Hurricanes are massive storms that are formed from warm waters and churn with a force that can cause serious destruction. The problem with hurricanes is that they can’t be prevented – at least not yet. The most you can do is flee before they occur. A hurricane checklist is essential, whether you evacuate or stay home.
On October 10, 2018, the United States witnessed the wrath of Hurricane Michael. Moving at 250 km/hour, it was the third most-intense hurricane to hit the U.S. It claimed at least 30 lives and destroyed property approximated at $8 billion. It led to flooding, flattened homes and massive power outages. Hurricanes occur most often in the Pacific Ocean but also occur frequently in the Atlantic as well. They cause strong winds, heavy rains, flooding, tornadoes, storm surges, rip currents and landslides.
As we write this article – nine days after Hurricane Michael hit – many people’s homes were destroyed and government supplies have yet to reach them. Almost none of them were prepared for sleeping outside under a makeshift tarp or not having food and fresh water for two weeks. Learning how to prepare properly for a hurricane is crucial. A hurricane checklist and preparedness can help you manage the chaos that you and your community will endure if a major storm is coming.
The first thing to best prepare for a hurricane is to determine if your area is prone to hurricanes. If your area is susceptible to them, start to prepare at least a month ahead of your area’s “hurricane season,” the time during the year when hurricanes are forecasted to occur.
Your first line of defense is creating a hurricane checklist, which is compiled below:
Join Community Warning Systems
It’s important that you keep current on hurricane updates. You can opt in to receive text or emails from many weather and warning systems. You can also follow them on social media for updates.
Evacuations Plans & Shelters
To evacuate or not to evacuate? Either way, you need a plan.
Not Evacuating: Always have a shelter picked out, whether you plan on staying at home or not. Hurricanes are highly unpredictable and you may have to make last minute decisions. Know where your local shelters are and plan a few different routes to get there. Your county’s emergency management department will have a list of local shelters. These shelters are designated because there are areas in them that can withstand strong winds. Know your shelter locations.
Evacuating: Know your evacuation zone and evacuation routes. If you are not sure where to look, search in Google your county’s name and the words evacuation routes and zones. Prior to hurricane season, make sure your car is in good condition. Have it services and check your tires and battery. Fill your car fully with gas as a hurricane is approaching.
Safeguard Your Home
Your hurricane checklist safety measures include:
- Decluttering gutters and drains
- Putting up hurricane shutters
- Trim or cut large trees that could damage your house. Remember that hurricane winds are powerful and could uproot a tree
- Bring lightweight and loose objects in the house to prevent them from being carried away (for example, lawn furniture)
- Consider getting sandbags if you are in an area prone to flooding
When a hurricane is bearing down on you, your connection to the outside world via cell phone, internet or television is likely to cut out due to power and service outages. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best, the saying goes.
Cell phones: Cell phone service has improved over the years so make sure to keep your phone charged before a hurricane just in case. If your cell phone dies during a hurricane, you can plug it into your car with the proper adapter after the storm has passed.
However, assume your cell phone won’t work. How will you communicate with others? The best device is a ham radio. You will need a little bit of instruction in order to understand how it works. It can also be useful after the storm passes and loved ones are trying to reach you..
Storm Updates and News: To receive essential news and keep in touch with the outside world during the storm or in the aftermath, it’s a great idea to get a 5-way powered radio. These radios pull their power from various sources, including a hand crank, via the sun and batteries.
Hurricane Andrew touched down in the southernmost point of Miami-Dade County, Florida on August 24, 1992. It obliterated the area. There were many stories during the weeks after Hurricane Andrew that it was like the Wild West; supplies were slow to get to the rural area and many had limited water and food. As people got desperate, many residents would sit on their porches with rifles to protect their families from frantic (and sometimes violent) people who were searching for food and water.
The problem is, this rural area of South Florida didn’t think Hurricane Andrew would be that destructive and forecasts thought it would hit more north than their area. Hurricanes are unpredictable so for your and your family’s safety, be prepared and make a hurricane checklist. It’s much better to prepare for the worst case scenario and have supplies for at least a couple of weeks.
Here is a list of crucial supplies to gather for your hurricane checklist before the season begins:
Basic hurricane checklist supplies
Water is essential for sanitation and drinking purposes. One person requires one gallon per day. Prepare for at least two weeks of water. Add additional water if you have pets.
- A gallon of water is heavy, so if you have to leave your home for a long period of time, make sure you have a portable water filtration system or water purification tablets.
- Before the hurricane you can fill up the bathtubs in your house with water.
- Pack your freezer with filled water bottles. The water inside will slowly melt after the power goes out and it will keep food in the freezer fresher longer.
- Ensure that you pack non-perishable food that can run you and your family for at least two weeks. Keep in mind nutritional needs. Don’t buy all protein products, for example. Buy a variety of foods. Make sure you pack them in air-tight containers and/or waterproof bags. Here are some recommended foods:
- Canned meats and vegetables
- Nutrition bars
- Nuts and seeds
- If you don’t have a generator, consider getting a camping stove
- Can opener
- If you have an infant: infant formula for two weeks
- If you have pets: pet food for two weeks
- Well-stocked first aid kits – one or more for your home and one for your car.
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription medications like painkillers, laxatives, anti-diarrhea medications or antacids.
- Feminine supplies and other personal hygiene items.
- If you have kids: wipes, diapers, bottles, and diaper rash cream.
- Extra batteries
- Cell phone back up battery
- Local maps
- Weapons (knives or firearms)
- Moist, anti-bacterial towelettes
- Dust masks for filtering contaminated air
- Plastic sheeting plus duct tape for shelter-in-place
- A multi-tool, pliers or wrench for turning off utilities like natural gas, water, and electricity.
- Full change of your clothing suitable for your next climate and sturdy shoes.
- Crucial family documents like copies of identification insurance policies and bank records stored electronically or in a water-resistant, portable container.
- Cash or traveler’s check.
- Warm blanket or sleeping bag for each one of you.
- Mess kits, plates, paper cups, plastic utensils, and paper towels.
- Matches stored in a waterproof container.
- Fire extinguisher.
- Books, puzzles, games and other activities for children.
- Household chlorine bleach together with a medicine dropper for disinfecting water.
- More importantly, this supplies should be stored in an air-tight bag and ensure that you assemble all the items in easily portable containers like a duffel bag or plastic bins.
The bottom line is that preparing for a hurricane is crucial. Even more critical is your hurricane checklist. As we said before, hurricanes are known to be erratic and weather forecasters can’t predict with 100 percent accuracy what will happen. Take these monster storms seriously!