To: Members of the Congregation of St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church
With the coming of hurricane season and the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to alert all members of our congregation and their families to concerns about managing these risks simultaneously. The following guidelines have been adapted from notices issued by FEMA, the Centers for Disease Control, and the City of New Orleans. In addition, the State of Louisiana has published an emergency preparedness guide.
Prepare Now – Hurricane Season Is Here
Understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Officials will be making decisions about warnings and evacuations earlier than in past hurricane seasons. Citizens who consider evacuation should plan on departing earlier than in the past. New Orleans city officials have stated that due to the risks posed by COVID-19, mandatory evacuations will be ordered only when the risk from a storm is considered higher than the potential risk for virus spread.
Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your emergency food, water, and medicine supplies. Home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies, but that may not be an option for everyone. If you do in-person shopping, take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands. Consider the needs of your pets when obtaining emergency supplies.
Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Sign up for mail order delivery; call or email in your prescription ahead of time; and use drive-through windows or curbside pickup, if available.
Stay informed of weather alerts and potential storm tracks.
Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, including shelters for your pets. Make sure pet vaccinations are up to date. Plan your evacuation route and destination as early as possible.
If you need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you can’t do without during an emergency such as prescriptions and toiletries. Include items to protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer, bar or liquid soap, multiple face coverings for each person, and additional cleaning materials such as disinfectant wipes. Pack clothing for several days. Other important items include a flashlight and batteries, am-fm radio, rain gear, and extra eyeglasses.
Note that face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 2, people having trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
Gather important records and documents, such as tax materials, financial records, passports, birth certificates, and insurance policies, and either place them in a protected location or take them with you when you evacuate. Use zip-top plastic bags to protect important papers. Medical records for you and your family, medical insurance cards, social security cards, and veterinary records for your pet, should be taken with you. Be sure you have your driver’s license or ID card, cash, and credit cards with you. If you have a portable computer, consider taking it.
When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet from others). If you feel ill, avoid physical contact with others to the fullest extent possible.
Due to the potential for COVID-19 transmission in larger groups, disaster shelters should be considered a last resort. Lodging with relatives or friends, or at hotels, is preferable for evacuees. If you go to a shelter, follow the standard recommendations for staying safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue social distancing to the extent possible; wash hands frequently; use face coverings; cover coughs and sneezes; avoid sharing food and drink with others to the extent practicable; keep your living area clean; disinfect frequently touched items; avoid touching handrails, doorknobs, and other frequently touched surfaces to the extent possible. Follow shelter policies designed to protect your health and the health of others. If you or anyone in your group feels sick, alert shelter officials immediately.
Frequently sanitize cell phones, computer keyboards, and other often touched items and surfaces, including surfaces in your car such as the steering wheel, gear shift, and door handles.
If you will require evacuation assistance, contact someone to help you well in advance of the need to evacuate. For those not able to self-evacuate, the City of New Orleans has established 17 evacuation pick-up points around the city where evacuees can gather to access transportation to safety. The sites are listed at ready.nola.gov/hurricane. Residents with access or functional needs preventing them from physically getting to an evacuation pick-up point may be eligible to be picked from their homes by a paratransit vehicle through the New Orleans Health Department’s Special Needs Registry. Residents who have trouble walking, who are blind or deaf, are on dialysis, are on life support systems, or have mental health issues or intellectual disabilities should call 311 or go to specialneeds.nola.gov to sign up for the registry. City staff will assist these individuals in determining the best evacuation plan based on their specific needs.
During this time of high stress, be considerate of others and take care of yourself. Be a good role model for those around you.
Stay Safe After a Hurricane
Continue to use preventive
actions like frequent hand washing and wearing a face covering when returning
home and during clean up.
It may take longer than usual to restore power and water, if they are out. Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if you use a generator. Never operate a gas generator in an enclosed space.
If you are injured or ill, immediately contact your medical provider for treatment recommendations. Keep wounds clean to prevent infection. Remember, accessing medical care may be more difficult than usual during the pandemic.
Dealing with disasters can cause stress and strong emotions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is natural to feel anxiety, grief, and worry. Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family, and your community recover.
People with preexisting physical or mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.