The Atlantic hurricane season is almost over for 2019, wrapping up on November 30th, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to start devouring all of the hurricane snacks. Once the threat of storms has passed, the cooler winter months are the perfect time to start preparing for next year’s hurricane season, especially if you live in the Southeast or along the Atlantic Coast or the Gulf Coast. Here is a comprehensive look at everything you will need to prep for and survive a hurricane if one comes your way during the next storm season.
Depending on where you live and the severity of the storm you might not lose water service, but it’s always better to be prepared. You will need to store at least one gallon of water for each person in your household per day. If it’s hot outside — as it tends to be during the height of hurricane season — you will need to drink more water. Hurricane experts recommend keeping at least a three day supply on hand ahead of a storm.
You can store water in bottles or plastic containers, but if you don’t have a lot of space to work with, you might want to consider storing water purification supplies instead. You can pick up water purification tablets in the camping section of your local department store.
Water is actually more important than food when it comes to survival preparations. While unpleasant, you can often survive for at least a few weeks without food, but you can only go a few days without water. If you have to make the choice between storing food and storing water, choose water.
[Editor’s note: I would encourage you to store at least some food! And storing a few cases of bottled water won’t take up much space either. At least then you’ll have something to rely on rather than nothing at all.]
You won’t be able to make a trip to the grocery store during a hurricane, so you need to stock up on easy-to-cook, non-perishable foods you can subsist on during the storm. We’re specifying non-perishable because one of the first things to fail during a hurricane is the local power grid, meaning anything you’ve got stored in the fridge or freezer will start to spoil within a couple of days.
This doesn’t mean you need to spend all of your hurricane prep funds on canned Chef Boyardee and Campbell’s soup, though. You can create some pretty tasty meals with other non-perishables, from dehydrated or freeze-dried proteins and fruits to canned or dried beans. Stock up on things like beans, rice and other canned goods.
[Editor’s note: First, realize that freeze-dried and dry foods (e.g., beans and rice) require water to be of use. Second, I would strongly encourage you to stockpile the right pantry foods to maximize your health and nutrition during a natural disaster. My book on the topic discusses precisely which foods you need as well as how to make use of bulk foods and “superfoods” too.]
You will also need a way to cook your hurricane supplies. For this, you have a few options. If you’ve got a propane-powered barbeque grill, stock up on cooking fuel before the storm hits. You can also use charcoal or wood-fired grills, or camp stoves that use propane or kerosene for fuel. Regardless of what you’re cooking with, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area. All of these cooking surfaces generate CO2 and other emissions that can be dangerous–even deadly–in a contained area.
Your next step for preparing for a hurricane is ensuring you have shelter. This step can go one of two ways, depending on where you live and your housing situation. There’s a hurricane adage that you should live by — run from water, hide from the wind. If your home is located in a flood zone or you live in a mobile home, you will need to evacuate and will ride out the storm in a school or other county-operated shelter. If you’re told to evacuate, go! Don’t try to ride out the storm in a flood zone or in a mobile home. Emergency services might not be able to help if you get into trouble.
If you’re not in a flood zone, the best thing you can do is to prepare your home to weather the storm. Invest in plywood or shutters to protect windows from flying debris caught up in the storm winds. If you live in a storm-prone area like Florida or the Gulf Coast, you may be required to upgrade your garage door to meet storm code standards. Hurricane-resistant garage doors protect your garage and help to ensure home stability, making it easier for your home to survive the high winds and heavy rain.
During a hurricane, high winds can turn anything outside that’s not tied down into a flying projectile that can damage property and hurt anyone who’s caught out in the storm. As such, landscaping is important when you’re getting ready for hurricane season. Take the time to clean up anything in your yard that could start flying when the winds pick up, including bird feeders, potted plants, lawn furniture — anything that’s not tied down can potentially become a projectile.
Trees around your home can also be dangerous if they’re not properly maintained. Keep overhanging branches away from your home, especially any that might fall during high winds or heavy rain. Dead trees should be removed from your property as quickly as possible to prevent them from falling during a storm. It doesn’t always prevent otherwise healthy trees from falling over, but removing dead trees helps to protect your property.
You don’t need to keep everything out of your yard at all times. Just set up your yard so that if there is a hurricane bearing down on you, everything is easy to move indoors or secure. If you’ve got a pool, heavy items like lawn furniture can be sunk in the deep end of the pool to keep them from going flying.
During a hurricane, you’re probably going to be hunkered down waiting out the storm, but you need to be prepared in case of an injury or illness when you can’t make it to the hospital. As part of your hurricane preps, make sure you’ve got a fully stocked first aid kit and the knowledge of how to use it.
The Red Cross recommends that you keep the following in your first aid kit:
- Absorbent dressings
- Adhesive bandages and cloth tape
- Antiseptic and antibiotic wipes
- Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, pain relievers such as Tylenol, cold medication and anything else you might need
- Emergency blankets
- Breathing barriers for CPR/Rescue breathing
- Instant ice packs/cold compresses
- Sterile gauze pads
You will also want a guide for emergency first aid, but this doesn’t necessarily need to be in the form of a book. The American Red Cross provides a free mobile app that can walk you through most emergency situations.
[Editor’s note: If you want a great book with solid advice first aid and medical advice, not only for short-term emergencies, but for SHTF situations as well, I highly recommend The Survival Medicine Handbook, 3rd. edition by Dr. Alton. He’s a prepper too and very knowledgeable about your health needs, especially during an emergency.]
As we mentioned before, power is usually one of the first services to fail when a hurricane strikes, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes in the dark for days or weeks. Linemen work to restore service as soon as it is safe for them to do so, but you may be spending a few days without power while they try to get everything repaired. No power means no air conditioning, no refrigeration and no way to power your mobile devices.
You’ve got a few options to keep your home powered during a hurricane. For most, the go-to option is to purchase a generator and extra fuel. These gasoline or diesel devices produce a limited amount of energy, but if all you’re worried about is keeping your food cold and charging your phone, they can keep you going. A generator won’t power your entire home, though, and trying to plug one into your home’s main circuit can create a dangerous situation for the linemen working to restore the grid.
You can also opt for a full-house generator system. Instead of manually filling your generator with gasoline or diesel fuel, these systems utilize propane or natural gas to keep your entire home powered. How long they run for depends on the size of your fuel storage and your power demands.
In areas that get a lot of sunshine, solar power with a battery bank is also an option. You won’t be able to generate electricity during the storm, and your panels might be susceptible to hurricane damage, but once the sun comes back out, you’ll be able to keep your appliances powered and your devices charged. The battery bank–if it’s fully charged before the storm hits–should suffice to keep you powered-up until the worst of the storm passes.
In a pinch, make sure your car is full of gasoline. You might not be going anywhere, but you can always start the engine and use it to charge your device so you can keep in contact with your friends and family during and after the hurricane.
[Editor’s note: And if you get a quality inverter, you can use your car to power some appliances, such as a refrigerator. It’s much less expensive and easier, IMO, than using a generator for this purpose.]
Hygiene is just as important during a hurricane as it is during the rest of your life. It might be a little more challenging to maintain the standard of cleanliness that you’re used to if the power is out and the water stops flowing, but you should still stock up on hygiene supplies.
That means making sure you have toothbrushes and toothpaste and bathing supplies for everyone in your family. If that family included infants, include diapers and other supplies they will need. Pets will need hygiene-related supplies, too, including kitty litter for any cats and puppy pads or other supplies for dogs if it’s not safe for them to go outside to relieve themselves. For the women in your household, stock up on menstrual products as well.
Once the power goes out, it’s hard to track the storm and keep in touch with people outside the hurricane zone. You’ve got a couple of options for communication and keeping up with your friends and family.
The first is a tried and true technology — radio. Keep a battery or crank-powered radio on hand that you can tune to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or National Weather Service stations to keep you apprised of any changes in the weather or any announcements you might need to be aware of.
The second is your cell phone. Utilize battery backups, your generator if you must, or your car to keep your cell phone and other mobile devices charged so you always have a way to call for help.
[Editor’s note: Your smartphone can actually do a lot more for you than most people realize during a disaster. Choose to make use of yours by downloading more than two dozen (usually free) apps today!]
There isn’t much darker than the interior of a house at night when the power is out. You might be able to use a generator to keep your lights on for a while, but it’s easier to have a battery or crank-powered light source that you can carry with you.
Candles and lanterns are also useful, but if you’ve got small children in the house, they can create a fire hazard, so you should avoid those in favor of battery-powered options. We love the aesthetic of flickering candle and lantern wicks, but safety should be your priority when you’re worried about protecting the little ones in your family.
Even a few inexpensive flashlights with extra batteries are better than nothing. These can often be had at your local Walmart for a dollar or two.
We’re used to being able to access entertainment 24 hours a day and at the tap of a finger or the click of a mouse. Once the power goes out, it’s easy to get bored — especially if you have young kids who are going to be home from school during the storm. Be ready to keep everyone entertained with books, board games, toys, playing cards as well as other items. such as coloring supplies.
Be Ready for Anything
Hurricanes can form at any time between June 1st and November 30th, and they can affect anywhere along the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines. You need to make sure you have plenty of food, water and supplies to weather the storm without power. Make sure you’re prepared for anything, from high winds and heavy rain to tornadoes and floods. Hurricanes are a part of life, particularly along the coastlines. Being prepared and having enough supplies to see you through could mean the difference between life and death once a storm makes landfall or, at least, between an easier time of things and not. Preparing now for next year’s hurricane season is never a bad thing, especially since it’s on your mind.
[Note: This was a guest post.]