Emergency management officials offer Loudoun County residents the following advice for preparing for the hurricane season, which lasts until Nov. 30.
Even counties that are far inland, such as Loudoun, are vulnerable to the effects of hurricanes, including violent winds, storm surges, flash floods and spawned tornadoes, said Kevin Johnson, Loudoun's emergency management coordinator.
Before the storm, familiarize yourself with the terminology:
Flood watch means that a flood is possible.
Flood warning means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon.
Flash floods can develop in a matter of minutes, so if you hear a flash flood warning, take action immediately.
* Secure garbage cans, lawn furniture and anything else that could fly around and cause damage.
* Trim dead or weak branches on trees.
* Learn the safest route from your home or place of business to areas that are safe from high winds or flooding. If there is a flood, you may only have minutes to get to safety.
* Decide on an out-of-state friend or family member to be the single point of contact for your family (after a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance). Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address and phone number of the contact person.
* Decide on a meeting place away from home where you and your family will gather if you become separated (this is useful in other types of disasters as well).
* Keep a family emergency kit stocked and handy. Include items such as flashlights and batteries, a battery-operated radio, water, first aid supplies, canned food and a can opener.
* Purchase flood insurance. Flood damage to your home and its contents might not be covered by your homeowner's insurance policy. A 30-day waiting period is required for your flood insurance policy to become effective.
* Make a list of all your personal property for insurance verification purposes.
If heavy rains occur:
* Keep your battery-operated radio tuned to a local station and follow all instructions.
* If advised to evacuate, do so immediately; move to a safe area before access is cut off by floodwater.
* Be aware that floods are deceptive. Do not wade into flooded areas. Turn around and go back to higher ground.
* Never drive across a flooded road. The road could be washed out, and rapidly rising water could carry your car away. As little as six inches of floodwater can cause you to lose control of your vehicle; two feet can sweep it away. If you find floodwater on the road while driving, turn around and find an alternative route.
After the flood:
* Before you enter your house, be sure that the structure is not in danger of collapsing. Watch out for rodents and snakes.
* Watch for live electrical wires. Be sure the current is turned off, and do not attempt to turn on any electrically operated light or appliance until an electrician has checked your system.
* Begin cleanup as soon as possible. Throw out perishable foods; they may be contaminated. Wash canned goods in soap and warm water.
* Do not drink water unless you know it is safe; water sources are often contaminated during floods.
* Never allow children to play in or near floodwater.
For more safety and preparedness tips, call the Loudoun County Emergency Services officer at 703-777-0333 or visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management's Web site at www.vdes.state.va.us.