Or any storm for that matter. Living in certain parts of the world makes extreme weather a fact of life. If you’re not prepared to accept how severe the weather might get, maybe this isn’t the place for you. So you had better be prepared. One of the most devastating natural disasters is the hurricane, and we’ve seen a few particularly bad ones in the last fifteen years.
Hurricanes on the scale of Katrina and Sandy (the shining examples of failure at every level of government, though the Mayor of San Juan and the Governor of Puerto Rico continue to do their best to make the victims of Hurricane Maria miserable for their political gain) bring sheets of water and extreme wind that can extend for days. In the aftermath, there is likely to be flooding, power outages, lack of food and mass confusion. But it’s possible to be ready for the situation it you take responsibility. Here’s what you should do if you live in a place that experiences frequent hurricanes.
Relocate Your Things
This is an important step to consider when you have weeks or days before a hurricane makes landfall. The reason is that you may have things outside your home that can be saved. If you have stones, large fruit, coconuts or other debris that might become a missile in strong winds, move these things away from your home.
What’s most important is that you gather the things you need to live and, ideally, your furniture, and move it to higher ground. If you have a multi-story home, move furniture that you don’t want to get wet upstairs. This will also give you a more comfortable place to spend time if flood waters rise. If you have a mobile home, you’re in luck. Put it in gear and get out of Dodge.
In addition to furniture, your entire base of operations should be available from the highest, driest part of the home. That means you need a solution for food and water and access to electricity. You should also consider gathering any valuables such as family photographs, paperwork and medication and moving these items upstairs to a location where they’ll be safe from water damage. You don’t want to have to go looking for your heart medicine by swimming through flood waters, and there will not be an easy way to get more after the storm comes.
Stock Up on Food and Water
When your streets are flooded, it’s impossible to jump into the car and run to the store. So you’ll need to have a serviceable stockpile of non-perishable food and water. Do not fill your sinks and bathtubs with tap water, as this can easily become contaminated. You should, however, fill empty water bottles with clean water. Remember that, on average, a human needs about two gallons of water per day at least, with additional water needed for hygiene. Don’t forget about your pets, either.
You should have at least two methods of water purification. If you have power or a generator and can boil water, that’s a good start. In addition, you’ll want a method of purification that doesn’t rely on electricity. Water purification tablets or drops, or water filters, are viable second options. A hanging gravity filter is a convenient way to have a supply of clean water at the ready.
Your food store should be created ahead of time and should be stocked with items that will keep for a long time to see you through the aftermath in case emergency services are not available. Canned non-perishable soups, pastas and food bars make good staple items. If you have refrigeration available, you can keep a number of additional items like butter and fresh fruits and vegetables, which will last a few days if the power goes out. Use a thermometer to determine when the fridge’s internal temperature rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit once power is out. Do not store dairy products that will perish quickly.
The bulk of your emergency rations should be canned foods that will be protected from contact with flood waters. You can also include dried meats, powdered drink mixes, crackers and cookies, dried products like instant oatmeal or cereals that can be made with powdered milk, and hard candies. The longer an item is shelf-stable, the better.
Get the Essential Equipment
As part of your base of operations, you’ll want to have a selection of tools and equipment to use in navigating the different challenging situations a hurricane can bring about. At the top of this list is a power generator. A small gasoline or diesel-fueled generator can make all the difference for your quality of life when things get rough in the aftermath of a major storm. They can power lesser cooking appliances like hot plates and toasters, help heat water, run interior lights so you can enjoy family time when the sun goes down, and power important communications equipment like computers and radios.
In addition to a generator, you’ll want to have multiple flashlights, cash, batteries for these and any other essential battery-operated equipment, first-aid equipment, an NOAA radio, and waterproof clothing. A set of basic tools is good to have as well. It’s a good idea to keep all of these things stored in a duffel bag so you can relocate quickly. An ax in the attic, in case you need to break through to the roof of the house, is another scary but necessary item.
Make Your Home Ready
With the time you have left immediately before the storm hits, do everything you can to make your home hurricane-proof. The doors and windows of your home are particularly susceptible to damage during a hurricane, so your efforts should focus around keeping water out and sealing up any exposed joints. If you know that your area receives frequent storms, you should consider installing a hurricane-proof garage door, since this door is the largest opening into your home.
Ideally, you’ll want to create a perimeter of sandbags around your home at least one day before the storm because of the time it takes to place the bags. Brace your doors and garage door from the inside and seal them from the outside. Make sure your family knows where to meet when the storm hits and what the evacuation route is. Have your vehicle in good working order and gassed up if you plan to leave, and equipped with a similar bug-out kit to the emergency supply kit we mentioned above.
When the storm has passed, you’ll be in a stable condition if you’re able to follow the recommendations from this article. Remember to check your radio and computer frequently for news about relief efforts and the condition of your neighbors. Unplug any electronics if the power dies and don’t drink from the tap. With a little luck, the storm will pass quickly and you’ll be on your way to recovery. Just remember to pay close attention to emergency media and stay safe.