My stepfather went to Arcadia, for the next several days to volunteer his time. He came home every night after working twelve hour days there. He just tried to explain the devastation that was left behind by this storm. He told us about the number of people who had lost their homes. He said half of the town was gone. Arcadia was one of those small quaint country towns that had little antique stores and the homes were old estate homes that had been there for a hundred or more years. We would also watch on television other towns where people lost their homes and they were bringing in rows and rows of single wide trailers for them to move into while their homes were being rebuilt. It was all so sad. Everyone wanted to help by sending clothes and bottled water.

It is amazing how many people jump in and help when others are in need. There were still many others who made it through with minimal damage, and I am sure if they had the proper supplies they would be doing just fine, but they were without electricity and clean water for awhile. Their flashlights, candles, canned foods, bottled water and grills should have been a priority. Some of the neighborhoods even in my town lost electricity, due to the winds, but other than that we were lucky. A friend of ours was without power for two weeks. Although they would rather have had their electricity, they had the proper supplies and did just fine. She even said her family had fun playing board games, and really bonded by spending time together by not having television.

There is no way to stop a natural disaster — that is up to mother nature. Florida has the hurricanes, while California has the earthquakes and Kansas has the terrible tornados. The only thing that we can do is be prepared at all times, and encourage others to do the same. Being prepared can make the difference between life and death.

Return to main Get Ready Scholarship page

Photo courtesy FEMA: Arcadia, Fla., residents receive bleach following Hurricane Charley in 2004


Get Set: An Emergency Preparedness Project Kit
The APHA Get Ready Scholarship was created in conjunction with Get Set: An Emergency Preparedness Project Kit for high school students. The kit, released by APHA in October 2008, is a how-to guide for students interested in taking on preparedness activities at school or in their community.

Check out the full high school project kit (PDF) for ideas and start your activity today!