How to prepare your home and family for a Hurricane
For those of us who live in hurricane or cyclone prone areas, the weather forecast can sometimes be a little scary, especially when we start seeing satellite images of swirling clouds! In the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America, and especially in the Gulf of Mexico, we see plenty of tropical storms and hurricanes every year, mostly in the latter months of summer and early fall.
I live a couple of hours from the coast of Mississippi, and have survived quite a few hurricanes in my lifetime, including Camille and Katrina. The most vivid memories of stress involve some small thing related to something we forgot in preparing for the storm. Hopefully, my experience can help you to be sure you have everything you need and get everything done you need to do to safely weather the storm.
We're not just talking about safety though. There are other things to consider that can get you through the experience much more comfortable and with less stress. Many of the injuries and deaths from these types of disasters can be avoided with proper planning and by following the advice of your community leaders.
What You'll Need whether you stay or evacuate
2 to 3 gallons water per person
first aid kit
(driver's license, passport, social security cards,
insurance information, tax records,
birth and marriage certificates)
Flashlights with extra batteries
hand crank or battery-powered radio
cell phone, extra cell battery
cash ( small bills and change )
bedrolls or sleeping bags
Food, water, carrier and supplies for pets
List of phone numbers on paper in case cell goes out.
Preparing your Home for a Coming Storm
Remove loose and damaged limbs from trees, and if possible thin out limbs to allow strong winds to pass through with minimal damage.
Secure and brace external doors and board up and tape external windows.
Bring in all yard furniture and plants, and any objects that could be thrown around during a high wind. Secure any heavy lawn or other equipment, and make sure your vehicles are in the garage or sheltered as much as possible from possible falling limbs or trees.
Check on neighbors. It's very likely they may have some ideas that can help you too. Coordinating communication about the impact of the storm really helped me in the aftermath of Katrina.
Sandbag low lying areas if floods likely. Flooding maybe the most dangerous result of a hurricane. If your home is prone to flooding, you should evacuate even if the authorities don't ask you to. Prepare with sandbagging if you can, but be sure to get out in plenty of time to evacuate safely.
During Hurricane, Tornado, or Tropical Storm
Stay inside and away from windows and glass doors
Close all interior doors
Keep curtains and blinds closed
Get to a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
Lie under a table or other sturdy object
If you live in a coastal region, you need this! - Hurricane Survival Kit
Keep it handy during hurricane season and check to be sure it's refilled and up to date. No matter how much you prepare, there is inevitably something you will forget. These items will help to ensure your safety and healthy survival during the storm.
The Most Important Thing
If you're told to evacuate,
Food Prep and Safety - When the Power is Out
Open the Fridge as little as possible to preserve temperature. Perishables should be kept at 40 degrees.
Only keep items in fridge which need to be refrigerated. Use extra space for ice bags.
Fridge will keep food cold for up to 4 hours after power goes out. After that, move perishables (Milk, Dairy, Meats, Fish, Poultry, Eggs) to cooler with ice.
Use digital food thermometer to maintain coolness of 40 degrees or less.
If in doubt, throw it out!
Foods to Stock up on for during and after a Hurricane - Keep it simple, and keep it safe!
Unless you have a gas stove, you won't be cooking most likely for a few days. You'll need the staples you'd need if you were going on an extended camping trip. Here are the essentials!
- Peanut Butter
Packed with protein and doesn't need refrigeration. Plus, the kids love it! Use it as a meal in a PB&J (or banana) sandwich or a snack on crackers.
- Fresh fruit
A treat anytime, but fresh fruit is a real Godsend when surviving a power outage. Packed with vitamins you need and sustenance for your tummy!
What else to put the cold cuts and peanut butter on? Plus, it'll fill you up! Do not forget the bread!
- Cold Cuts/ Lunch Meat
Not necessarily just for lunch when you're not cooking for a few days. Vary it up! Get roast beef slices as well as ham, turkey, etc.
Cheese slices for sandwiches, cheese sticks for quick and filling snacks, cheese balls with crackers, cheese pleases!
- Bagged Ice
As much as you can fit in your coolers, and in the extra Styrofoam coolers you'll need too. Get plenty of ice, and then get some more!
- Bottled Water
You can fill up your bathtub with water to use for cleaning, but you'll need bottled water to drink. Get 2 to 3 gallons per person, or more if you expect to be without power or access to fresh water for more than a day or two.
- Canned Meat
Tuna fish, deviled ham, all the fun stuff we love to eat from cans in the form of protein. It's a necessity for survival and won't need refrigeration.
- Powdered Milk
Maybe it doesn't taste like the real thing, but in a pinch it'll do on cereal or mixed with chocolate or strawberry flavoring for the nutrition you'll need.
Believe it or not, ketchup, mustard, mayo, and all those things add nutrients to your body and cover some of the overlooked ones we might not otherwise get during a power outage.
We Will Rebuild!
Family Fun ideas when the Power is Out
Play Board Games
Use Flashlights to make shadow Puppets
After storm, take a walk or ride
Play card games with real cards
Work a jigsaw puzzle
Make a scrapbook
Clean out junk drawer
Build indoor fort with blankets and chairs
Take advantage of darkness and stargaze!
Do you have a hand crank or solar powered radio? - Essential for Disaster Preparedness!
What if you run out of batteries? (or forget to buy them before the storm)
If you don't have power, which you very well may not if you're riding out a major storm, this may be the only way to tune in and be safe during the storm and after!
Pet's are Part of the Family too! - They need a little extra TLC when preparing for a storm
The calmer you are, the calmer your pet will be. When talking to your pet, Speak in a calm, soothing voice. It helps to have a backpack of your pet's essentials ready. You can move with them around the house if needed and still have everything they need. If you feed pet canned food, be sure you have manual can opener.
Your pet needs just as much water as humans do - 2-3 Extra gallons water for each animal. Be sure to include any Medication your pet needs and his or her favorite toys & bedding. Also include a leash for dogs, and a carrier and litter box for cats.
Keep the family pet with the family and treat them as you would any other day. The whole experience will be less stressful for them if they feel it is less stressful for you.
After the storm
What to expect, and How to Cope
Bring necessities, such as food and water, with you when you return. It's very likely the local water supply will be contaminated when you return, and it may not be possible to get to an open grocery store.
Watch for snakes and other animals possibly forced into your home by flood waters. These critters can get trapped in closets or corners and will likely be stressed from the storm. Be cautious and careful when entering your home after the storm.
Avoid roads covered by water and/or debris, and avoid downed power lines. Stay at least ten feet from downed power lines and do not come in contact with anything touching a power line. It is not always obvious if the line is "live".
Wear sturdy shoes and protective clothing during any cleaning, and avoid skin contact with flood waters, which will most likely contain sewage and other unsanitary debris which can spread disease.
A quick Slideshare I made on Hurricane Safety
More resources for hurricane safety - and how to prepare for a hurricane
- Hurricane Preparation Tips - Hurricane Survival Tips
Surviving a hurricane requires preparation. If you live near the coast and are in danger of being caught in a hurricane, here are some suggestions to help you survive a hurricane.
- Hurricane safety: When the lights go out - CNN.com
when the lights go out - CNN
- AEP Ohio - Outage Safety Tips
Outage safety tips
- National Hurricane Survival Initiative
Saving Lives & Minimizing Damage -- Is your community prepared? Prepare Reinforcing Your Home and Business Approaching Storms Hurricane Safety Checklists Business Checklist Social Media and Disaster Preparedness Evacuating Before the Storm Return
- Prepare for Hurricanes, Natural Disasters by Safeguarding Tax Records
Tips from the IRS about how to safeguard your valuables and your records