Hurricanes are not something to ignore or wait to the last minute to start preparation for. There are some things that the individual must decide ahead of time that will determine just how they will prepare.
First: Will you stay or leave.
If you are someone who can easily afford to or if you just prefer to evacuate, do not wait till the last minute to leave. You will find yourself among a large group of people doing so. If possible, leave as early as you are able, especially if you live in a mandatory evacuation zone. The roads will be open, not be bumper to bumper, and places to stay in your destination point will be available. If you have friends or relatives in your destination point, make arrangements with them ahead of time. Also, know the standard evacuation routes, if traffic starts to get heavy.
Hurricanes are known to change directions, so you have to keep an eye on what is happening and be ready to have an alternative escape route ready.
Second: Have a plan.
If evacuating, each person in the household should have an assigned task. Young children can be in charge of choosing one or two special toys to bring. Older children can be involved in getting the house ready to be closed up, by gathering items in the yard to be stored in the garage or a shed. They can also, with supervision depending on their age, gather needed clothing to put in their own backpack or suitcase.
Adults and older teens can work together to put up storm shutters, move heavier items to areas where they will not cause damage if the wind should move them. Do not underestimate the power of 120-150 miles per hour winds.
Third: Evacuating to a shelter
You cannot just walk into a shelter and expect them to supply everything. Know what items you will be required to bring. Also, do not go to a shelter until it is officially open. If you have medical needs, there are only certain shelters that you can go to. You must sign up for these shelters ahead of time, so they prepare for how many they will have when a hurricane comes.
A Red Cross shelter will expect you to bring:
• Pillows and blankets/sheets for everyone
• Food and water (one gallon per person for at least four days)
• Prescription medications
• Toys, games and books for children
• Only certain shelters allow pets… make arrangements for your pets ahead of time
• Definitely no firearms or alcohol are allowed
There are certain things that you must have if you plan on staying put. Start to gather these items ahead of time so you will not be in the last minute crowd that also means higher prices.
Your local TV station and its sister radio station will be ready to keep you up to date at all times. Have a pad and pen ready for writing down the special numbers and information they will be telling you. That battery operated radio or small TV will be your life line.
• Make sure you have cash, as banks may not be open right after the storm because of electrical problems.
• Plenty of drinking water (one gallon per person for at least four days).
• A 2 week supply of any medications or special dietary needs.
• Start making ice or making blocks of ice in rectangular containers.
• A good ice chest (3 day capability) at least 2x4 feet in size. A second one will not hurt for items that do not spoil as easily.
• Manual can opener.
• Battery-operated radio and clock, as well as spare batteries.
• Flashlights and a good battery powered lantern. A gas lantern is OK for outside use only.
• Toilet paper and paper towels.
• First Aid kit.
• Plastic tarp at least 10x10 feet. You may have to cover a broken window.
• Duct tape. All sorts of uses for this.
• Nails, lumber, tools, for after storm needed repairs.
• Plastic garbage bags. It is amazing what uses you will find for these. Get the largest you can find.
• Insect repellent. No power means no A/C, which means open windows.
• Disinfectant and bleach (unscented).
• Soap and detergent.
• Paper plates and cups, as water may not be available if you are on a well and the power goes out.
• Rain gear. You may have to go out in the rain after the storm.
• Fire extinguisher.
• Generator (if you can afford one) able to run at least the refrigerator and perhaps a fan as well as charge cell phones.
• Fuel for generator and car.
• Gas grill. You do not need a large gas grill, a tabletop one will do.
• Propane gas for a grill.
• Waterproof matches/Sterno.
• Special needs.
Some people start to gather non-perishable foods when the hurricane season starts, especially items they know they will be able to use anyway. Do not get large size cans if you will not have to means to keep leftovers appropriately such as in a cooler.
• Powdered milk, evaporated milk.
• Canned meats/fish such as tuna, ham, chicken etc.
• Canned fruits and vegetables as well as soups.
• Dried foods such as spaghetti, rice.
• Dried fruit and nuts are good for snacks.
• Bread, crackers and cookies.
• Peanut butter for making sandwiches with raisins, bananas or jelly.
• Individual size or small containers of pudding (treats make life seem brighter).
• Pet food and medicine if you have a pet.
There are steps you should take, to protect important documents. These are not supplies, but you must take steps before hand to make sure all are protected. If you do not have a safe deposit box, make sure you have a waterproof, lockable container. If that is not an option, gather all important papers and double bag them in waterproof bags and try to find a safe place to put them, in a suitcase or even just the bags (marked well!) in a location off the floor, but in a secure location such as an inside hall closet.
Items to be protected are:
• All birth, death, marriage, divorce documents.
• Will and power of attorney documents.
• Social security cards and any records.
• Medical records as well as living will, health care surrogate.
• Military records, Passport, green card.
• House, life and health insurance policies and cards.
• Financial records such as tax returns, recent pay stubs, retirement accounts.
• Mortgage deeds or rental agreements.
• Warranty and receipts especially for large items like a refrigerator or generator
• List of important phone numbers (family, relatives, bank, insurance company)
• Home inventory… this is something you should have anyway and it could be on a disk or thumb drive.
• Special family photographs.
Supplies to get early to protect your home
• If you do not have shutters, make sure you have plywood, cut and ready to put in place.
• Have clean containers for drinking water as well as for minor bathing.
• Several 5-gallon fuel containers.
• If you are on a well, you will need to fill your bathtub with water in order to flush your toilets… or else have a big trash container you can put in the bathroom to fill with water for various needs, including sponge baths. So have a clean one available.
• Extra lumber, such as 2x4s to nail across doors, like a double entry door, if you do not have shutters.
Steps to take beforehand
Make sure you have chosen an area to be used as your safe room. Try to have a plan to clear it out or get it ready for occupancy so you will not be rushing around at the last moment. Perhaps you can put your important papers in here with you. Rooms that are considered safe rooms are small inside rooms without windows, a bathroom, or a walk-in closet. If need be, a hallway may be used. Whatever you do, do not light candles when in your safe room or run the generator inside or even in an attached garage.
Have a box with dried food, snacks, a small cooler that can hold some beverages as well as a battery operated lantern and radio, ready to take into your safe room when the time arrives.
The most important thing to remember when you loose power, is to unplug appliances if possible... or throw the fuse switches. When the power comes on, a sudden surge can blow your appliances. Check the stove burners. If you forget you left one on when the power went out, it can start a fire, especially if you are not home when the power comes on. All the supplies are useless when it comes to this.
If the storm turns at the last moment, it may seem to be a lot of work for nothing, but you do not want to be caught unprepared. Just consider each storm preparation as a drill for when that big one comes through.