Prepare Before Hurricane Season Begins
By Yvonne Florian
Hurricane season will be upon us June first. While a disaster can strike at any time of the year, now is the time to do your Hurricane preparations such as:
- Trim landscape trees
- Clean up any accumulated outdoor objects
- Haul away yard debris
- Access you hurricane shutters- are they labeled?
- Trim hedges for ease of access to install your shutters
- Check windows, doors, and siding for watertight caulking
- Fill propane tanks
- Stock your pantry
- Drinking water
- Emergency supplies
- Make a family evacuation plan– will you stay or evacuate?
- Make a household inventory- valuables
One thing we’ve all learned about stocking a hurricane pantry is that it comes in handy for more than just storm season. Another is that we should only buy things we will eat. For example, don’t buy sardines if no one in your house will eat them. Think about the canned and boxed food items you would usually buy on your weekly grocery list. Buy two or three extra of these each time you shop. Remember to rotate your pantry items to use the older food first. You may also want to add just a few comfort foods and nutrition bars for quick meal replacements while doing the work of clean-up after the storm. You will most likely be using more calories than you normally would.
Some other emergency supplies would be flashlights and battery-powered lanterns. A cheap set of battery-powered LED string lights will light up a whole room. This is good to know in case your power is out for more than a few hours. Be sure to have a battery powered radio, first-aid kit, insect repellent, sun screen, hand sanitizer and outdoor work gloves. Any tools you may need to install and remove storm shutters and to do clean-up after the storm should be kept on hand with you, whether you evacuate or hunker down.
You will need bottled water during and after a storm. The ‘rule of thumb’ for water is: One gallon of drinking water per person per day plus more for cooking and washing. It is a good practice to always keep a three-day supply of drinking water at all times in Florida.
As we approach hurricane season, I try to store double the amount of water we would normally use in a week. This can be kept in sanitized refillable jugs. If you are not keen on storing your own tap water, there are coin operated “water machines” in most grocery stores. These are usually equipped with a reverse osmosis (RO) and ultra violet (UV) light treatment systems. You bring your clean jugs and the water-vending-machine dispenses purified water by the gallon or 5-gallons. Do your research on using RO water for everyday drinking. If you have a municipal water supply, you may fill your water jugs from your tap and it will keep for months. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Electronic Data Information Source (UF/IFAS EDIS) has many information packed publications on storing drinking water and water safety.
After a storm or flood, be sure to follow your city’s water safety protocols. If there has been an extensive power outage or flooding, you may be required to boil your water for safety. For those with a household well, you may need to “sanitize your well” before you can safely drink your water after a disaster.
Other Pre-disaster preparations
There are probably as many different things to consider when preparing as there are people. Each situation will be different. If you have a boat, small children, aging parents, tenants, or livestock to consider, your preparations may differ greatly from your neighbor. Now is the time to make those plans. The following is another list of things to consider when making your disaster plans:
- check/tune-up the generator
- create your safe room plans
- think about pets and livestock
- clean out the refrigerator & freezer, use up anything you won’t use in a week.
- have a plan for your boat
- list important phone numbers: doctor, pharmacy, E.O.C., Insurance company & policy numbers, contractors you may need after storm is over, far away family
- refill all prescription medications
- fuel up your vehicles
- fuel for generator
Last minute storm preparations
Once you have your plan, your inventory, your pantry, and your water all squared away, there will be those last minute preparations. 24 hours before imminent hurricane arrival there are a few things left to do.
- charge all cell phones
- charge all drill & driver tools
- charge your laptop
- charge the portable DVD player
- pack a small “go” bag for a short evacuation
- put batteries in all flashlights, radio, and a fan
- unplug appliances small & large
- ice your coolers & empty the refrigerator
- put up storm shutters or plywood
- Evacuating? Shut off house power & water as you leave
- place charged cordless drill with driver bits in vehicle floorboard, along with a good hand saw.
After the storm it will be important to contact insurance agents BEFORE you clear away anything. They will need to send an adjuster to look everything over.
Be sure to keep yourself fed and well hydrated. After-storm clean up is a grueling task and it will be hot, humid, and seem never-ending. Take frequent breaks, talk to neighbors, lend a hand if you can. Also, there will be more displaced wildlife after a storm is over. Keep vigilant for them where you may not have ever seen wildlife before. Some of the common wildlife sightings after a storm for me were hummingbirds, strange butterflies, a poisonous water snake, ducks. Lost pets have also found their way to our area including dogs, cats, chickens, parakeets and a cockatoo. Do you have an emergency snake bite action plan?
Your local county government should have an Emergency Operations Center or Department of Emergency Management. Find out now if they have a phone number and website for updates. You may contact them or listen to their designated local radio station for updates and disaster plans. They may even have volunteer opportunities during or after disasters if you can help.
For more Disaster Preparedness information, the following publication links will be handy:
University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences EDIS publications:
The EDIS “Hurricane Preparation” topic page
Another great place for lists and plans is the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Preparedness website.