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Weathering the Storm: What to do if you stay

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

If you refuse to leave or you can't for whatever reason, there is more you need to consider to ride out a hurricane.

“One of the things we want to emphasize is that it is a risk reduction system," New Orleans Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Aaron Miller said. "It does not eliminate the risk. Hurricanes can be very dangerous.”

Aaron Miller speaks for all his partners in the region when he says everyone needs an evacuation plan in place.

“Disasters don't really abide by political boundaries," he said. "If there is a mandatory evacuation, please heed the warnings of local officials.”

Emergency managers from the entire region work together all year long to coordinate so that they are ready when a storm approaches, but some storms don't necessitate a mandatory evacuation, or you may live in an area safe from storm surge in a sturdy structure. That won't make you immune to other problems.

“Even for us, if it's going to be a small storm we are probably going to get out just because facing days of not having electricity with a small child is kind of daunting.,” New Orleans resident Leah Richard said. 

Richard says she will definitely evacuate for any storm, citing one of the biggest issues that even a minor tropical storm can bring: the loss of electricity.

“It's just a lot of time being stuck indoors without, you know, all of the conveniences that you may have if you lose electricity.”

While only an inconvenience for many, it can be life-threatening for some. Isaac in 2012 is the most recent example of large numbers of people trapped in their homes for nearly a week.

“We saw those who needed dialysis, for example, without the ability to go to their clinics and get dialysis because they had no power or without the ability to utilize public transportation because of debris, and they were unable to get the sort of medical care that they need,” Miller said.

Miller urges those with special medical needs to register with the city for help with evacuations. People without chronic illnesses can run into serious trouble as well because 911 services are limited during the height of the storm, posing risks from fire or other injuries.

Miller said, “If you've got winds of 35, 40, 50 mph, it's not safe for us to put an officer or a firefighter or a paramedic out on the road.”

Although the pump system is improved, flash flooding from rainfall and rising rivers pose another flooding threat.

“As we've seen, flash flooding in low-lying areas and underpasses has swept away cars and put a lot of people at risk,” said Miller.

FOX 8’s cameras were rolling during Isaac when a family drove right into deep water trying to head out for food during the prolonged storm. Power outages may also effect the sewer and water systems.

If you know your elevation and feel confident in sheltering in place, make sure your emergency kit is stocked. Water and non-perishable food, flashlights and battery-operated lanterns as well as a battery-operated communications devices, with back-up batteries. You may want to invest in special devices to charge your cell phone or tablet. You should also have a first aid kit as well as extra prescription medication. Also keep all your important records handy in a water-tight container if you have to leave quickly in an emergency. 

Another thing to keep in mind: If you stay behind, you may be confined to your property even after the weather improves.

“There will be a curfew and individuals who are out past that curfew or are off property where they're not supposed to be are subject to detention and also arrest,” Miller said.

Follow the advice of your local officials, but if you choose to stay, make sure you are ready to deal with the consequences.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.

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