Hurricane Preparedness Guide

by Khaleef "Fat Guy" Crumbley on October 27, 2012

in Emergency Preparedness, Insurance

Hurricane Preparedness

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
  • Drinking
  • Cooking
  • 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!

Final Thoughts

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

© 2012, All rights reserved.

Kristen August 26, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Thanks for the tips, Khaleef! This is extremely helpful. Tomorrow morning I will be filling up our tubs with water and gassing up our cars! Another thing for all of us to remember – a hidden benefit to being stuck in the house is that, for those who have home gym equipment (or motivation to run up and down the staircases or do lunges and squats), there will be plenty of time to work out!!!

krantcents August 26, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I find it interesting how people will spend more time preparing for natural disasters than their own lives. Every time there is an evacuation, there people who remain even when they are advised not to. many are uninsured or under insured for these disasters. They end up borrowing at special rates. I always wonder why go through all that? A little preparation would help much more. Isn’t that true for life in general.

101 Centavos August 27, 2011 at 7:32 am

Hi Khaleef – just a couple of things left out of the lists:

Lots of batteries for radios, flashlights and batteries.
For the cleanup, you’ll need extra contractor-grade black trash bags.
To clean up branches and trees, get long-handled lopping shears and a chainsaw. Even if you won’t need them, your neighbors might.
Water can be purified with bleach as well.

Matt B. August 27, 2011 at 8:48 am

Good post Khaleef. In my opinion, we can rarely be “too” prepared when a disaster strikes.

Tony @ Investorz' Blog August 28, 2011 at 6:47 am

Thanks for the tips! Lucky thing I don’t live on the east coast.

Denise @ The Single Saver August 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm

This is an extensive list. Nice job. I hope this is the type of information that all of your readers take to heart but never have to use.

Andrea August 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Great job on this list! I can’t believe the amount of people that DON’T get ready at all! I’m on the Eastcoast in Canada and spent Saturday tidying up outside and making sure things inside were in order as well.

Ashley @ Money Talks August 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm

This topic has been floating around a lot lately, obviously due to the hurricane and such. Living in Phoenix the worst thing that could happen is a long term power outage, which I’m only moderately prepared for.
I should really get my act together on this. Thanks for the motivation.

Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter August 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thanks for such a detailed plan. I don’t live anywhere near water but a lot of these tips are good for emergency planning in general. Putting together our emergency plan is on our winter to do list and these tips will come in really handy.

Kyle @ The Penny Hoarder August 31, 2011 at 7:25 pm

What a great list! We are certainly keeping our eye on the tropics here in Florida this year. I just read that some of the models are predicting 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic next week…crazy!

Kylie Ofiu October 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm

In Australia bush fires are usually our biggest disaster, but in recent years cyclones and flooding have been awful too. While not everywhere gets wiped out, there were many areas completely cut off because many towns in Australia have one road in and out, so if that road is cut off for any reason, the town is stuffed.

I am amazed how many people are not prepared for this. Even Australia’s capital city, Canberra, has been cut off at times and yet people who live there are hardly prepared for anything. Thanks for the great post.

Khaleef "Fat Guy" Crumbley November 2, 2012 at 12:08 am

Wow, that sounds so scary. Being caught in a huge fire or flooding with no way to leave the area…I can’t imagine that.

The hurricane just hit us really hard. I’ll write something about it soon.

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