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Emergency Preparedness

Emergency preparedness resources to assist Veterans before, during and after a hurricane or other emergencies.

Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricanes are dangerous and can cause major damage from storm surge, wind damage, rip currents and flooding. They can happen along any U.S. coast or in any territory in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. Storm surge historically is the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the United States.

The Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 – November 30. Never underestimate the value of being prepared! 

Check out the information below to learn more about hurricanes, hazards associated with hurricanes, and what you can do to prepare.

Watches

  • Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or greater) are possible within your area. Because it may not be safe to prepare for a hurricane once winds reach tropical storm force, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issues hurricane watches 48 hours before it anticipates tropical-storm-force-winds.
  • Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.
  • Storm Surge Watch: The possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 48 hours.

Warnings

  • Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or greater) are expected somewhere within the specified area. NHC issues a warning 36 hours in advance of the tropical-storm-force winds to give you time to complete preparations.
  • Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm conditions (39 to 73 mph) are expected within you area within 36 hours. 
  • Storm Surge Warning: The danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 30 hours.
  • Extreme Wind Warning: Extreme sustained winds of a major hurricane (115 mph or greater), usually associated with the eyewall, are expected to begin within an hour. Take immediate shelter in the interior portion of a well-built structure.

Before a Hurricane

The best time to prepare for a hurricane is before hurricane season begins on June 1. It is vital to understand your home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding, and wind. Here is your checklist of things to do BEFORE hurricane seasons begins.

  • Know your zone: Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation area.  
  • Be prepared for hurricane season: The National Weather Service hurricane preparedness information can help you be prepared. 
  • Put together an emergency kit: Put together a hurricane disaster supply kit. Check emergency equipment, such as flashlights, generators, and storm shutters. Ensure you have enough medications on hand.
  • Develop or review your family emergency plan: Before an emergency happens, sit down with your family or close friends and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go, and what you will do in an emergency. Keep a copy of this plan in your emergency supplies kit or another safe place where you can access it in the event of a disaster. Start at the Ready.Gov emergency plan webpage.
  • Review your insurance policies: Review your insurance policies to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your home and personal property.

During a Hurricane

When a hurricane threatens your community, be prepared to evacuate if you live in a storm surge risk area. Allow enough time to pack and inform friends and family if you need to leave your home.

  • Secure your home: Cover all of your home's windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8 inch exterior grade or marine plywood, built to fit, and ready to install. Buy supplies before the hurricane season rather than waiting for the pre-storm rush.
  • Stayed tuned in: Check the websites of your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office. Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond. Listen to the weather radio at NOAA Weather Radio or other radio or TV stations for the latest storm news.
  • Follow instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered!
  • If NOT ordered to evacuate:
    • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level during the storm. Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
    • Stay away from windows, skylights, and glass doors.
    • If the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm, but at the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane force winds coming from the opposite direction.

After a Hurricane

  • Stay informed: Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates. If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • Stay alert: Once home, drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects in the road, downed electrical wires, and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks that might collapse.
  • Assess the damage: Walk carefully around the outside of your home to check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. Stay out of any building if you smell gas, if floodwaters remain around the building, if the building or home was damaged by fire, or if the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms in areas dealing with power outages. Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage. When the power goes out, keep your generator outside. Generator tips available here.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights. Do NOT use candles. Turn on your flashlight before entering a vacated building. The battery could produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present. Power outage tips available here.
  • Know where to get disaster assistance. Click here for FEMA disaster assistance information.

Severe Weather

Severe weather can happen anytime, in any part of the country. Severe weather can include hazardous conditions produced by thunderstorms, including damaging winds, tornadoes, large hail, flooding and flash flooding, and winter storms.

Types of Severe Weather: 

Severe Thunderstorm

Thunderstorms are the most common type of hazardous weather around the globe. All thunderstorms are dangerous as by definition, they include lightning. However, the most intense and dangerous thunderstorms are those classified as severe. A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, damaging winds of 58 mph or higher, and/or quarter (1 inch) size hail or larger.

  • Watch: Issued when conditions are favorable for a particular severe weather hazard within the next several hours.
  • Warning: Issued when a particular severe weather hazard is imminent or occurring. Take immediate action to protect life and property.

Prepare for Thunderstorms & Lightning

  • You need to get inside a sturdy building before a thunderstorm hits. A sturdy building is a structure with walls and a foundation. Once you have identified a sturdy building, plan to shelter in the basement or a small, interior, windowless room on the lowest level to provide additional protection from high winds. Plan to stay inside until weather forecasts indicate it is safe to leave.

  • Mobile, manufactured, trailer homes, and recreational vehicles (RVs) are not safe in high winds. If you live in one of these structures, you need to identify a sturdy building nearby that you can get to quickly.
  • Practice drills with everyone in your household, so everyone knows where to go and what to do before a thunderstorm hits.

Stay Safe During Thunderstorms & Lightning

 If you are under a thunderstorm warning:

  • When thunder roars, go indoors! Move from outdoors into a building or car with a roof.
  • Pay attention to alerts and warnings.
  • Avoid using electronic devices connected to an electrical outlet.
  • Avoid running water.
  • Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Do not drive through flooded roadways. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

Stay Safe After Thunderstorms & Lightning

  • Pay attention to authorities and weather forecasts for information on whether it is safe to go outside and instructions regarding potential flash flooding.
  • Watch for fallen power lines and trees. Report them immediately.

Tornado

Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can destroy buildings, flip cars, and create deadly flying debris.

  • Tornado watch - A tornado watch means that a tornado is possible. A tornado watch is issued when weather conditions favor the formation of tornadoes.
  • Tornado warning - A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. You should immediately take shelter during a tornado warning.

Preparing for a Tornado

  • Know your area’s tornado risk. In the U.S., the Midwest and the Southeast have a greater risk for tornadoes.
  • Know the signs of a tornado, including a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, an approaching cloud of debris, or a loud roar like a freight train.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and NOAA Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts. If your community has sirens, then become familiar with the warning tone.
  • Pay attention to weather reports. Meteorologists can predict when conditions might be right for a tornado.
  • Identify and practice going to a safe shelter such as a safe room built using FEMA criteria or a storm shelter built to ICC 500 standards. The next best protection is a small, interior, windowless room or basement on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
  • Plan for your pet. They are an important member of your family, so they need to be included in your family’s emergency plan.
  • Prepare for long-term stay at home or sheltering in place by gathering emergency supplies, cleaning supplies, non-perishable foodswater, medical supplies and medication.

Staying Safe During a Tornado

  • Immediately go to a safe location that you have identified.
  • Pay attention to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Protect yourself by covering your head or neck with your arms and putting materials such as furniture and blankets around or on top of you.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle if you are in a car. If you are in a car or outdoors and cannot get to a building, cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body with a coat or blanket, if possible.

Staying Safe After a Tornado

  • Stay clear of fallen power lines or broken utility lines.
  • Wear appropriate gear during clean-up such as thick-soled shoes, long pants, and work gloves, use appropriate face coverings or masks if cleaning mold or other debris.

Flood

Flooding is a temporary overflow of water onto land that is normally dry. Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. There are different types of flooding that can be caused by heavy rain, snow melt, or dam or levee failures. Floods can happen very quickly or over a long period of time and may persist for just a few hours or even days. It does not have to take a lot of water to cause flooding. Just six inches of swift-moving water is enough to sweep you off your feet! Failing to evacuate flooded areas or entering flood waters can lead to injury or death.

There are two basic types of flooding:

  • River Flooding: River flooding occurs when water rises over the top of river banks. This can be caused by tropical systems, persistent thunderstorms over the same area for an extended period of time, or snow melt.
  • Flash Floods: Flash flooding is caused by heavy rainfall over a short period of time, generally less than six hours. Areas affected by wildfires are particularly susceptible to flash flooding and debris flows. During a wildfire, vegetation that would normally absorb rainfall is destroyed, and the ground becomes hydrophobic which means it is unable to absorb water. When rain falls on a burn scar, it causes rain to runoff instantly, and flash flooding occurs much more rapidly than normal.

 If you are under a flood warning

  • Find safe shelter right away.

  • Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
  • Remember, just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Stay off bridges over fast-moving water.
  • Depending on the type of flooding:
    • Evacuate if told to do so.
    • Move to higher ground or a higher floor.
    • Stay where you are.

Staying Safe During a Flood

  • Evacuate immediately, if told to evacuate. Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
  • Contact your healthcare provider If you are sick and need medical attention. Wait for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
  • Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions regarding flooding.
  • Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown!
  • Stay off bridges over fast-moving water. Fast-moving water can wash bridges away without warning.
  • Stay inside your car if it is trapped in rapidly moving water. Get on the roof if water is rising inside the car.
  • Get to the highest level if trapped in a building. Only get on the roof if necessary and once there signal for help. Do not climb into a closed attic to avoid getting trapped by rising floodwater.

Staying Safe After a Flood

  • Pay attention to authorities for information and instructions. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Avoid driving except in emergencies.
  • Wear heavy work gloves, protective clothing and boots during clean up and use appropriate face coverings or masks if cleaning mold or other debris. 
  • People with asthma and other lung conditions and/or immune suppression should not enter buildings with indoor water leaks or mold growth that can be seen or smelled. Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work.
  • Be aware that snakes and other animals may be in your house.
  • Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. Turn off the electricity to prevent electric shock if it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid wading in floodwater, which can be contaminated and contain dangerous debris. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery ONLY outdoors and away from windows.

Winter Weather

Winter storms can be just as hazardous as any other type of weather, and it's equally important to be prepared. Winter storms can last days, make travel impossible, and knock out power and communication systems. Don't underestimate the power of winter storms, and be sure to take the necessary steps in order to protect yourself.

How to Protect Yourself from Winter Weather

Know your winter weather terms:

  • Winter Storm Warning - Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.
  • Winter Storm Watch - Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.
  • Winter Weather Advisory - Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.

Preparing for Winter Weather

Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups. Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Remember the needs of your pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.

Be prepared for winter weather at home, at work and in your car. Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep a full tank of gas.

Stay Safe During Winter Weather

  • Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, then stay inside.

  • Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack by avoiding overexertion when shoveling snow and walking in the snow.

Generator Safety

Generators can be helpful when the power goes out. It is important to know how use them safely to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and other hazards.

  • Generators and fuel should always be used outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows, doors and attached garages.
  • Install working carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can kill you, your family and pets.
  • Keep the generator dry and protected from rain or flooding. Touching a wet generator or devices connected to one can cause electrical shock.
  • Always connect the generator to appliances with heavy-duty extension cords.
  • Let the generator cool before refueling. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts can ignite.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Resources

To receive up-to-date alerts and notifications from the G. V.  (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center, visit: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USVHA/subscriber/new?topic_id=USVHA_124

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Creating an Emergency Health Information Card

An emergency health information card can help rescuers understand your medical needs if you are unconscious or incoherent or if they need to help you evacuate quickly. The card should contain information about medications, equipment, allergies and sensitivities, communication difficulties, preferred treatment, and important contact people.

Print the emergency health information card and complete it with a permanent ink pen. Make multiple copies of the card to keep in emergency supply kits, car, wallet or purse, wheelchair pack, etc. 

Click here to create your card today.

Managing Your Medications

Make sure you have necessary prescriptions and other medications available-usually. A 15-day supply is sufficient. If you have medications requiring refrigeration, have a small portable cooler or ice chest ready for easy transportation.

Contact us with questions about your prescriptions: 601-364-1270

Pharmacy | VA Jackson Health Care | Veterans Affairs

VA Emergency Pharmacy Program

In a catastrophic event, VA may activate the Emergency Pharmacy Program. Through this program, Veterans with a VA ID card who need an emergency supply of medication can go to any retail pharmacy open to the public with a written prescription on a valid VA prescription form or active VA prescription bottle (not older than six months AND with refills available) to receive at least a 10-day supply. Note:  Controlled substances are not included in this program; VA must fill them.

Communicate with your Health Care Team

My HealtheVet makes it easy to communicate with your health care team, manage your appointments and health records, and refill prescriptions online. 

State Resources

MEMA - https://www.msema.org/

Mississippi Department of Public Safety - https://www.dps.ms.gov/

Mississippi Department of Human Services - https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/disaster-resources/

Hinds County Emergency Management - https://www.hindscountyms.com/departments/emergency-management

Madison County Emergency Management - https://www.madison-co.com/county-departments/emergency-management

Rankin County - https://www.rankincounty.org/department/index.php?structureid=26

National Resources

Ready.gov - https://www.ready.gov/

National Weather Service - https://www.weather.gov/

National Hurricane Center - https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

American Red Cross - https://www.redcross.org/get-help.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/index.html

FEMA - https://www.fema.gov/

USA.gov - https://www.usa.gov/disasters-and-emergencies