A typhoon in the Northwest Pacific Ocean is like a hurricane in the North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific Ocean, and it can be one violent storm! With winds up to 155 miles per hour and heavy rainfall, these tropical storms threaten lives and dwellings and can cause other dangerous conditions such as flash flooding, storm surges, thunderstorms and rip currents. While coastlines are particularly vulnerable, inland areas are prone to flooding from heavy rain. If you move to a new military installation in the Northwest Pacific region, be sure to learn the weather dangers particular to that area and always prepare for weather threats. Typhoon safety depends on knowing the risks and heeding forecasters' warnings as storms approach. Military OneSource can also help you learn what to do before, during and after the storm.
Typhoons usually form way out in the ocean, giving forecasters time to forewarn people to ‘batten down the hatches.' The Northwest Pacific typhoon season lasts from May to November. If you live in a typhoon-prone area, be sure to get ready before the season begins. Ready.gov offers information about preparing for a variety of emergencies. Here are some suggestions to help keep your family safe in any weather-related threat:
- Learn the emergency warning procedures, evacuation routes and shelter locations for your community or installation. Include specific guidelines for your workplace and your child's school. You may be able to sign up for an emergency notification text on a mobile device.
- Prepare an emergency kit for your family that is easy to grab at a moment's notice.
- Have a family emergency plan so every member of your family knows what to do in an emergency.
- Prepare your children. Ready.gov Kids uses games and fun activities to teach families how to prepare for emergencies.
- Make plans for your pets. Since many shelters do not accept pets, be sure you have found a place for your pet should you have to evacuate.
- Use technology to be informed. Ready.gov's Get Tech Ready suggests ways to use technology to access critical information during an emergency.
- Create a home inventory. A home inventory will help you file an insurance claim should you suffer damages from a typhoon.
Before a typhoon arrives
Protect your family by learning about the risks associated with typhoons. Wind is the obvious danger, but by learning about the storm's destructive properties, you can take action to avoid them in a typhoon. Here are some ways to prepare for the storm:
- Learn the vulnerabilities of your specific location. Coastal areas can be hit by a deadly storm surge, sometimes as high as 20 feet. As the typhoon slows down over land, it drops rain for a longer period of time. So inland areas may experience torrential rains resulting in flooding - often sudden flash floods - and landslides. The high winds of a typhoon can also spawn tornadoes. Wherever you live, heed an evacuation notice, even if your area looks safe.
- Know the terminology. As with other weather-related warnings, a 'watch‘ indicates conditions are favorable for the weather event, and a 'warning‘ indicates the storm is on its way. A typhoon warning is issued 36 hours before the onset of tropical-storm-force winds to allow time for preparations. A tropical depression warning also attracts a lot of attention; tropical depressions may turn into tropical storms, which, in turn, become typhoons once their sustained wind speed reaches 74 miles per hour or higher.
- Protect your home from wind. Wind causes tree branches, signs, roofing material and any loose objects to become missiles. To protect your home from this debris, consider replacing your windows with storm windows, or cover them with 5/8 inch marine plywood. Tape will not stop windows from breaking.
- Maintain your property with typhoons in mind. Keep trees trimmed, gutters cleaned, and be prepared to secure outdoor furniture and small sheds. Know how to turn off your propane tank and utilities.
During a typhoon
Once you have prepared your family and home, it's time to ‘hunker' down and listen to storm updates while playing games and reading stories. Should the power go out, you'll have to rely on the old-fashioned, non-electronic ways of having fun! Always be ready to move to a safer area of the house should the storm intensify. There are additional ways to make your storm camp safer, and a little more enjoyable, too.
- Be ready for a power outage. Turn your refrigerator and freezer thermostats to the coldest setting and keep the doors closed so food will last longer without power. Have flashlights handy; avoid candles due to fire hazard. Charge cell phones and electronic gadgets that might help you call for help.
- Fill your bathtub with water. This water can be used for cleaning or flushing toilets should your water supply be disrupted.
- Be sure to know how to get storm updates. Important storm and emergency information will be broadcast through radio and television reports and installation communication methods including Facebook.
- Gather in a safe place. Stay away from glass doors and windows. Close all interior doors; secure and brace exterior doors. Move to an interior room or hallway on the lower floor when the winds pick up. If necessary, crouch under a table or sturdy object.
- Avoid using your phone. Try to keep phone lines free for true emergencies.
- Do not presume the storm is over if the wind dies down. The center of a typhoon, called the eye, is very calm, but the surrounding edge or 'wall‘ of the eye has some of the strongest wind and rain.
Respect the power of typhoons; they are dangerous storms. Paying attention to the forecasts and following instructions from local officials may save your life. It's good to teach your children about the storm, but there is no need to frighten them. Show them that good preparation will help you to make smart decisions in a weather emergency.
After the typhoon
Once the authorities have indicated the storm has passed, you may think the danger is over. However, many people are injured in the aftermath of violent storms. If you evacuated, do not return home until officials say it is safe. Here are some more tips to ensure your safety and help you begin to put everything back together.
- Stay away from downed power lines. Stay away from loose or dangling power lines, and report them to the power company.
- Beware of flooded roads. Driving after a storm can be dangerous. Water across a road may be deeper than you think. Don't drown; turn around! The storm also may have weakened roads and bridges.
- Let family and friends back home know you're safe and well. One way to do this is to register yourself after the disaster with the American Red Cross Safe and Well program. Loved ones searching the site will be able to find your name and a brief message.
- Watch out for contaminated water and spoiled food. Be sure your water has not been contaminated before you drink it. Wear protective gloves and boots outside to avoid contamination. Check refrigerated food for spoilage; if in doubt, throw it out! To stay healthy from storm-related damage, see tips from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Be wary of wildlife. Snakes and other animals may be more prevalent after a disaster because they have been displaced from their homes. Wear gloves and boots when clearing brush, and be cautious when reaching into piles of debris.
- Assess the damage of your home. Do not enter a building with flood water around it or if you smell gas. Report gas leaks. If you suspect your home is structurally unsound, hire a qualified building inspector before inhabiting it. Take photos of the damage, both inside and outside, to help you prepare an insurance claim. Contact your insurance company for specific instructions.
Going through a severe storm and rebuilding your life afterward can be traumatic, but you're not alone. If you or a loved one feel overly stressed in dealing with a disaster, Military OneSource counseling is available at no cost to service members and their families by calling 800-342-9647.