Hurricane season starts on June 1st and runs through November 30. This time frame was created based on long-term statistics, but hurricanes can certainly occur outside of this range. In January 2016, for example, Hurricane Alex became the strongest Atlantic hurricane to occur during the northern hemispheric winter. So, irrespective of the date, take some time to prepare — before the watches and warnings are issued — so you can guide your family through the storm more efficiently. When the power goes out and the water is rising, you will be glad that you did.
Forecasts have become increasingly accurate in recent decades. Satellite, air reconnaissance, and research have led to enormous advances in tropical forecasting. It doesn’t hurt to monitor forecast trends until you are within 36 hours of landfall; but once you’re within that window, and if the forecasts have been consistent or have trended toward your location, you must put your plan into action.
Food and Water
The first step is to identify the items that you need to survive in an emergency. You should remember that after a hurricane, you may have to survive for 48 to 72 hours without any help. That is because after a storm, it takes time for FEMA and your state to get people and supplies in place. The first responders in your area will be extremely busy responding to emergencies like gas leaks, people trapped in collapsed buildings and people with medical emergencies. Due to the amount of debris that will be everywhere, they will be moving around through very difficult and dangerous conditions.
The first item you should store is water. It is the one thing you cannot live without. And while you may be inundated with water following a tropical storm or hurricane, that water may be contaminated and should certainly not used as a drinking source. You should plan a minimum of 2 gallons of water per person in your household per day. This is because you will not only be drinking water, but using it for cooking and to keep yourself clean. For a family of 5, you should be storing a minimum of 30 gallons of water. A lot of people go out and buy bottled water to store. There is a much more cost efficient way to store your water. You can buy water jugs at your local department or sporting goods store. This is a much better option to bottled water. The reason is that you can fill them just before the storm and have fresh water. You can also store them empty when they are not needed and they weigh a lot less. If you have a freezer you can freeze about 1/2 of your water before the storm and they will help keep the food in your freezer good while there is no power. As this water thaws out, you will be able to drink it since it was frozen while in the freezer.
Now that you have your water taken care of, you need to think about what you are going to eat. You should store a supply of canned goods that will feed your family for a minimum of 3 days. You can also store freeze dried foods or military MRE’s. A small camp stove, and extra camp fuel is very handy in an emergency. You can have a hot meal even if there is no power. Just be sure that you do not use the stove in the house, as it produces carbon monoxide, a dangerous gas.
NOAA Weather Radio, Flashlights, and Basic Power Sources
You will also want to have a battery powered or rechargeable weather radio, flashlights, extra batteries and candles. The radio will come in very handy to get news and information during the emergency and will provide entertainment when there is no power. If you have kids, you also may want to have some card games and board games to keep the kids entertained. You also need to make sure that you have at least a 2 week supply of any medication you may need for you or your family. This is because if you run out of your medication during the early parts of an emergency, you may not be able to get it refilled.
Another handy item to have after a hurricane is a generator and extra fuel. With a generator, you will be able to run your refrigerator, a small TV, a microwave or other small appliance. It will also allow you to run fans and lamps since you will not have electricity.
Remember: A generator produces carbon monoxide (CO) and should never be operated inside an enclosde area such as your house. Have a long enough extension cord so that you can place the generator in an open area outside the house. You will also want to store the gas for the generator in an open area as gas fumes are highly explosive.
You will also want to have a small first aid kit handy just in case there are injuries. In addition to yourself and your family, you may also find yourself tending to injured neighbors or even injured pets.
Remember: All canned goods and batteries have expiration dates. You will need to check your supplies about every 3 months and replace whatever is expired. By having these supplies ready, you will at least be able to be somewhat comfortable while you are waiting for services to be restored.
Plan for Shelter
Your next step to disaster preparedness is to contact your local Emergency Management Agency. Most cities, counties and states have an Emergency Management Agency and their phone number can be found in the blue pages of your local phone book. You should find out from them where the local emergency shelters are for your neighborhood, and if you have pets, where you can take your pets while you are in the shelter. Most counties have shelters where you and your pets can stay together. You also want to find out where the local distribution points are for food, water and ice. The reason you are checking for this information is that it is stuff you will need to know when the time comes. You also need to determine if there are any members of your household who have special needs such as physically or mentally challenged. If this is the case, your city or county will have special shelters who are staffed by people who are specifically trained to help people with special needs. You also may want to check with your friends and neighbors to determine if there is a neighbor who will need help in the event of an evacuation, such as an elderly person who doesn’t drive. You should make arrangements to meet up with these people in the event your neighborhood is ordered to evacuate.
Insurance, Identification, & Important Documents
Now that you have these plans in place, you should plan your post-disaster recovery. You will want to have any documents that you may need, such as Birth Certificates for you and your family, Social Security Cards, Home Owners or Renters Insurance Policies and other important documents in a safe waterproof location that is readily accessible. You should citizens place these documents inside of zip lock type bags and store them inside of a fireproof box. You will also want to be sure that you have recent photo’s of each member of your family in the bag inside the fireproof box. This is in case a member of your family get separated. It will make it much easier for authorities to find them. You will also want to make sure that each member of your family has a photo id card just in case they are separated from you. For small children, you can print out on a piece of paper their name, address, date of birth, telephone number and any medical conditions and a photo, and have it laminated at your local office supply store. You can have them either carry it in their pocket, or pin it to their coat or shirt if you have to evacuate.
Basements, Windows, Trees, and Power Lines
Hurricanes tend to give plenty of warning. If you are on the coast, board over windows (if possible, use screws instead of nails). Move as much out of your basement as possible, as hurricanes often bring flooding. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and stay off beaches and boardwalks. Ensure that trees are pruned appropriately and regularly checked if you live in an area prone to hurricanes. Most hurricane-related power outages are caused by downed trees. Stay indoors until the storm has passed unless you have an emergency. Make sure you and your children wear sturdy shoes at all times; nails and broken glass can cause serious injury after a storm.