How to Prepare for a Hurricane: Most Thorough List Ever

I have never really thought about how many people don’t know what to expect or how to prepare for a hurricane. I was born and raised in the panhandle of Florida. Hurricanes have always been a part of my life. So, it blows my mind when people say that they’ve never been through a hurricane and they don’t know what to do. No worries though, inland friends, I’m about to put my expertise to good use and give you the most thorough hurricane preparedness list EVER!

1. Decide Whether to Evacuate or Not

One of the most difficult decisions of ‘hurricane planning’ is trying to decide if or when to evacuate. When I was growing up, my dad was a die-hard stay-er. Meaning that he wasn’t leaving his house ‘for no dang storm’! This also meant that all us kids, mom, and Nana stayed too. To date, this has worked in his favor. He hasn’t blown away or been crushed by a falling tree….yet.
Don’t be like my dad. If you can’t handle the stress and anxiety of weathering a storm (& trust me, it gets scary), then GO! Don’t put yourself through all the extra stress if you have other options. There is no shame in evacuating. I’ll say it again, because it’s THAT important: THERE IS NO SHAME IN EVACUATING!
If local government issues a mandatory evacuation….LEAVE. At this point, your life and the lives of your children are at risk. You also risk the lives of any emergency personnel who try to come save you when you call for help. It’s not fair to anyone and you’re being a selfish moron if you stay.
evacuation plan grab beer run like hell

2. Buy Supplies

Always, always, always do the shopping first! DO NOT wait until the day before the storm to try to buy water or get gas….you probably won’t be able to find any. To prepare for a hurricane, you’ll need:
  • water

A basic guideline for water is 3-5 gallons per person. This will give each person drinking water for 3-5 days. If you live in a rural area or expect to be without power for more than 3-5 days, then plan accordingly. Don’t underestimate how much water you will need. You might not think that you will drink a gallon of water a day (& you might not), but keep in mind that you will be without power in the south, at the end of summer. It’s hot, humid, and you are going to be sweatin’ like a pig. [Remember: you can mix the water with kool-aid or Gatorade powders/mixes if plain water isn’t your thing or if your kids are anything like mine.]
how to prepare for a hurricane
  • canned food/dry goods

The kinds of canned food or dry goods you buy will depend entirely on your family: what they like to eat and what method you will have for cooking. I could buy a bunch of dry beans and potted meat, but my family isn’t going to eat it, so why waste my money? Here are some ideas for non-perishable foods that your kids might actually eat!
  • ravioli/spaghettios
  • cereals that your kids like to eat dry (i.e cheerios)
  • PB&J supplies
  • canned and dried fruit
  • trail mixes, granola bars, pop tarts
  • kool-aid, lemonade, Gatorade mixes
  • sugar
  • crackers, chips, and other snacks
  • boxed mac-n-cheese (the kind that doesn’t require milk)

Don’t forget a manual can opener!

  • medications/first aid kit

You should have a 2-week supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications. You should also have a basic first aid kit for minor injuries or ailments. If you have kids, make sure that you have the children’s versions of pain relievers/fever reducers.
how to prepare for a hurricane
  • baby supplies

Have at least a 2-week supply of formula, diapers, wipes, and baby food. Nothing will make a disaster worse than having to watch your baby suffer because you didn’t plan well enough. If you can’t afford to get these supplies ahead of time, reach out to local resources to see what kind of assistance is available to you. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
  • batteries

Check to see what size batteries your flashlights and radio take. You may also want to check your kids’ favorite toys. You could be without power for weeks, which means they have no tv, video games, or tablets to play with. Kids will need something to keep them occupied.
  • radio

This could very well be your only source of news for days. I know it’s hard to imagine life without the internet, but it does exist! Get a radio and tune-in to your local stations or NOAA Weather Stations for updates. You can find affordable battery operated or self-powered (hand cranked) radios on Amazon.
  • flashlights/lanterns/candles

It’s a good idea to have at least one flashlight for each member of the family. Even the kids should get a small one. Many people use battery lanterns for ambient light in situations when holding a flashlight would be too difficult (i.e getting ready for bed, tending to kids during the night). Since, batteries aren’t cheap, candles are a good option and are normally what we use instead. Make sure you keep them out of children’s reach and always blow them out before you go to sleep. DO NOT let them burn all night! Don’t forget to set the matches or lighters somewhere that’s easy to find.
how to prepare for a hurricane have plenty of candles
(Looks like my hoard of clearance candles might be useful!)
  • phone charger/traditional phone

As soon as the power is knocked out, the wi-fi disappears. It’s unlikely that you will keep cell service throughout the storm. However, it doesn’t mean that your phone is completely useless. During and after Hurricane Harvey, many people were able to call for help or post their whereabouts/situations on Facebook using their smartphones. You will need to find a way to charge your phone during the power outage. Amazon offers a hand-cranked radio/flashlight combo that has a power bank to charge smart phones….for less than $25!  If you are unable to get one of these genius devices before the storm, you can always charge your phone in your car as soon as it’s safe to go outside. Just remember to charge it before the power goes out, so it has enough juice to get through the storm.
If you don’t trust modern technology or if you want a back-up option, “traditional phones” (the old-fashioned kind that you plug into a phone jack) will work without electricity. If you have one, now is a good time to get it out & dust it off. [My parents still have an old rotary phone that they use during storms.] If you don’t have one, you can purchase them on-line and possibly in stores. 
black rotary phone
  • paper goods

It goes without saying that you will need toilet paper to weather the storm with any kind of dignity. However, you will also want plastic plates, cups, and silverware. The last thing you want to do when conserving water is use it to clean dishes. Also, make sure you have trash bags and paper towels.
  • hygienic supplies

While baths might be limited to wipe downs for a bit, you still don’t want to stink to high heaven. Make sure you have soap, deodorant, and toothpaste on hand. It’s a good idea to get some cleaning wipes to wipe down the counters and table with, since you don’t want to waste water rinsing a dirty dish rag. Don’t forget to stock up on feminine hygiene items. You might want to get a can of insect repellant for those clean-up days after the storm passes. (No one wants to be hot, sweaty, AND itchy!)
  • cash

Though you are trying your best to prepare for everything now, it’s likely that you will forget or run out of something. Even if you are able to find an open store, they may not be able to accept your credit/debit card because of a power or network outage. It’s a good idea to have some cash on hand. It also might be helpful to have some small bills.
  • gas and propane/charcoal

Fill up your vehicles before the storm hits. Don’t wait until the day before either! Gas stations always run out of gas before a big storm (at least in Florida they do). Fill up some gas cans to use in your generators, ATVs, or chainsaws (if you have them).
If you have a gas grill or camp stove, make sure you have plenty of propane or charcoal to last for several days. [Reminder: NEVER, EVER use a propane or charcoal grill inside your house or garage. They emit dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide.]
  • pet supplies

You should have enough pet food to last for 2 weeks. You also need any medicine that that they take. It might also be helpful to have something to give your pet for anxiety. Animals know, better than us, that the storm is on it’s way and that it’s dangerous. Be prepared for your animal to have a full-on freak out. Make sure that your pet has an updated ID tag with your name and current phone number/address on it, in case they get away from you.
(Isn’t Oliver the cutest?)
  • entertainment

Charge any tablets/devices up before the storm and hope they last as long as possible. Since that advice won’t get you very far, you should prepare to keep kids busy with things that don’t require electricity. Chances are that you already have most of this stuff at home, but here are some ideas to keep the littles busy once the power goes out:
  • toys
  • board games
  • books
  • coloring books/crayons/markers
  • paper and pencils
  • blocks/legos/Lincoln logs
  • puppets
  • play-dough
  • blankets for a blanket-fort

3. Prepare Important Documents

Make sure that you put all your important documents inside of a water-proof container. If, like me, you don’t have a fancy water/fire-proof safe then place the documents inside a zip-loc bag and then into a Tupperware container. Put the container on top of a high shelf. Important documents may include:
  • insurance policies
  • birth certificates
  • social security cards
  • marriage license
  • wills/deeds/contracts/stocks and bonds
  • passports
  • shot records (for you, children, & pets)
  • jump-drive or sd-card with insurance photos on it

4. Photos & Heirlooms

Try to place your photos/albums and heirlooms in some kind of plastic bags. I know that all of mine don’t fit inside a zip-loc, so I wrap them in plastic shopping bags and stick them inside of a plastic storage tote. Try to put the totes somewhere up high.

5. Prepare the Outside of Your House

  • put away all outside toys, lawn furniture, and potted plants
  • bring in your welcome mats/rugs
  • take down any outside décor, bird feeders, lanterns etc.
  • trim any dead branches from trees
  • board up windows (we have never boarded our windows and none of them have ever been broken during a storm.)

6. Fill Your Bathtubs Full of Water

If you have a septic tank, this will be the water you use to flush your toilets. Leave a gallon-sized pitcher in the bathroom. Every time you need to flush, fill the tank of the toilet with water from the tub. This water will also be used for washing things or bathing.

7. Prepare Your Fridge and Freezer (BEFORE You Lose Power)

  • turn the fridge and freezer to the coldest settings
  • move commonly used items (sandwich stuff, bottled water, etc.) to a cooler with ice. It would be best to have 2 coolers, one for drinks & one for food. [The fridge and freezer will stay cooler longer the less you open the doors, so try to open them as little as possible.]
  • fill plastic bags/containers with water. Fill every available space in your freezer with them before you lose power. [The extra closeness of the frozen items will help your food stay frozen longer. For your deep freeze, it would be easier to use old jugs (i.e old milk jugs, empty 2-liter bottles, etc.) instead of bags because they take up more space. Try to pack them in as tight as your can.

8. Prepare for a Flood

If you are in a flood zone, you will need to take extra pre-cautions. Make sure to have a ladder on hand or some other way to access the attic easily if need be. Also, put an ax in your attic that will be easy to find and is strong enough to hack through the roof. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to put some life jackets up there either. [Before Hurricane Katrina, I would have thought this to be a preposterous idea. After seeing so many people stranded on rooftops, it’s better to be safe than sorry.]
helicopter rescues flood victims on roof

9. Useful Tools & Manly Supplies

This is certainly not my area of expertise. My dad always handled any construction-related emergency that arose during a storm. However, I did notice that he always made sure to have:
  • a large tarp or plastic sheeting (in case the roof leaked)
  • something to secure the plastic with (ropes, 2×4 boards, etc.)
  • staple gun
  • hammer/nails
  • his cordless drill (make sure to charge the batteries)
  • duct tape
  • chainsaw (along with gas and oil)
And that is all! That’s all you need to know on how to prepare for a hurricane. I mean, that’s only, like, 4864165 simple steps, right?
I know that you’re thinking that this is a LOT and that it’s over-kill. But remember, most of the things mentioned in this post are already in your house. You should just make sure that you know where they are and are able to get to them fairly easily should the need arise.
Preparing for a hurricane is a LOT of work, but the good thing is that we know at least a week in advance if one is headed our way. That is plenty of time to prepare. Be safe out there, y’all!
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How to Prepare for a Hurricane