FIRST PERSON | As Irene approaches, some of my military wife friends who are new to the East Coast are concerned about their lack of experience in dealing with hurricanes. I created this “hurricane preparedness” list for them and figured it would be helpful to anyone in Irene’s projected path who may be feeling unprepared.
As a native Floridian, if there’s one thing I’ve experienced it is hurricanes! What you need for the duration and aftermath of a storm really depends on the severity of the storm. Sometimes, if it’s just a small one, you’ll simply lose cable service or power for a short time. However, in the aftermath of the bigger storms – where you could lose electricity for weeks at a time, deal with water contamination, and have local businesses shut down for a while – it’s important to have as much of this stuff as possible.
Above all else you’ll want to make sure you have protection for the windows in your home. Hurricane shutters are your best bet, but people also use wood sheets to board up the windows or duct tape in an “X” across the windows to prevent the glass from shattering in case of wind or damage from flying debris.
1. Bottled water
If the power goes out or you lose access to clean water, you’ll need bottled water for drinking and sanitation, so get plenty. The typical guideline is about 3 gallons per person. Usually you’ll still have clean water after a storm unless it’s a big one, but no hot water. Cold showers are a lot of fun!
You’ll also want to make sure you have plenty of soap, disinfectant, liquid detergent, bleach, garbage bags, and other hygiene items just for personal sanitation purposes.
2. Paper Goods
Toilet paper, paper towels, feminine products, wet wipes, paper plates and utensils. These are good in case local stores lose power and you are unable to purchase supplies for a while. Using paper and plastic supplies also saves on water if your supply is contaminated because you don’t have to wash them.
3. Baby Stuff
If you have any small children or babies in the home, make sure you stock up on the stuff you need for them daily: formula, bottles, powdered milk, diapers, medication, and wipes.
4. Pet Stuff
The same applies for pet supplies. Make sure you have enough food and water for your pets. Additionally, you may need leashes, harnesses, carriers, sanitation supplies (cat litter, etc), and your pet’s health records.
5. Important Documents
You want to ensure you place all important documents in a waterproof container. This may include health records, important phone numbers, bank records, family records, inventory of household items, wills, insurance information, titles, deeds, passports, credit cards, Social Security cards, etc. Remember that these storms sometimes cause severe wind and water damage. You’ll want to protect anything important in a safe place.
6. Flashlights or Battery-Operated Lamps
It used to be the experts suggested candles. However, I don’t like candles because they generate heat and are a fire hazard. We have industrial flashlights and numerous battery-operated LED lamps in case the lights go out.
7. A Battery-Operated Radio or TV
It is helpful to have a battery-operated radio for news updates in case your power and cable go out. We also have a portable, battery-operated “sports” TV so we can also watch the news if we can manage to get a signal.
8. Extra Batteries
You’ll want to be sure to have extra batteries for all battery-operated items in the house. We have lamps, flashlights, a radio, a television, and a fan that all require batteries.
9. Gas and Cash
Try to fill your car up with gas and get cash from the ATM prior to a storm in case the power goes out and you can’t get access to fuel or money. This may seem a little extreme until you’re sitting in eight-hour gas lines, which are less fun than cold showers.
10. Bagged Ice and Coolers
If your power goes out, you’ll want to have ice and coolers to keep perishables fresh. This is another item people often stand in line for after a storm.
11. A Generator
Most people don’t have these; we don’t. However, you can purchase small gas-powered generators at home goods stores (i.e. Home Depot). Whether or not you want to make the investment is up to you.
12. Canned or Non-Perishable Food
Food items such as peanut butter, jelly, and bread that can be eaten without having to be cooked are helpful. Or, if you have a gas grill to cook with, supplies for that. Just make sure you have a good stock pile of stuff to eat. You might also want to consider dry cereal, powdered milk, canned fruits and veggies, canned meat, canned soups, energy bars or other snack bar items.
Remember to grab a handheld can opener to open all this stuff with!
Make sure you have refills for any and all medications you or your family members may need. Remember this can also include any medications you may need for children and pets. Additionally, you might want to make sure you have some basic over-the-counter medications, vitamins, etc.
I will load up my Kindle with books to read for entertainment. My husband has battery-operated video games. We will also make sure our laptop battery is fully charged. We have a battery-operated TV. Some people have portable DVD players. What you stock up on here really just depends on your preference for entertainment.
15. A Working Telephone
Many people no longer have land-line phones (the kind that only require a phone jack to function). If you do not have access to a phone that doesn’t require power to work, then make sure your cell phone is fully charged or you have a car charger so you can communicate with others. Our phones are all portable and our phone line is through our cable service, so if all that goes down we have to have car chargers for the phones in order to make calls.
16. A First-Aid Kit
It’s always good to have a basic first-aid kit around the house, just in case. If you are unsure what you’ll need for a kit, you can find some tips from the Red Cross.
17. Basic Camping Supplies
You never know. You’ll want to make sure you have sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows for everyone in the house. You’ll need matches or a lighter of some sort. You may even want to keep a map or compass in the house.
After Hurricane Andrew, it was very disorienting because all of the buildings and landmarks were wiped out. A map and compass (or GPS) could help you in the event that it is difficult to find your way around. In really bad storms, many people lose their roofs or even their houses. Please just use common sense in gathering things which may help you be comfortable if you have to sleep in a house without a roof, or even outdoors.
18. Clean Clothes
Make sure you have clean underwear! Your mother will be proud.
19. Mosquito Repellant
For some reason these storms bring out the mosquitoes. Typically, these aren’t your normal mosquitoes either; they are mosquitoes on steroids. Make sure you have something to repel them!
20. Eye Care and Medical Supplies
If you wear contacts, be sure to have plenty of solution and eye drops. Make sure you have your glasses. If you monitor your diabetes or blood pressure, make sure you have all of the medical supplies you need to ensure you can continue your health care regime.
Some of this stuff may seem a little overwhelming, but in the case of storms like Hurricane Andrew (which hit South Florida 19 years ago this month) or Katrina, you will be glad you took the necessary precautions. After Andrew, all local stores, gas stations, and banks were closed, so Floridians had to take it back to the Stone Age for a while.
Because I witnessed the aftermath of a storm like that, I’d much rather be over-prepared than sorry. Besides, all the stuff listed here is stuff you will eventually use, so it’s good to have. On a positive note, if the storm ends up turning or not making an impact, you can always plan a camping trip when hurricane season is over – you’ll definitely be prepared!
Tags:20 Essentials for Hurricane Firsttimers