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Hurricane Survivor Tips

Dear Editor,

I have lived stateside for 22 years now but I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is in the Caribbean Sea, so it is exposed to a lot of hurricane activity every year. Like most islands, Puerto Rico is heavily dependent on imports for all life’s basics. Even during “normal” periods, food supply is short and even potable water and electricity are precious commodities. When hurricanes threaten, food supply drops to nearly zero and city water and electricity may get completely cut off after the storms hit. A major hurricane will also destroy all crops, so fresh produce may not be available either. Emergency preparedness is the way of life for Caribbean islanders.

hurricane windsTypical food storage at homes is white rice, canned beans, canned vegetables, powdered milk, and pastas. The majority of the houses have water storage tanks plumbed in line with city water with 12VDC pumps for backup. For cooking, it is common to see a couple of 100-pound liquid propane tanks sitting beside the water storage tank. Most homes also have transfer switches for connection of gas-powered generators, although homes wired for dual voltage 120VAC-12VDC (solar) are also common.

Islanders know that after the storm hits, help will be very slow to arrive. It may take months for utilities to get restored after a major hurricane. People stateside, even Floridians and other coastal residents, get complacent because food is always available and even after storms, utilities get restored after just a few days. Historically, after major coastal storms, utility workers from all over the nation come lend a helping hand.

But that may not always be the case.

If a nationwide catastrophe hits, who is going to help? Keep non-refrigerated food at hand, potable water or means to treat water, OTC and prescription medicines, a dose or two of antibiotics, and of course personal protection.

It’s the Islander way.

Ivan L.

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