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Cyclones and storms hit the east coast of India annually. In 2020, the west coast also saw the worst cyclone in almost a century.

In these situations, cyclone preparedness is absolutely crucial—not just at the level of the government, but also private citizens.

For example, it is a good idea to have a natural disaster kit with hard hats, torches, batteries, face masks and a first-aid box in a backpack at home. This ready-to-use kit can be handy in any emergency.

There are also other things you can do, like secure any loose objects on your terrace, trim the trees and park the car in a garage if possible. Read on for more on being prepared for a cyclone and its aftermath.

Cyclones in 2020

It has only been a few days since cyclone Amphan lashed parts of West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh on the east coast of the country and another is all set to make landfall, this time from the west coast. India is gearing up for cyclone Nisarga which by many estimates wasn't going to be of the same intensity as Amphan, but would gather more force as it closes in.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has put the coastal regions of Maharashtra and Gujarat on red alert as cyclone Nisarga prepares to reach the Indian coastline on 3 June. The cyclone, which has intensified into a full-blown storm, is believed to be a result of a deep depression in the Arabian Sea—it is reported to be the worst of its kind to hit the western part of the country in nearly 100 years.

Heavy rains and winds with speeds of up to 120kmph have already hit parts of Maharashtra at the time of writing. The financial capital, Mumbai, may see damage to life and property. Authorities have relocated at least one lakh people to safer areas due to the threat issued by the authorities, many of whom are believed to be COVID-19 patients as well.

Natural disasters such as cyclones have often brought with them not the only destruction of life and property, but also higher risks of infections and disease outbreaks. Cyclone Amphan, which hit the eastern coastline of the country less than two weeks ago was an indicator of the destruction a cyclone can cause, and states in the western part of India could surely take note to be able to prevent large-scale destruction with measures to control deaths, injuries and other accidents the cyclone poses as a threat.

  1. What to do in case of high intensity winds
  2. Precautions for heavy rain and flash floods
  3. Precautions to take during a cyclone
  4. Steps to take after a cyclone has passed

Here are some of the precautionary steps one can take at home as well as in apartment buildings to prevent large-scale loss of property and destruction:

  • Roofs made from sheets of asbestos or aluminium must be secured tightly on rooftops and terraces of homes and buildings. If this is not already done, ensure that you have secured them or reinforced them with more sturdy material before the cyclone hits.
  • Anything installed on rooftops, such as TV dishes, potted plants, cooling towers, overhead tanks, outdoor AC units, cables and pipes must be firmly secured in their place, and tied to heavy objects.
  • Trees and their branches, especially if they are outside the house or plants growing around must be trimmed properly as cyclonic winds have the potential to carry them off and cause severe damage.
  • Any loose material lying on the property such as building material, loose sand or other items must be stowed away as they risk causing damage by blowing about.
  • Keep generators filled with fuel or have an extra stock of fuel to power it with you indoors for any emergencies arising due to possible power cuts.
  • Doorways, glasses on window panes and windows themselves should be kept secure, bolted shut and sealed with adhesive tape to keep the facade of the house safe from harm.

Those living in areas where the chances of the cyclone making a direct impact are high are the most vulnerable, and the following measures must be taken to ensure the damage is minimal:

  • Flash floods pose the added threat of infections and damage to property, which is why it is essential to properly seal all rooms in homes, offices and other buildings to ensure that rainwater is not able to enter.
  • Drainage and sewer facilities assume even greater importance in these times. And drains on rooftops or on terraces, where rainwater typically escapes from, must be kept clean without anything blocking the passages.
  • Basements of buildings must be kept in order; check that the sump pumps that are kept underground are functioning well and that their guards are properly fitted. If they are not properly secured, ensure they are removed and the passages are clear of debris.
  • Electrocution remains a huge threat due to the excess waterlogging that would occur due to the cyclonic rainfall. All electricity cables and the trenches they are kept in must be clean and ensure that there is no stagnation of water in those trenches.
  • All facade windows that open on to the street outside or the outdoors in general must be bolted shut to prevent storms from breaking them.

It is also wise to be prepared for lengthy power outages due to the severity of the resulting storms. Following are some of the precautions one can take at home:

  • Keep a portable torch, emergency light, a battery-operated radio and spare batteries handy as they can be helpful.
  • Smartphones should be fully charged and kept along with fully charged powerbanks to charge them later.
  • A first aid kit is absolutely essential; keep the necessary medicines that you may need as well as items to clean and bandage wounds.
  • Keep mosquito repellents, disinfectants, antiseptic creams and lotions, as well as mosquito nets and sprays at home if possible to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes after the heavy rains.
  • Keep plenty of waterproof bags and tape at home to seal off windows and door frames.
  • A list of emergency telephone numbers you can reach out to in case of emergency should be with you at all times.

When the cyclone does hit a city or urban area, it is also important to keep a few things in mind, to keep you and your family safe and protected. Some of the key things include:

  • Prohibit any movement outside while there is a cyclone hitting the city you live in. The sudden bursts of winds are extremely powerful and can cause severe damage to life and limb. Do not step out to get a sighting of a cyclonic storm, or even open a window to capture it on your smartphone.
  • Avoid electrical sockets or the use of electricity in general until the storm has passed, as there are chances of electrocution during thunderstorms.
  • Follow the news, stay alert and updated and keep in touch with your near and dear ones through text messages, but also remember to cross-check any information you are passed on to avoid spreading rumours or misinformation.

Even though the cyclone may have passed, it is important to know that the threat of winds picking up again may still be there. The following instructions must be kept in mind:

  • Wait indoors for about 30 minutes to an hour even after the strong gusts of wind have subsided, before you decide to venture out of your room or shelter.
  • It is unsafe to venture outside until authorities have made official statements announcing the end of the cyclone threat. In case you were evacuated, wait until further instructions before moving back into your own property.
  • Do not start using powered sockets before testing them first, as the chances of electrocution are still high.
  • Practise caution before venturing out and be mindful of fallen trees, cables, electrical wires, waterlogging or broken houses, walls or streets.
  • If you have lost contact with family members in your area, call up the disaster management helpline at 1077 or call up the local civic administration of your area for help. Also, inform the authorities if you come across anyone who may have lost contact with their near and dear ones.
  • If you come across someone deeply affected by the cyclone, provide psychological aid to them or help them get in touch with the right people.
  • The waterlogging after a storm has passed is bound to leave contamination around you. It is important to consume foods and water that are cooked and boiled, respectively. Remember to purify water if water supplies are low at your home. Visible particles in water should be strained with paper towels before boiling the water or adding chlorine tablets, if you have them. 
  • Provide as much help to the community as possible by helping them clean out debris, broken glass, windows or flammable liquids or items that may have been spilled during the storm.
  • Get in touch with your family and enquire about their state. If you live with family, provide them emotional support to help them remain positive in critical times.
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