Are you prepared for the next hurricane? These storms can damage buildings, block roads with debris, and knock out power lines. This leaves you without access to many of the things you take for granted in day-to-day living, including power, water, food and medicine. Here’s what FEMA, The National Hurricane Center and the University of Florida recommend you have on hand, whether you’re weathering the storm, or avoiding it.
What Do I Need to Plan For?
If you need to evacuate, you need a “go bag” with all of your important documents, as well as a few supplies for the trip ahead.
If the hurricane is minor, or you’re returning after the storm has passed, you can expect to be without power, water and ready access to supplies for a few days. At minimum, you should have enough basic supplies for at least three days, and enough specialty items, like prescription medications, for at least a week. However, it’s better if you can store enough supplies to survive for 7-14 days. Access to food and drinking water are the first services that will be restored, usually through aid stations. This is followed by electricity, running water and non-essential goods.
The Go Bag: What You Need When You Evacuate
Your local and state emergency services should have information on evacuation routes, shelters and zones. In most areas, zones in coastal areas are evacuated first, followed by inland areas. Most services offer SMS and phone alerts to let you know when you need to leave.
Evacuating gets you out of immediate danger, but you still need to plan for the challenges of driving out of the area with thousands of other people. You need to plan for a lack of food and gas stops, and you need to take important documents with you for your return. If there’s a hurricane on the way, be sure to fill your car’s gas tank beforehand. Here’s what you should take with you when you leave your home.
Important Documents: When you return, you’ll need proof of identity and ownership of your home will be needed for reentry and in the recovery process.
It’s good to have both digital and paper copies of these records. That way, you have a backup if you lose either your paper copies or your phone.
You also Need Medical Supplies and Information on Hand:
Insurance and Financial Information: You’ll need to file insurance claims and have access to cash when you return.
Always keep originals and copies of these documents in waterproof, re-sealable containers.
Clothing: Pack three to five days of clothes for each person in the household
Snacks and Water: Accessing food and drinks during an evacuation can be difficult or impossible until you get away from the crowds. Have snacks and water on hand to last at least two days.
What You Need When You’re Staying or Returning
Even minor hurricanes can knock out utilities for days or weeks. If you want to stay in your home, you need supplies to survive and maintain morale.
Store at least one gallon of water per person per day. That’s enough for two quarts for drinking and two quarts of sanitation and food preparation. Use plastic containers to store water. They won’t break or decompose, like glass bottles and paper cartons.
Food should be non-perishable and require no refrigeration, little to no water, and no cooking. Stress and physical exertion will be higher than normal, so don’t be surprised if you want to eat more than usual.
You also need a way to serve this food
Since access to water will be limited, you may want to pack disposable items instead of trying to wash dishes.
Don’t forget to pack some comfort foods. Candies, cookies, chips and other treats can go a long way when you’re stressed out.
Have a first aid booklet on hand, and install first aid apps on your phone, so you have ready access to health care information. A basic survival first aid kit should include the following items:
You may need to pack these items, as well:
Next to staying fed, staying clean is the most critical part of survival. Having these items on hand will help you stay healthy:
At some point, you may have access to running water that isn’t safe to drink. The easiest way to purify this water is with a water filter, which you can pick up anywhere that sells camping gear. You can also purify water with UV lights, purification tablets or a few drops of bleach.
You need to keep up with the news, and stay in contact with your friends and family. After a storm, radio stations will be running before cell towers.
Have all the documents from your go bag on hand. This lets you return to your home, and will help you file for insurance claims and other aid:
If you have home or renter’s insurance, take a video of the inside of your house before a storm hits. This helps you remember everything you own, and it establishes what you own. For example, if you list a coffee maker on your claim, the insurance company will give you the money for the cheapest model available. However, if you can show you own an expensive coffee maker, they have to pay you for the cost of that model, or its equivalent.
After the storm, you may need to shut off valves or switches for electricity, gas and water to limit the damage to your home.
While you may want to work on your home and your lawn after the storm, there are still going to be long periods where you’ll have nothing to do. Be sure to pack some items to help you fight off boredom: