Are all the stores out of bottled water? Can’t find enough gas to power a go-kart? There must be a hurricane brewing!
I was born and raised in the panhandle of Florida, hurricanes have been a part of my life since I can remember. And now I work for a contractor that does housing inspections after natural disasters. So, it blows my mind (no pun intended) when people say they don’t know what to do when one is on the way.
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!
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1. Evacuate? Stay Put? DECIDE!
One of the most difficult decisions of ‘hurricane planning’ is trying to decide if (or when) to evacuate. It’s a difficult decision, but make up your mind as soon as possible and then put your plan into action.
Traffic gets crazy with everyone leaving the area at the same time. And hotels will fill up fast! So, the sooner your make a decision, the better.
When I was growing up, my dad was a die-hard ‘stay-er’. He wasn’t leaving his house ‘for no dang storm’! To date, this has worked in his favor. He hasn’t blown away or been crushed by a falling tree….yet.
In my work as a post-disaster housing inspector, I have met tons of people that stayed home in storms that they definitely shouldn’t have. The worst stories come from those that are caught in floods.
There is no shame in evacuating and sometimes it is the safest option.
2. Buy Hurricane 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 because you probably won’t be able to.
To prepare for a hurricane, you will need:
A basic guideline for drinking water is 1 gallon per person for each day that you expect the power to be out. I would plan for at LEAST 3 days of no power. But of course that depends on the size of the storm and where you live.
If you live in a more rural area, your power could be out a lot longer than your friends and family members that live in town.
Don’t underestimate how much water you will need. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
**Pro tip: Fill your bathtubs and buckets with water to use for flushing toilets.**
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Canned Food and Dry Goods
The kinds of canned food or dry goods you buy will depend on your family and what they like to eat.
Also, keep in mind what you will be using to cook with once the power goes out. Will you be using your gas stove? A grill? A camp stove?
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!
- cereal that your kids like to eat dry
- PB&J supplies
- canned and dried fruit
- trail mixes, granola bars, and pop tarts
- kool-aid, lemonade, Gatorade mixes
- crackers, chips, and other snacks
- boxed mac-n-cheese (the kind that doesn’t require milk)
Medications and 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.
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Baby Supplies (if applicable)
Have at least a 2-week supply of formula, diapers, wipes, and baby food. 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!
Check to see what size batteries your flashlights and radio take. You may also want to check your kids’ favorite toys (or not).
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.
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Flashlights, Lanterns, and 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. Lanterns are useful situations when holding a flashlight would be too difficult.
Since, batteries aren’t cheap, candles are also a good option. Don’t forget matches or lighters!
Phone Charger and/or Traditional Phone
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 power to get through the storm.
A more reliable option is a “traditional phone” (the old-fashioned kind that you plug into a phone jack) because 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.]
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When you’re trying to conserve water, the last thing you want to do is wash dishes. And it goes without saying that you will need toilet paper to weather the storm with any kind of dignity. So, you’ll need some paper goods to prepare for a hurricane.
- toilet paper
- paper towels
- paper plates
- plastic cups
- plastic silverware
- trash bags
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. Your family will thank you!
It’s also 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. You might want to get a can of insect repellent for those clean-up days after the storm. No one wants to be hot, sweaty, AND itchy!
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.
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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.
Fill up some gas cans to use in your generators, ATVs, and chainsaws.
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.]
You should have enough pet food to last for 2 weeks. It might be helpful to have something to give your pet for anxiety (i.e Benadryl). Make sure that your pet has an updated ID tag with your name and current phone number/address on it, in case they get scared and run away.
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:
- board games
- coloring books/crayons/markers
- paper and pencils
- blocks/legos/Lincoln logs
- 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. Important documents may include:
- insurance policies
- birth certificates
- social security cards
- marriage license
- wills/deeds/contracts/stocks and bonds
- 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 or containers. 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.
5. Prepare the Outside of Your House
Hurricane winds are a devastating force. They have been known to fling debris for hundreds of feet. Anything left unsecured can become a deadly projectile. To prepare the outside of your home, you should:
- 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
- close shutters or board up windows
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6. Hurricane-Proof the Fridge and Freezer (BEFORE You Lose Power)
We have been very fortunate to never sustain any serious damage during a hurricane. However, we have had to throw away whole freezers and refrigerators FULL of food.
If you don’t have a generator, you should:
- turn the fridge and freezer to the coldest settings BEFORE the storm hits
- 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.
7. Prepare Your Hurricane Tools
The most common issue caused by a hurricane is a damaged/leaking roof. To prepare for this likely scenario, you should have these items on hand:
- a large tarp or plastic sheeting
- something to secure the plastic with (ropes, 2×4 boards, etc.)
- staple gun
- cordless drill (make sure to charge the batteries)
- chainsaw (along with gas and oil)
And that’s it!
That’s all you need to know to prepare for a hurricane. I mean, that’s only, like, 4864165 simple steps, right?
I know this is a LOT and that it seems like over-kill. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry. And many of these supplies can be bought once and used over and over for many hurricane seasons.
Hurricanes can definitely be scary, but they usually aren’t as bad as predicted. I hope that’s the case for you too!