Due to the recent hurricanes, I have been thinking about how one could try to be prepared for such an event. So in doing so, I put together a basic hurricane preparedness guide for what you might need and why. These are not put in any particular order. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what else you may have added.
Let’s face it, besides the torrential rains, massive flooding, and the gale force winds, one of the other biggest concerns would be loss of power. Losing power can end up cutting off our lighting, limiting our methods of communication, as well as taking out a slew of other goodies we are used to using on a daily basis. To prepare for power loss, let’s discuss what you may need.
For lighting, you will want flashlights, lanterns, candles, or lamps. These can be battery powered, hand crank, or flame and wick. Solar powered ones may also be an option for when the skies clear up. Depending on what you decide to keep on hand, make sure to have batteries, matches or lighters, kerosene or lamp oil, or even those small little green bottles of propane you can get in the sporting goods section of the store to keep them lit. Good ventilation is the key to prevent death from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you can afford a generator to maintain power, then you need to have plenty of gasoline to keep it up and running. A generator would come in handy for not only lighting, but it can keep your refrigerator and freezer running as well. Longer term preparation can include keeping a store of non-ethanol gasoline in order to run your generator. Having a good storage also prevents having to wait in line at the pumps that may run dry before you are able to fill up. It is a good idea to have a multipurpose fire extinguisher on hand in case of emergency. Baking soda can work in a pinch for small grease fires.
Communication. This covers quite a bit, but I will try to keep it simple. Most people have a cell phone and not a land-line anymore. That is fine and dandy. Make sure you charge your phone ahead of time and then power it off until you need it. Resist playing Candy Crush or checking Facebook. It will be hard, but if you don’t have a way to charge your phone, then you need to make sure you have it in case of emergency. Have a radio with NOAA weather stations. This will help you to know how bad the weather is getting and whether or not you have to bug out. If you are lucky, you may have a radio that is hand crank, solar powered, with optional plug that you can also charge your phone with. Luckily those radios are not too expensive. Walkie talkies with batteries also comes up a lot on various sites as something to keep your family in contact with each other if you happen to get separated. Those may be a good idea if you have to leave home and end up at an evacuation center.
Medical items you will want to have would be a well stocked first aid kit. This may be very handy if you or your family get injured from debris. Prescriptions should be filled/refilled prior to the storm. If your pharmacy has no power following the hurricane, you may not be able to fill up elsewhere. It would not be a good thing to run out of much needed heart medicine during such a stressful event. I am putting insect repellent and sunscreen under medical as I feel it is necessary. These items will help when mosquito populations sky rocket due to all the new standing puddles of water left over from the rains and flooding, and sunscreen in more southern climates to protect you from burns that may blister and peel. That would cause great discomfort and potentially leave open wounds that can be infected from dirty flood waters. A couple more odd items to add to the medical items would be diaper rash cream and anti-fungal spray/cream. I put these items under the medical category simply because you are now dealing with a very moist environment. Your clothes may get wet and cause a rash on your thighs or other regions, your socks and shoes can get soaked which can cause athletes foot if you are in them for an extended period of time. If you have the diaper rash cream and anti-fungal spray, you can avoid a load of discomfort.
Hygiene. Just because a natural disaster arrives, does not mean you can skimp out on hygiene matters. Not taking care of personal hygiene can very easily result in sickness following a hurricane. What should you have on hand? Well, toilet paper, obviously. Diapers and diaper wipes for your itty bitty children. Pads and tampons for the ladies in your house (just because Mother Nature strikes with fury outside, doesn’t mean Mother Nature won’t make a personal appearance in your home). Soap and shampoo for if you are lucky enough to have running water, or if you have a huge supply of water storage (you can make use of all that water in your rain barrels as well for washing up). Diaper wipes or sanitary wipes to use if there is no running water or you have a limited amount. Deodorant, just because you want to be able to stand yourself, and so do the people who come near you. Toothpaste and toothbrushes for oral health, mouthwash would be recommended but not as much of a priority as toothpaste and toothbrushes. I will also put having a hairbrush on here. Having a hairbrush will help keep hair from matting and attracting nasty little bugs that would want to make a home on your head. Studies have also shown that keeping up with at least minimal hygiene practices can help a person keep sane as it provides a sense of normalcy in an otherwise stressful situation.
Food. You should aim to have at least two weeks worth of non-perishable food and snacks for everyone in the house. I put it at a minimum of two weeks as you won’t know how badly the delivery routes are going to be affected, nor whether or not the stores will even be open soon after the storm breaks and the flood waters recede. Have a way to cook the food (since eating it cold out of the can will get old fast). A grill or portable camp cookstove would work if the power is off and you have no other way to cook. Have plenty of propane or charcoal in your preps prior to the hurricane making landfall so you can enjoy some nice warm meals. Having a way to cook also will allow you to get through the food that would be defrosting in the freezer following interruption in power as well. My mother recently prepared for Hurricane Irma to hit, in doing so, she cooked up all the food in her freezer that may defrost or go bad ahead of the storm, she also made jerky with some of the meat so it did not have to be eaten as quickly. Pans and cooking utensils will be needed. You may want to have paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic eating utensils to avoid dishes building up or wasting precious water resources. Have trash bags to dispose of the waste in.
Water. It is recommended to have one gallon of water per person per day for drinking, food preparation, and hygiene. Again, you will want to aim for at least a two week supply. You can supplement any bottled water you bought by filling empty Tupperware containers with tap water. That will give you additional drinking and cooking water. You can also fill the bathtub with water for hygiene uses as well as to help flush your toilet. Water purification devices may be needed if you are not able to procure enough water. Try to find a filter that not only removes the sediment, but also removes bacteria and chemicals. It would still be a good idea to boil the water after running it through the purifier to ensure nothing comes back to bite you on the butt. The flood waters can take the nastiness from the sewer system and spread it around to different water sources.
Important documents should be kept in a water proof bag or container in case you have to evacuate. Try to include medical and vehicle insurance cards, home owners/renters insurance policies, bank account information, marriage license, social security cards, and birth certificates.
Entertainment is a must, especially if you have children. If the TV and internet aren’t working, then you need to revert back to simpler things. Have crayons and coloring books, board games, a deck of cards, and books to read to help entertain yourself and your family.
Cash. If you need to evacuate or you have run out of supplies, the ATMs may be down due to the power being out and the banks may not be open. Have a variety of bills, stick with smaller bills if you can, so that you can make purchases more easily. I would advise you not to keep all your cash in one place (such as your wallet) in case you lose it or are robbed.
Dry clothes and shoes are a must. Not only will they help you feel a little more human when everything has turned to chaos, but they can help prevent you from having to use the diaper rash ointment or anti-fungal spray you have in your medical preps. Make sure you have seasonally appropriate clothing and sneakers or boots. Try not to wear shoes that slip off easily or would provide little to no protection from debris leftover from the storm.
Vehicle. Yes, your vehicle can be considered a prep. Why? Well, you may wake up and find yourself standing eight inches of water and it is still raining. In that case, you will need to evacuate. Make sure that, before the hurricane is due to make landfall, you top off your gas tank, check your tire pressure, and check your vehicle’s fluids (change or top off if necessary). You want your car ready to go when you are. Keep a toolkit in the trunk, you never know when it will come in handy.
You will also want to keep a three day supply of the above items in your vehicle if you know the storm is going to hit your area, just in case. You don’t want to try to pack everything you need if the waters are rapidly rising, you may end up forgetting something important, like your wife. You may also want to include blankets and pillows, and perhaps towels. You don’t know what you will need if you end up at an evacuation center. If you have a GPS, have that in the car ready to go, a regular map would work as well. Have several possible evacuation routes planned as roads could be flooded or blocked by fallen tress or other debris.
For those of you who have pets. Remember, not everywhere accepts pets or they have a limit to how many or what kind you can have. This applies to both hotels and evacuation centers. Many evacuation centers will not allow pets of any kind due to health concerns. Please do your research ahead of time and plot out proper evacuation routes that will lead you by pet friendly hotels, or discuss with friends or family if they may be able to take your pets in until you can go back home. Similar rules apply to pets for food, water, and medical preparations. If you have to evacuate, make sure to have their food in an airtight/waterproof container.
Keep in mind you will need to bring water for your pet as well. Bowls need to be included to feed and water them. Bring medicines if they require them. Important documents such as registration, adoption paperwork, and vaccine records can come in handy, especially if you find you are needing to board your pets for awhile. You will want to make sure your pet has their collar or harness with ID/registration and rabies tags attached. A leash, crate, or pet carrier to help move your pet without them getting loose. If you have a dog who does not do well around other animals or people, then I would recommend a muzzle. Treats or chew toys can help reduce your pets stress and give them something to do. Just remember, an animal will also have to relieve themselves, just like you do, so make sure you can clean up after them. A litter box and some kitty litter if you have a cat, plastic baggies if you have a dog. Paper towels and cleaner, because accidents happen.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article on The Patriot Institute. I hope that you find this information useful. Remember, this is written based on my opinion. Please do your research if you want to get into more in depth hurricane prepping. The Red Cross, CDC, FEMA, and other sites also have their own recommendations as what to do in the event of a hurricane. For all of you who are currently affected by the hurricanes to the south and south east, good luck. You will stay in our prayers until this is all over.