Hurricane season is officially underway, but most of the news coming out of the Gulf of Mexico has more to do with oil than weather. Still, Mother Nature waits for no one, and it’s well past the time to prepare for a hurricane if you live anywhere along the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines.
The best way survive any disaster, including a hurricane, is to simply not be there when it occurs. I’m talking of course about evacuation. Modern satellites and meteorology allow us to predict a hurricanes path with a fairly high degree of accuracy. By paying attention to your local news, you can have a coudle of days advance warning that will allow you to head to a safer area outside of the hurricane landfall area.
Create an evacuation kit or “Bug-Out-Bag” that is easy to grab and toss into your car if you need to flee the affected area. Portable fuel tanks are also very handy, as evacuation routes are often clogged with traffic. Many people fleeing hurricanes find themselves left on the side of the road when they run out of fuel, as gas stations along evacuation routes quickly sell out of fuel.
When you return to an area impacted by a hurricane, it is very likely that electricity will be unavailable for a number of days, and possibly even weeks or months. Stores quickly sell out of generators in hurricane affected areas, so it’s critical to plan ahead and purchase a generator long before you will actually need it. How big of a generator you need is going to be determined primarily by how much power you need. We’ve got a handy guide that will help you determine what type and how large of a generator you should look for.
Lack of electricity can also impact your ability to prepare food, or store it as electric ranges and ovens will be inoperable, and freezers and refrigerators will quickly thaw allowing food to spoil. Gas ranges will usually be operable, but you should never take a barbecue grill or other outdoor cooking device and use it indoors, as dangerous fumes can kill or injure you. Similarly generators should be run outside in an open environment with adequate airflow, never indoors or in a garage.
If your residence is sturdy enough, it is generally safer to shelter-in-place unless you are under an evacuation advisory. It is far easier to marshal the resources you need to survive a hurricane at your residence than it is to pack what you’ll need to evacuate. Exceptions include mobile home residents and anyone who lives on the coast, in a flood plain or flood prone area: if your home or shelter is a temporary structure or vulnerable to winds, rain, or flooding (including storm surge) in any way you should always evacuate.
If you don’t have storm shutters, prepare now by measuring your windows and purchasing plywood and fasteners before a hurricane looms. Don’t bother putting tape on your windows, it won’t stop them from breaking. Only plywood, storm shutters, and some specially designed protective netting will prevent flying debris from destroying your glass. Also, keep your trees trimmed. You can avoid additional damage to your house from falling limbs by ensuring that weak, damaged, or dead limbs are cut off.
In addition to preparing your house, you’ll need certain supplies to get through a hurricane and the aftermath with minimal problems. You can easily put together a hurricane survival kit that will help you get through a hurricane no matter if you decide to ride out the storm or evacuate.
Regardless of whether you are riding out the storm or evacuating, always make sure that you have an adequate water supply. Lack of electricity can cause pumps to fail making tap water unavailable, and flooding may mean that even if you can get water from your tap, it may not be potable. Stock up on bottled water, enough for each person to have 1 gallon a day for at least a week. Bathtubs should be filled with clean water just before a storm hits. Consider investing in a bathtub waterBOB, a clear plastic liner complete with a pump which can keep water clean and fresh for longer. If you do need to use water from your water heater tank or other non-potable water source, there are many methods of water purification that you can use. Water purification tablets can be used to kill off harmful microorganisms in non-potable water. Katadyn also manufactures a number of filters that are able to remove most contaminants.
Adequate food supplies are also critical. Make sure to have enough non-perishable food for each person to have a minimum of 3,000 calories a day for seven days. If you don’t have one already, get a non-electric can opener. MREs are a good solution as they come with their own heating pouches that just require a little water to heat up a full meal.
In addition to food and water, the following items are a great addition to your hurricane kit.
- Clothing, including rain gear and a good pair of boots
- First Aid Kit
- Toys, diapers, etc. for infants and children
- Pet care kit (food, carrier/leash, immunization records, etc.)
- Travel toiletry kit
- Flashlights and batteries, with spares
- Battery operated radio with AM/FM and NOAA reception
- Critical documents in waterproof pouch (banking info, insurance, passports, birth certificates, etc.)
- Full fuel tanks in all vehicles along with additional spare fuel cans
- Blankets and pillows
- Cash, including small bills
- Portable tool set
- Fully charged cell phone, preferably with spare battery