What should a housing society do when a cyclone is expected?

After two destructive cyclones, Amphan and Nisarga, wreaking havoc in the last few months, yet another cyclone is about to hit the country in 2020.

Cyclone Nivar which is categorized as a ‘Severe Cyclonic Storm’ is headed towards South India on Wednesday, 25th November 2020.

The Indian Meteorological Department has issued a red alert for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry while a yellow alert has been declared for the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The cyclone is projected to generate wind speeds of 100/110 km per hour, intensifying to up to 120 km/hour. Section 144 is imposed in Puducherry while rainfall is expected in Tamil Nadu until 27th November. Following the announcement, the government of Tamil Nadu has released emergency numbers as well.

For housing societies, this is the time to exercise utmost precautions to prevent damage to property, injuries, or loss of life. 

Here’s a checklist for residents to follow in the wake of a cyclone:

  • Keep an emergency kit handy with first aid necessities in case of any injuries.
  • Have a backup power system in place, such as a power bank to charge mobiles/laptops in case of power failure. Keep enough flashlights and dry cells ready as well.
  • Trim any branches hanging over rooftops/balconies and clear the storm drains of leaves, snags, etc. in order to avoid waterlogging. 
  • Take a look around the house/apartment and within the society premises to remove any dead branches, metal sheets, pipes, glass, unhinged garbage receptors, bricks, and other materials that can go flying off with strong winds.
  • Check the house for loose/broken/ cracked glass in windows and doors. Also, check if there are loose tiles or distresses that can come apart during the cyclone and have them fixed.
  • If doors and windows seem weak and there isn’t enough time to repair then, have them temporarily boarded. 
  • Clear your balconies, patios, gardens, and other front-facing structures of loose items including hanging pots, decorations, furniture, and any other paraphernalia.
  • Have enough water clearing tools like mops, buckets, and towels handy in case of stormwater comes gushing in the house.
  • Stay updated with vital information and cyclone updates through TV, radio, digital mediums (a transistor radio would also do in case of a complete power outage and no access to the internet).
  • If your house has higher ground, take shelter there. Otherwise, stay in the centre of the house and keep away from doors and windows.
  • It’s not advisable to completely prevent air circulation. Crack open a window (halfway) located at the sides that are not in the direction of the wind.
  • Disconnect all non-essential electronic equipment that consumes power such as fridge, TV, washing machine. At the same time, check all electrical connections in the house and common areas of the society to make sure there are no exposed wires, flammable liquids, or burning smells. If you want to be doubly sure or if the danger is severe, switch off the electrical mains in the house.
  • Make sure that the outer units of air conditioners are firmly screwed so that they’re intact during the cyclone. 
  • Turn off the gas main and immediately call for help if you smell smoke or burnt rubber. Exit the building and find shelter nearby.
  • Store enough water, groceries,and non-perishable food items to weather prolonged durations of cyclonic activity.
  • If anyone in the family has a special diet or medical requirements (e.g. diabetics/physical impairment), provisions should be taken care of in advance.
  • Residents who are under immediate threat of the cyclone in low-lying areas, ground floor/first floor and are ordered to evacuate, should vacate the premises after removing valuables/ assets from the home if there is a strong possibility of flooding. Put up storm shutters as well. If you’re headed to a storm shelter, pack only all essentials for survival that would last a few days, such as medicines for children and elderly, clothes, etc. 
  • Make sure legal documents, contracts and certificates are stored safely with damage-proof wrapping materials.
  • Housing societies should ascertain that two-wheelers and cycles are parked securely so that they don’t fall or go colliding into each other.
  • Gardening sheds, water tanks, composting units, solar system, satellite TV systems, etc. should be properly covered/tightly screwed in to prevent any damages.

Cyclones are a regular feature of the Indian landscape and have disrupted the lives of countless citizens in the past. They still remain a massive threat but if proper measures are taken after the alert is sounded, society and its residents can save themselves from trouble and devastation on a large scale. Society’s MC/RWA must alert the residents immediately so that no one’s left uninformed and give them a customised checklist of steps to take in the event of a cyclone.

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