Barry was only a hurricane in the technical, 74+ mph wind, sense of the word for a short time. That’s little comfort to anybody living down by the Gulf of Mexico and dealing with torrential rain, power outages, or the postponement of the Rolling Stones’ concert at the Superdome. There will be more hurricanes before the year is out—no Atlantic cyclone season ever ended with “B”—and this early in the season all we can do is hope for the best.

Oh, really? Is that all we can do? There must be something more we can try.

A couple of years ago they sent me to Hurricane School, mostly on FEMA’s nickel, and I found it fascinating. Sitting in a classroom at the National Hurricane Center in Miami — the next room over from where the Chief Meteorologists broadcast to the world in the thick of the mayhem — we disaster preparedness nerds listened to scientists and planners, learned some new jargon and a bit of math, and small-town responders such as I experienced a reality check. The big problem is not so much a storm — it’s a city.

Many of my classmates were Emergency Management Directors from places you will have heard of (none of them had heard of Matinicus Island, Maine) and they shared stories of trying to evacuate parts of major cities. What do you do when nobody believes you, because you’re City Hall and you didn’t fix the potholes so you’re idiots? How do you convince people that this really could get serious, when the last storm wasn’t so bad? How do you move a lot of citizens who don’t have vehicles, or who are physically incapable of going anywhere on their own, or who don’t speak enough English to understand the alarm, or who won’t leave their home because they fear the thieves more than the hurricane? What do you do about all the preschoolers whose parents are at work, and what do you do with the “cat lady” who won’t leave the two dozen “fur babies,” and what do you do when the rapidly spreading rumors have got it all wrong?

Dealing with groups of people about to be slammed by a hurricane may seem primarily a logistics job, or the domain of scientists, or the business of public works management, but it is a human problem. It is very largely a communications problem.

There are some who presume that small and isolated naturally equates to primitive and helpless, but the reality is far from it. On this tiny peak of a rocky glacial hill some 20 miles out to sea, where there are no doctors and no police (unless Rich or Keith happens to be visiting) and no professional response agency and no chain of command (perish the thought), we would suffer far less than might those in a dense metropolis should a full-on hurricane have us in its sights.

There are some common misconceptions we are called upon to answer to each year. Wouldn’t a major hurricane whip up waves that could overtop the island and drown us all in our oilskins? Shouldn’t we be motoring for the mainland at that point? In short, no; the island is not flat, and we will not get swamped, but crossing the bay in a 30-odd foot boat once a storm really spools up could be dangerous indeed. Power lines would be at risk, sure — here the same as anywhere — but civilization need not end when the kilowatt-hour meter stops. Nobody here would be left to suffer or go hungry or to struggle alone. We have “resources.”

Returning to that query about what people can do other than “hope for the best,” we can think about where we’d go if we ever had to leave home. How reliant is your household on commercial utilities, municipal services, the car, or the cell phone? If total dependence is your reality, admit it and pack up. I’m not all about filling the basement with canned goods for the onslaught of the zombies, but the business of rushing the supermarkets for water and batteries as the sky begins to turn green is a bit silly: have water and batteries — and headlamps and a radio and spare food — in your home all the time. (It is hard to believe that there are actually people who do not keep anything extra on hand!) Consider the usefulness of an old-fashioned, wired (not cordless) landline telephone, which will ordinarily work for a while even if the power is out. Discuss w ith children what to do if family members get separated. If you live near a river, even a small one, pay attention to the weather upstream. More than the wind, fear the water.

And when — not if—the storm comes, check on the neighbors.