With Hurricane Sandy threatening the east coast (and my normally “disaster-free” state), I felt it would be appropriate to put together a hurricane preparedness guide. Even if you have home contents insurance or natural disaster insurance, it is still very important to follow the guidelines below – for your health and safety!
Develop An Evacuation Plan
Many times the only sensible thing you can do during a hurricane (or any natural disaster, for that matter) is to leave your home and go to a safer area. If you suspect that you may have to evacuate during the hurricane, take a few minutes to gather these items together, so you will be ready when the time comes:
Any Important Documents – This would include any wills, identification (including your Social Security card), tax returns, passport, birth and marriage certificates, deeds, insurance policies, etc. If you keep any important documents or data in a safety deposit box at your local bank, they might not be safe, since the bank will most likely be caught in the hurricane as well.
Laptop, Hard Drive, or Flash Drive with Important Files – Make sure to scan all of your important documents into PDFs and put them on your electronic storage device.
Emergency Supplies – Take a couple of flashlights and a radio with you, along with some extra batteries. Also be sure to have jumper cables and road flares in your vehicle.
First Aid Kit/Medication – You should already have a great first aid kit in your car and home. If you don’t, pick one up today and add it to your hurricane preparedness kit. Be sure to have all prescriptions, OTC medication, and any other healthcare items that aren’t included in your first aid kit.
Toilet Paper – Just in case…
Baby Wipes – In case you have to go a for a prolonged period in unsanitary conditions
Clothing – Make sure you bring a few seasonally-appropriate items to change into in case you are away from home for more than a day, or your clothing gets wet and/or dirty.
Cash – If the power is out in your area, you won’t be able to access ATMs or use your credit cards (unfortunately, working during a blackout is not among the list of credit card benefits).
Gas – Make sure you have a full tank of gas heading into a natural disaster. The last thing you want is to be waiting in a long line for gas during an evacuation! Many gas stations may be closed or simply run out of gas.
Food/Water – Again, you won’t be able to predict the conditions at your destination (even if you plan on living with friends or family for the short period), so it’s best to be prepared. You will need non-perishable foods, that don’t need to be refrigerated or cooked. Pre-cooked can foods are best in this situation. Just remember to have a manual can opener in your hurricane preparedness kit as well!
Games – Going through a natural disaster can be a very stressful time. You will need to do something to break the tension and to help your family see the bigger picture. Something as simple as playing a board game together can do this.
Decide Where To Meet – If there is a chance that the members of your household may be forced to evacuate from different locations – such as work or school – then choose a place to meet ahead of time. This way, if you are not able to contact one another, everyone will know exactly where to go.
Emergency Contact – Choose someone who lives in a different area as the emergency contact person. Everyone in the household should call this person and let them know that they are ok. That way, everyone can stay in touch through the emergency contact. This is extremely important in the event that local phone lines are down or tied up.
Hurricane Preparedness In Your Home
Preparing The Structure And Surroundings
Install storm shutters, or use plywood to protect your windows and patio doors from flying debris, branches, traffic signs, etc. FEMA suggests using 5/8″ marine plywood if you don’t have shutters installed. Using duct or masking tape does nothing to protect them in a hurricane!
If your home is in danger of flooding, elevate your furniture off the floor if possible. If not, move all items to a higher level in your home.
Place a sump pump in your basement.
Do not use open flames such as kerosene lamps or candles as a source of light. Turn off propane tanks as well.
Turn the refrigerator to its coldest setting and keep the doors closed; unless you are instructed by emergency personnel to turn off all utilities.
Remove all outdoor furniture, planters, lawn decorations, and anything else that can be picked up by strong winds, and bring them indoors. If you are not able to bring them inside, secure them as best as you can.
If you have time, trim the trees on your property, removing any weak branches that can break off during the storm. Also, make sure to remove any limbs close to utility lines.
Preparing Yourself And Your Family
Many of the items that you would bring along in your hurricane preparedness kit during in evacuation, are the same items you will need if you remain in your home.
Avoid Windows – During the hurricane, stay in a room with no windows. If you do not have a room with no windows available, take cover behind a large, thick piece of furniture that can protect you from flying glass.
First Aid Kit/Medication – See Above
Clothing – Have the clothing that you plan to wear over the next few days gather together, just to make things easy on you after the disaster. Also, make sure you have clothing that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty, in case there is massive cleanup involved.
Charge All Electronics – Make sure you charge all cell phones, MP3 players, laptops, and any other electronic devices that can help you to communicate without power.
Cash – See Above
Gas – See Above
Food – See Above – it’s best to have non-perishable, canned food on hand if you are without power.
Managing Your Water Supply As A Part Of Hurricane Preparedness
You should try to have at least a 3-day supply of water on hand. The common recommendation is one gallon per person per day.
Fill your bathtub with water and use this to flush the toilet if the water isn’t running.
Avoid drinking from wells.
Use bottled or disinfected water only, for the following activities:
- Brushing your teeth
- Any activity that will bring water into contact with your eyes, mouth, or ears
- Washing your hands
- Treating open wounds (even cuts from shaving)
The simplest way to purify water is to bring it to a rolling boil for 1-3 minutes. However, you should check with your local health department after the hurricane, and follow their suggestion.
Create A Home Inventory
There are several benefits to having a home inventory, and they have been summarized in the linked article on Not Made Of Money:
By having an organized, well documented home inventory you have a much better chance of any insurance claim that you need to file going a lot smoother! Also, by creating a home inventory, you have a much better idea of how much insurance you need in the first place!
Another benefit is that if you ever run into a tight spot financially, you can quickly consult your home inventory to see if there are any items that you can sell.
If you suffer a loss due to theft or damage to your home, you may be able to claim a loss on your tax return. If you do claim a loss on your tax return, you will already have most of the information that you need, and your task will be much easier.
Lastly, having a detailed list of your belongings is a great way to ensure that nothing gets lost, damaged or stolen during a move, without you being aware of it quickly.
Obviously, if you are reading this the day before a big hurricane is due to hit, you won’t have time to create a complete home inventory. However, you should still take a few minutes to catalog your most valuable possessions. If you do have more than a few days warning, or you are just trying to become prepared, be sure to take this step!
If you are required to evacuate, please do so. Nothing that you own – including your home – is worth nearly as much as your life! Take all necessary precautions and be sure to follow all guidelines.
If you are unsure about something, please call your local health department before proceeding. Also, if you are not required to evacuate, please remain indoors, in a room with no windows.
If you have any tips for hurricane preparedness, please let them in the comments section below.
photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery
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