I live in Florida and let me tell you, we get some weather. We are no strangers to going days (weeks) without power and fresh water. I’m glad we’ve only had to do it a few times but that doesn’t mean we don’t prepare each year.
There are a lot of ways to store your emergency supplies. Some people prefer to make “bug out bags”, in which each person has a bag with necessary supplies. I prefer the “stick it all in a box” method, but use whatever works for you. My method focuses on storm prep in a warm climate, be sure to add what is needed if you live in a cold climate!
Step 1: Be prepared
Have the following ready at all times:
-flashlights and batteries
-alternative cooking method (grill with gas or charcoal, camp stove, etc)
-disposable camera (or a fully charged digital camera)
-folder with account numbers and phone numbers for all of your doctors, several pharmacies, all household services (power, gas, television, etc) & all insurance documents
-phone book or a list of phone numbers for several electricians, plunbers, roofers, tree service removal and garbage pick-up
-phone number and address of family members
-A fully charged cell phone with texting capability (sometimes calls won’t go through but texts will) and a car charger for it
-battery-powered radio & batteries
-manual can opener
-first aid kit & sunscreen
-a permanent marker, several pens and a tablet
-a small bottle of dish detergent (can be used to clean wounds in addition to washing dishes, hair and clothing)
-feminine hygiene products
-If you have a baby make sure you have a minimum 2 week supply of formula, diapers, baby food & any other needed supplies.
If you have pets keep the following:
-phone number of your vet and a local emergency vet
-phone number of an evacuation shelter that allows pets
-a crate, a leash and a muzzle
-plastic bags and bleach wipes
-a week supply of food and water for each pet
Gather the following when a storm is approaching:
*The earlier you get this stuff the better because once a storm is announced it’s really hard to find this stuff at the store. It’s best to keep a running supply year-round, replacing as needed.
-water (1 gallon a day per person is recommended)
-as much as ice as you can store (freeze water in large containers, it can be used to cool food and you can drink it as it thaws)
-non-perishable food items that can be easily opened (peanut butter, canned veggies with a pop top, granola bars, dry milk, etc)
-fresh fruit and vegetables that are suited to warm storage (citrus & carrots are good choices)
-things to keep the kids busy during evacuation (deck of cards, coloring books, etc.)
Other things to keep handy for evacuation or for digging out afterward:
-Photo albums and family heirlooms
-gas-powered chain saw
-a full gas tank in vehicles
-battery powered fans
-a waterproof file or box with birth certificates, social security cards, deeds and other important info
-a blue roof tarp, nails and a hammer
-basic tool set
-a lot of clean towels & clean underwear (trust me on this one!)
-coins for a laundry mat
-a large cooler with a 5 day hurricane rating will be expensive but worth it!
-If you are not leaving your house consider throwing everything that you can into the freezer before the storm hits, the colder it is the longer it will last
Step 2: Survive the storm
Our neighborhood bore the brunt of Hurricane Charley in 2004. We were lucky, our house stood the storm with only about $8000 worth of damage. There were several houses less than a block away that were destroyed and had to be knocked down.
Before the storm take photos of your house and the things in it. File these away in a waterproof box, folder or bank box.
Make sure your family knows where the safest spot in your house is. For us it was an inside hallway, and we spent the entire night there. Stay indoors during the storm, even if the weather is calm. Listen to the news on your radio, they will tell you when it’s safe to be outside and they will let you know if a curfew is in place.
Step 3: Start to recover
If you have all of the supplies listed above you should be ready to start the recovery process. Walk around your house and take photographs of the damage. This includes items in your fridge that spoil, list them all out on paper and take photographs. Our insurance company reimbursed us for all of the food we lost as well as for the damage to the house.
Determine what repairs need to be made. Call your insurance company before making repairs, they will probably want to document the damage first. It may be a while before the insurance company can come out, do your best to secure your house with tarps if necessary. If your house is unsafe do what you can and then get out of there, no house is worth the lives of your family. This is a slow process, be patient and always be safe.
Keep copies of EVERYTHING handed to you by the repair companies, the insurance company, doctors, etc. Everything.
Step 4: Look for local resources & ask for help if you need it
It’s kind of amazing how the community comes together after a disaster, it’s the best of humanity. We lived in an older community and went nearly two weeks without power, gas and telephone service. Our city offered 1 bag of ice and 1 case of water a day to residents, which some then turned around and donated to people in the next city over who didn’t have this resource.
After Charley several neighbors on our street lined their gas grills up on the street and offered to cook whatever food everyone had in their fridge, and everyone shared. Fast food restaurants offered free meals to those who didn’t have the cash to pay. My child’s doctor saw my child for free when he learned we were living in a hotel after the storm. Chuck E. Cheese offered free games and pizza once a week for a month after Charley hit, it was a good way for us to get a hot meal and to let the kids feel a little more normal.
Keep listening to your radio for information on where and how to get help. After Charley, for instance, the state offered $500 in food stamps to any resident who had housing damage, without income restriction.
Step 5: Learn from your experience, make a list of things to do differently, and be prepared for the next storm.
For more info check out the FEMA Are You Ready? guide.
Now it’s your turn! I’m sure I forgot some important things in this post, please comment below to share your advice with our readers!