Hurricane Prep Simplified – With the Planet and Life in Mind

July 1, 2021

I know, hurricane season started a month ago and many have already done their shopping. But some have not, and with a busy storm season already upon us here in the Southeastern U.S., many are just now getting around to it.

I like to be prepared for emergencies and natural disasters, but I also like to make choices that won’t hurt our environment or have a high impact on our family financially or in our living space. So many hurricane preparedness lists include disposable items that only fit that situation and, for many of us, they are things we don’t use in our daily life, so are an added expense that waste money if there isn’t an emergency.

Having lived in Florida for most of our lives, my husband and I have adapted many items in our kit to things we use regularly so they are cost effective, but also not wasteful or as damaging to the environment. I will break them down by the main categories of food, water, shelter, medical/first aid, and miscellaneous, then pets separately since that doesn’t apply to everyone. If you have ideas to add, I’d love for you to comment below and share them. Help our community out!

FOOD The experts tell us to ensure we have 3 days of food on hand to allow for emergency response teams to get into an area. My family has always made an effort to keep 30 days of non-perishable food on hand, which is great for sheltering in place, but may not be as realistic if you evacuate. We keep canned meats, fruits, and vegetables on hand, as well as dried pastas and canned meals like pasta cups, beanie weanies, and soups. We also keeps staples like rice, dehydrated potatoes, flour, sugar and cornmeal on hand. We keep a week’s worth of fresh produce on hand and a stocked freezer most of the year, as well, but if a storm is forecast for our area, we tend to eat a lot more of it, just in case we lose power. Should we need to evacuate, we have storage totes or reusable shopping bags to load them in that store away easily and can be used for other things during the off season. A grill can be very helpful for cooking and preparing meals since you can use some cooking pots and pans on an open flame. Be sure to keep your propane tank filled during the season, and a spare if you can. Helpful tip: if you are keeping can goods, be sure to have a manual can opener on hand. this can be a kitchen one with a knob, or something from a camping store called a P-38, it is inexpensive and small, plus can fit on a key chain. A fishing rod can also be helpful to keep on hand if you are near fishing areas since this can help supplement after a storm while awaiting things to reopen.

WATER The rule of thumb is one gallon of water per day, per person/pet to have on hand for drinking, then other water for use. Let’s talk about drinking water first. Many people resort to buying cases of bottled water. We don’t. We really don’t drink bottled water and opt for reusable insulated cups for our daily use, even on camping or boating days. We opted instead to purchase coolers that are well insulated and have a drinking spout on them. You can pick these up in all sizes and price ranges. Since we have family gatherings as well as go camping and boating, these get used regularly, but can store out of the way. This allows us to not have excess bottles on hand that we won’t use, or that will create extra debris in a post-storm situation when trash may not be running. Helpful tip: stock up on some inexpensive tupperware storage containers. If a storm is coming, you can fill these with water and place in your freezer and refrigerator to help insulate and maintain temperature, plus it gives extra water supply if you need more, or need for cooking. Fill those up a day before landfall, and your coolers within 12 hours of landfall. Now, let’s look at water for other uses. This can include cleaning dishes and cook surfaces, bathing and toilet flushing since electricity may be off and these won’t always function well. If you shelter in place, buckets, storage bins and bathtubs are great places to keep this water. To conserve how much we store, and may have to dump after, we tend to opt for baby wipes for bathing purposes and have spray bottles with cleaners and even dish soap made up for cleaning.

SHELTER If you have a solid home, it will hopefully hold up during the storm. Choose a room or area as your bugout room that has no windows and is close to the center of the home to keep you most secure. Stage your items like emergency supplies, bugout bags, lighting and sleeping bags here. Help secure it by hanging a blanket or standing up a mattress in front of access areas to protect from flying debris. If the storm is overnight or long lasting, it’s a great place to sleep. You can add additional items like window and door covers for added protection. These come in all price points and forms from roll shutters or storm-rated products, to plywood or corregated metal panels that store and are attached. It’s a good idea to already have your wood or metal panels precut and hardware in place to attach quickly. Do not use tape on your windows as protection, it won’t help. If you cannot block them from the outside, place large objects in front of it and stay away from windows during the storm. If you are not in a solid home, be sure to have an evacuation plan to leave the area or stay somewhere that is solid and safe. After a storm, you will need to have a plan in case your shelter sustains too much damage. Having tarps on hand for the roof, doors, windows or walls, as well as ropes, screws or nails to secure it will help short term. If you camp, having your tent handy can be a good option so you can shelter nearby. In the event of a power outage, you will need a few things to help. Candles are a fire hazard and a consumable we tend to not opt for. For indoor lighting, we get inexpensive oil lamps (home stores have these, but they are also easy to find at secondhand and antique stores, too) as well as a few good flashlights or lanterns, including a couple of headlamps. We stock up on batteries, but try to opt for rechargeable ones for sizes used often. A generator can be an expensive investment, but worthwhile since it can rotate between running a fan or your refrigerator. Be sure to have fuel and a proper extension cord for it, and be sure it is kept safely outdoors in an open and well ventilated area. Helpful tip: Don’t let your vehicles get less than half full during the season. You would much rather have a full tank if you must evacuate and get on the road than have to wait in line at a gas station or, worse, be stuck if they run out of fuel.

MEDICAL/FIRST AID Many of us keep basics like tylenol, band aids and ointment on hand. If you take prescriptions, be sure to keep a 30 day supply on hand, as well. Many home stores sell basic family first aid kits that can include additional items to help. Having these in a storage container you can find or grab to go easily can be a time saver, too. If you have medical conditions that require equipment that use electricity, be sure to know your locations that can support this and have equipment on hand to help power that. Many cars have 120 volt power supplies in them nowadays, which may not help during a storm, but can be helpful after a storm. Helpful tip: Having a 5 gallon bucket and some trash bags on hand can create a quick makeshift toilet in the event your shelter’s bathroom is out of order or damaged. Be sure to have these items (and toilet paper) in your kit, too.

MISCELLANEOUS This is the category I use to include things like changes of clothes, linens and toiletries, chargers for devices, weather radio, emergency paperwork, contact information, activities to do and cash. Having a grab bag with these things can be a huge time saver should you need to leave quickly. Be sure important papers like insurance documents and cards are someplace safe from damage and have a back up scanned digitally and stored on a cloud device or at a family or friends that lives out of the area can help maintain access to them should something happen. Chargers for your devices can also help. Many of us have vehicle chargers, and there are inexpensive battery packs, as well as portable solar panels, depending on your desired level of preparation and budget. A weather radio can be an inexpensive addition to your kit that can keep you informed and many have hand crank or solar chargers, as well as a built in flashlight and charge port for other devices. Having a deck of cards, coloring books or puzzles and board games can be good since it can distract small children and give the family something to do while riding out a storm or waiting for disaster relief to arrive. Cash is another thing people take for granted these days in our digital world, but there won’t be access to digital money if there is no power or internet, so cash can help for supplies like fuel, food and water, if you need them. A good rule of thumb is to have enough to fill your gas tank twice, find shelter for a few days, and $25 a day per person for food and water, for at least 3 days. For a family of four, this would be around $500.

PETS If you have pets, keeping them safe is important. Follow the same basics as you would for a person. Be sure to have food and water for at least 3 days, as well as any medications they take, or may need in an emergency. A pet first aid kit can be assembled, or included in your own since some things you will use are also pet friendly. check with your vet. Also be sure to have a safe carrier for them, and extra leashes for dogs and cats. Putting a shirt or blanket in the crate with your scent on it can help comfort them if they need to be secured. Ensure their collar is on and has your information, plus a microchip. Make sure you are aware of pet friendly shelters nearby in case you need to evacuate. Helpful tip: in case they escape somehow and slip a collar or the chip can’t be read, use a permanent marker to write your name and phone number on your pets belly to reunite them quickly.

This is not meant to be a complete and comprehensive list by any means, so I am sure there are elements I have left out. But I wanted to share some ideas that can help you save money on items you hope to never need, or share some items that do exist for emergencies. If you have other tips or ideas, please share them below in the comments.

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