The best time to prepare for a hurricane is before hurricane season starts. Listed below are steps to be taken to help you weather the storm. Some should be started well in advance of a storm’s approach (tree trimming for instance) and other tasks would typically be done 1-2 days before the storm’s impact (filling your car gas tank). Keep in mind that hurricanes can be extremely large storms that impact very large areas. This means thousands, or tens of thousands of people may be making the same preparations as you, so plan accordingly for access to those supplies that will be in high demand and out-of-stock quickly (food, water, batteries).
The approach of a potentially damaging storm is stressful and may cause anxiety. With proper preparation, you can alleviate some of the stress and minimize the effects on your property and family.
1. Purchase Batteries
Start by taking inventory of all the battery-powered devices in your home that you could need during a loss of electrical service (cell phones, radios, lights). Purchase enough batteries for each of these devices to last 2-3 days. It may seem obvious, but do not purchase or rely on rechargeable batteries unless you have generator power available. Candles and a lighter are always a reliable backup as well!
2. Fill Portable Gas Containers
Fill all your gas cans typically used for lawn equipment or power tools. Consider purchasing additional gas cans to supply fuel for generators. A typical standby generator may consume more than 5-10 gallons each day, if run constantly. If you have a gas grill, make sure to have an adequate supply on hand for cooking.
3. Prepare a Vehicle for Possible Evacuation
Make sure at least one automobile has a full tank of gas in case you need to evacuate your home. Keep in mind that hurricanes are large storms and evacuation may mean traveling a hundred miles or farther to get to safety or available shelter.
4. Start and Operate Mechanical Equipment
Make sure any equipment to be used during or immediately after the storm is in working condition and functioning properly. This would include generators, window air-conditioners and chainsaws. Ensure adequate fuel supplies are stored and ready for use.
5. Create a Water Supply
Your normal water supply could be interrupted during a severe storm. Consider stocking up and storing potable water for drinking and cooking. This would obviously require clean, sanitary water either purchased in large jugs or stored in advance of the storm. Keep in mind this is one of the first items to disappear from local markets ahead of a large storm.
Another water supply to consider would be for sanitation (bathing and flushing toilets). This water does not have to be drinking quality. Simply filling up one of the bathtubs in the house can provide several days’ worth of needed water. A toilet will flush simply by pouring a gallon of water into the bowl, without the need of any power source. However, keep in mind that flooding conditions can affect the sewerage system in some instances.
6. Trim Branches from Power Service Lines, Roofs, and Windows
This item should be addressed well in advance of a storm, preferably before hurricane season starts. Trees or branches that present a risk to power lines, roofs, windows, or other vulnerable features should be trimmed. This task will often require the service of a professional contractor.
7. Collect and Store Nonperishable Food Items and Goods
Collect canned goods and other food items that can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration. Make sure to have a manual can opener on hand! Keep in mind a well-stocked freezer will maintain food for 2-3 days without power. With enough advanced warning, you could place several half-gallon milk containers filled with water in the freezer. Once frozen, they will extend the time the freezer will maintain the perishable food.
Another option is to advance purchase some of the long-term food storage kits commercially available – like MRE’s (Meals-Ready-to-Eat) the military utilizes.
8. Charge Cell Phones
Make sure cell phones are fully charged and minimize usage during a power loss to essential needs only. Backup batteries are available and should be on hand and fully charged as well.
9. Prepare an Emergency Supply Kit
It is highly recommended that an emergency supply kit be maintained for such instances and should include – at a minimum – basic medical supplies, several days’ worth of any prescription medications, a list of prescriptions and attending physicians, local and non-local emergency contacts, and locations of areas of refuge (in case of evacuation), change of clothes and personal toiletries, batteries, and a reasonable sum of cash to sustain everyone for several days. This kit should be easily transportable in the event of an evacuation.
10. Clean Up Around Your House
Many homes are impacted by high winds during a hurricane, so you need to pick up anything that could potentially become air-borne during the storm. This includes patio furniture, trampolines, decorative garden fixtures, hanging baskets, bird feeders, garbage cans, delicate potted plants, wall hangings, flags, or signs. Consider securing anything that cannot be in a protected area (hanging light fixtures, etc.) Realize that it is unlikely you can prepare for all eventualities or completely “stormproof” your home. You must take inventory and decide on a reasonable course of action given your distinctive circumstances.
11. Collect Cleaning Supplies
More for use after the storm, these supplies will be in short supply once the storm has passed. Stock up on spray bottles of cleansers, rags, gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, mops, brooms, and buckets. The magnitude of the cleanup can vary depending on the storm impact.
12. Gather Important Documents
In the event you must evacuate your house quickly, it is prudent to have all your important documents gathered and contained in a waterproof container. Prior to the storm, collect documents such as your driver’s license, passport, will, legal documents, deed to your house, bank records (account numbers and phone numbers), keys and access codes to off-site buildings or lock boxes, and a listing of your user id and passwords to your on-line accounts. If you have a home computer or laptop, “backup” the unit and prepare to bring it and the power cords with you during an evacuation. This task may take some time prior to a storm but will save countless hours should the storm impact your house.
It is impossible to prepare for every outcome related to a hurricane event. But proper planning and preparation could prove invaluable in minimizing damage to your property and personal belongings. Proper preparation for a hurricane may take days to accomplish so early organization is key to success.