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Hurricane season starts June 1 -- are you ready?

Sunday - 6/1/2014, 6:55am  ET

WASHINGTON -- It might seem a little early to worry about hurricanes, but the season starts June 1.

And last year, a tropical storm hit Florida on June 5.

So it's a good idea to make a family plan for possible hurricane emergencies.

"The most important thing that you can do is to have a family emergency plan," says Laura Southard, public outreach coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. "And it won't take you very long."

During large-scale emergencies it can be difficult for people to communicate locally by cellphone if the systems get overwhelmed. In those cases, text messages and long-distance calls typically work.

Some other recommendations:

  • Pick an out-of-state loved one to act as emergency contact.

  • Make sure everyone has the phone number of that contact.

  • If calls aren't going through at all, be patient and keep trying.

  • Teach everyone with a cellphone how to use the text-messaging function.

Many situations may also prevent family members from reaching home.

"Maybe trees are down and you can't get back in. Identify a place where you meet up with your family," says Southard. She recommends that families choose a spot near, but not in, their neighborhood.

Before a potential disaster strikes, Virginia's Department of Emergency Management recommends neighbors make a plan to work together:

  • Find out who has medical knowledge.

  • Find out who has specialized equipment, such as generators.

  • Decide who will check on elderly or disabled neighbors.

  • Establish backup plans for children if adults can't reach home.

When large-scale disasters strike, first responders and emergency workers can't get to everyone at once. Federal planners say everyone should be prepared to take care of themselves by providing their own food, water and supplies for at least 72 hours.

"It doesn't cost anything to make a plan," Southard says.

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