Learning Harvey’s lessons – Get your family hurricane prepared today with the right hurricane preparation supplies and an easy checklist.
In the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, we’ve all been given a stern reminder that disasters can happen and their effect can be shattering. Thousands found themselves trapped by incredible floodwaters even after enduring the initial storm. Tens of thousands have lost their homes, and tens of thousands more have significant damage. I have been in many hurricanes and many have resulted in loss of a home. You can read my personal hurricane perspective here. In the wake of such a vivid reminder, we can all work to prepare ourselves for the next storm, regardless of where we live. In the US, pretty much all of us are vulnerable to some type of significant weather event, be it hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes or more. Getting prepared in advance can dramatically change your family’s storm story.
As we’re in the throes of hurricane season, here are some tips to help you prepare your family from these looming threats. As I write, another huge hurricane is gathering strength and looks likely to hit the Eastern US. Don’t wait. Get ready today.
Know the hazards of a Hurricane
If you’ve never experienced a hurricane in your area, it can be confusing as to what you’re preparing to defend yourself against. In general, according to the National Weather Service, the threats during a hurricane stem from storm surge, heavy rains, and extreme winds. Hurricanes can also spur tornadoes as they hit land, trigger rip currents, erode beaches and pose serious threats for boats on the water.
Storm surge is the rapid rise of water associated with the strong winds of the storm. This surge of water can travel several miles inland and is often the cause of most danger during the storm. Heavy rains, coupled with storm surge cause intense and rapid flooding – often at an alarming and surprising rate. Flood waters often take several days to recede and affect inland areas significantly.
The intense winds from hurricanes wreak havoc on trees, buildings – virtually anything in the storm’s path. Roofs, shutters, outbuildings, landscaping and even vehicles can be seriously affected by strong winds. As you might imagine, there are significant threats associated with a hurricane, and you’ll need to be ready.
Have a Hurricane Evacuation Plan
Without a clear plan, it’s unlikely you’ll endure a storm as well as you could. In the panic of the time threat of the storm, it may not be possible to get organized so you should work on this plan well in advance of any danger.
Your hurricane preparation plan should include evacuation plans for everyone in your household. Who is responsible for bringing what? How will you evacuate pets? How will you evacuate if not all family members are at home when the evacuation notice is issued? Develop answers to these questions and more.
You should also have a physical map with marked evaluation routes for your area in the event your cell phone, or GPS isn’t operational.
Have a family meeting to discuss your emergency plan and practice regularly, especially if you have younger children who made need several reminders and are likely to be anxious at the onset of the storm. Understanding hurricanes can help young children not be afraid.
Gathering Hurricane Evacuation Supplies
Once you have a plan in place, you’ll need to put together an emergency preparedness kit. There are lots of recommendations as to what to include in your plan, but at a minimum the CDC suggests you will need:
- Adequate non-perishable food – Remember also to include utensils you might need to open cans, dish up foods, and eat. You wouldn’t want a healthy stock of perishable foods only to learn you forgot to include a can opener!
- Clean water – Store 3-5 gallons of water per person and 1 – 2 gallons per pet. This should last you 3 – 5 days.
- Health supplies – Have a well-stocked first aid kit, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and other medical supplies you may need. Also, remember batteries for hearing aids and insulin pumps or other medical devices.
- Personal care items – It can be easy to overlook these items, but they can be essential in a disaster. Beyond bleach and disinfecting wipes, include toothbrushes and toothpaste, personal hygiene items, contact lenses and cleaner, soap, baby wipes, and diapers, if necessary.
- Electronics – Beyond a charged cell phone, have a flashlight, battery-powered radio and an extra battery for your cell phone.
- Documents and other supplies – Have your insurance cards, immunization records, and medical information in a safe, dry location. Put paperwork in sealed zipper bags (consider double bagging) and store other important documents such as pictures for potential insurance claims and other documents on a flash drive you can add to your key ring. Have a copy of your emergency plan, important numbers, extra cash, a paper map, and extra copies of house and car keys in the kit as well.
- Pet supplies – Furry friends large and small also need consideration in a disaster. Include a 3-day supply of food and medications as well as any equipment you might need such as leashes, bowls, carriers for transport, and litter boxes.
Prepare your home for a Hurricane Landfall
(these are my pictures from a past hurricane… )
While it’s impossible to eliminate potential damages to your home and property, there are precautions you can take to maximize the likelihood your home will survive.
- First, start by securing loose items in your yard. Bikes, flower pots, lawn furniture, grills, umbrellas, and other loose things in your yard can pose serious threats when tossed around in 50 – 70 mile per hour winds.
- Next, cover your windows and glass doors with plywood or hurricane shutters. Nail plywood directly into window frames to secure it. This will help protect your family from broken glass and other flying debris.
- Know how to shut off the electricity and gas. If you see rising floodwaters, downed power lines or you have to evacuate, shut these off to protect your home and loved ones.
- While you should have clean drinking water in your emergency preparedness kit, also fill sinks and bathtubs with water for washing, flushing the toilet, and other uses.
- Lastly, turn your fridge and freezer to the lowest temp. This can keep your food fresh for longer in the event of a power outage. No peeking as it lets the cold air out!
- If you’re in an area that is evacuated – go! You should never ignore an evacuation order. Regularly check your local area’s emergency information online or via TV or radio, so you are up-to-date on any changes in the evacuation status of your area.
- Regardless as to whether you evacuate or not, if your area is predicted to be anywhere near the storm’s area, fill your car tank with gas. Prep a car emergency kit or be able to move your home preparedness kit to the car.
- Be sure to check in with friends and family members before and after your evacuation directly, via social media (Facebook has lots of handy features for this) or using the Red Cross’ Safe and Well website.
- Beyond your preparedness kit, in some cases you can only take what is necessary – driver’s license, passport, and a few changes of clothes. Quarters may be tight if you’re staying in a shelter or bunking up with friends or family. Plus, you want to be able to leave quickly and efficiently. If you are able to go to a larger safe place, here is a Hurricane Preparation List that is helpful in planning.
Follow officials’ instructions and use only approved roads for evacuation. Other routes may be blocked or unsafe.
As much as any of us hope we are never in the path of a destructive storm such as Harvey, we have little control over the forces of nature. The best we can do is be smart, plan ahead, and do whatever we can to keep ourselves and our family safe. Get your plan and supplies together today – do not wait.
Hurricane Preparation List
I have a hurricane Preparation List here on MomDot, including an Emergency number printable.
You can download both by hitting the PDF file below.