The 2012 hurricane season hasn't officially begun, and there have already been two named storms. This week, Tropical Storm Bud formed in the Pacific Ocean off of the coast of southern Mexico and Tropical Storm Alberto, which has now been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, continues churning in the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina coast.

Health officials emphasize that these storms are a good reminder that it's never too early to be prepared for hurricane season.

With just 10 days until the 2012 hurricane season begins, the Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) is urging residents to gear up and be prepared for hurricane season - well before a storm hits, which means now.

"Every day we encourage Louisianians to own your own health, but that also means taking responsibility for you and your family's safety before a disaster strikes," said LDH State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. "When families prepare early, it reduces the stress that can be caused by an emergency. And we know from experience that thinking ahead can also saves lives and property."

The 2012 hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30. Weather forecasters have predicted a below-average season with fewer hurricanes than usual this year, but health officials remind Louisiana residents to remain vigilant.

"Even if it is a slow season, it only takes one hurricane to cause widespread destruction, damage and serious disruption to people's lives," Guidry said. "That's why we want people to be ready and have a game plan."

LDH advises residents to purchase supplies they would need in the event of a hurricane, including batteries, bottled water, tarps and non-perishable food, now to avoid the hectic rush that often occurs when storms enter the Gulf of Mexico. Families should also begin planning now where they will go and how they will get there if they need to evacuate. Also, consider how to get storm updates so you can stay informed during a hurricane, particularly in the event that power outages occur.

Families can find preparedness tips from LDH and other State agencies at http://www.getagameplan.org/, which is administered through the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Some things families can do now to be ready if a hurricane hits include:

  1.      Make a kit with enough supplies to last your family two weeks.

  • One gallon of water per person for 3 days-or 5 gallons per person for the two weeks
  • Two week supply of non-perishable food items that don't require cooking or refrigeration
    • Baby formula and a can opener
  • Extra clothing, blankets, pillows, sleeping gear: baby diapers and supplies
  • Two week supply of prescription medications (ask the pharmacist to print a list of your meds; first aid supplies and non-prescription medications.)
  • Important papers, insurance cards, driver's licenses or I.D. (place these in a waterproof container)
  • Flashlights & extra batteries
  • Hygiene items (soap, toothbrush & toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper)
  • Quite family activities (books, cards, quiet toys)

  2.      Make a plan that details what you and your family will do.

  • Identify ahead of time where you could go if you are told to evacuate. Choose several places- a friend or relative's home in another town, a motel or a shelter.
  • Keep handy the telephone numbers of these places as well as a road map of your locality. You may need to take alternative or unfamiliar routes if major roads are closed or flooded.

  3.      Stay informed

  • The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in conjunction with LDH and other state agencies will be putting out timely information during hurricanes or other emergencies.
  • Tune in to your local radio and television stations for the most up to date information provided, including evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Disasters can occur anywhere at any time. At a moment's notice citizens may need to move quickly out of harm's way.
  • Get hurricane information at http://www.emergency.louisiana.gov/, http://www.getagameplan.org/ and http://www.dhh.la.gov/.

Residents can stock up on flashlights, batteries, generators and other storm-related items free of the four percent state sales tax during Louisiana's 2012 Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday this Saturday, May 26 and Sunday, May 27.

The sales tax holiday exempts the first $1500 of the purchase price of each of the following eligible items:

  • Self-powered light sources, such as flashlights and candles
  • Portable self-powered radios, two-way radios, and weather-band radios
  • Tarpaulins or other flexible waterproof sheeting
  • Ground anchor systems, straps or tie-down kits
  • Gas or diesel fuel tanks
  • Batteries, sizes AAA, AA, C, D, 6-volt, or 9-volt (Automobile batteries and boat batteries are ineligible)
  • Cellular phone batteries and chargers
  • Non-electric food storage coolers
  • Portable generators
  • Storm shutter devices (Materials and products manufactured, rated, and marketed specifically for the purposes of preventing window damage from storms)
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • "Blue Ice" (and similar re-usable cooling products)

Local sales taxes still apply during the holiday unless specifically exempted by the local taxing jurisdiction.

Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.