Prepare for Hurricanes: Top 8 Things to Do

What is it, when a hurricane comes along, that makes everyone rush out and buy batteries? As an elderly Louisianian, I have lived through 27 major hurricanes and have never once needed to rush out and buy the first battery. And who started the ridiculous rumor that the time to prepare for a hurricane is when the Weather Bureau tells you to? If you live in an area that is likely to be hit by a hurricane, don’t you already know to be prepared for a hurricane all the time?

There are at least eight things you can do to ensure your safety during a hurricane, and not a one of them includes buying batteries.

Find the nearest shelter to where you live. Please. Long before it is hurricane season, find the nearest shelter to your home. You want to know how many people it will hold and if there is any way more than that number could show up during a storm. You also want to know if you should bring your own food, water, blankets, and cots. If so, you want to stockpile whatever they ask you to bring with you. You cannot be certain that your home will be a safe place to either ride out the storm, or to live in once the storm is over. So – find that shelter, know the quickest way to get there. Find out what to bring and stockpile it before hurricane season.

Learn to use the radar on your computer. You must be able to see these monsters coming. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on the cable weather channels. They give weather for the entire country. While the hurricane is marching down on you, they are not checking back often enough to do you any good. You need something like Intellicast. They have revamped their site and it is hard to learn now. If you have problems, just go to the bottom right corner and click on Site Map. That is easier to read than the main page. Intellicast is updated every 15 minutes. If someone knows of a better, simpler satellite that is updated at least every 15 minutes, please let us know in the comments. The time to start learning how to use your computer is not when a Category 5 is barreling down on you. Instead, learn to navigate to the weather with ease right now, while no hurricane is headed your way.

Find – or Build – Local Civil Defense. If your city still has a Civil Defense organization, find out how to stay in touch with them for bulletins. Civil Defense is pretty much useless now that Homeland Security took it over and split its duties among dozens of other organizations, including FEMA. In effect, Civil Defense no longer exists in the U.S. today. If you live in a hurricane zone, you do not have time to “make nice” with diplomacy. They are not going to help you. If your city has nothing organized in this area, try to get something going on a volunteer basis. Do it now, while no hurricane is headed your way.

Plan for Pets and Lone Friends. If you need to go to a shelter or to a hotel, will they take your pets? What if you can’t go back to your home? Where will your pets stay? Do you know anyone who lives alone? Will they need a ride to a shelter? You must have answers to all of these questions. We have more and more people, especially the elderly, living alone with pets, and we have pets ourselves. It is up to everyone to resolve these issues before tragedy strikes – not after we see dead old people and pets floating past us in the aftermath of a hurricane. Talk to your neighbors. Talk to your vets. Make plans now, while no hurricane is headed your way.

Plan for Cash and Gas. If you have to leave home, ahead of a hurricane, you are going to be gone a minimum of 6 days: one day driving out, 2 days for the storm, one day to get the roads open, and the last day driving back. You need cash and gas to get you at least 200 miles away from the path of the hurricane in a northwesterly direction. Be sure you keep enough to stay on the road for six days at all times. That means hiding it in your checkbook (just don’t add it into your total) and not spending it on some silly toy on sale at the local discount store. That toy won’t save your life, but the cash will get you out of harm’s way. As soon as you know that a hurricane is coming, take the cash out of your ATM and keep it with you. Then fill your vehicle and keep it full at all times. If the electricity goes, so will both the ATM and the gas pumps. A full tank of gas will get you far enough away so that local pumps will be operational. If someone starts price gouging on gas prices, do not argue. Pay it, but take their name and address. Turn them in to the police later. Please testify against them when they come to trial. The second they tell you that your town will be hit, put the pets and kids in the car and drive away. It is as simple as that.

Plan for Camp-Style Cooking. You can start cleaning out your freezer at the beginning of hurricane season. Try not to keep excessive amounts of frozen food in your freezer during hurricane season. If there is something you need, the markets are still open. There is no reason to stay “stocked up,” only to lose everything in a hurricane. The kinds of foods that are kept in freezers are usually relatively expensive and that is a lot of money to risk for no real reason at all. Do not rely on the fact that you may have a generator designated to save your freezer. Generators are wonderful, just so long as the electricity comes back on at the gas stations before you run out of gas for them.

Do buy a camp stove and gas grill and learn to use both now. Ladies, this means you. Do not depend on your husband, significant other, or neighbor down the street. People get separated during hurricanes. You could find yourself alone. Learn to work your own stove and gas grill. You may not be able to cook on your own kitchen appliances for a few days, so a camp stove and a gas grill are important insurance against that possibility. The camp stove will be small, so make sure you have pots and pans that will fit on it. When the time comes, make sure that both your gas grill and your camp stove are inside and secure, away from high winds. You may be able to come home as early as about 72 hours, so you want to be able to cook when you get there, no matter what circumstances you find in your kitchen.

Plan to Protect Your Home and Furnishings: Next, you need to protect your home, as best you can. This means planning now for shutters on the windows and doors, picking up anything in the yard that could become a flying object, and finding all of the places, in your house, where you need to turn off the utilities. Now, this could be a problem too, in that a totally sealed home can experience unpleasant pressure changes during a hurricane, so shutters might be appropriate for one side of the house, while plywood might be appropriate for the other. Do check with others to find out from which direction most hurricanes approach your house, so you can make that determination. Buy what you need to protect your home now! Why wait and risk not being able to find the necessary materials?

If you live in a flood area, plan now to put all large pieces of furniture – and your appliances – on concrete blocks. Count how many concrete blocks you will need and go get them now. When the time comes, get everything you can up off of the floor. If you have nice china and artwork, you will need to pack them in plastic containers or wrap them in plastic and put everything up in a closet. Why not have those packing resources ready now? Remember, you will have 36 hours lead time, so you will need to make every second count. That will be enough time to pack, not enough time to shop for protective packing materials. You will be packing just as if you were moving, and will be glad you did when the hurricane is over.

Protect Important Documents. Looks like the only thing left to do now is make certain that all of your important documents are safe. Go to an office supply store and buy one big plastic, 3-ring binder, and enough dividers to have a section for each person in your family, each vehicle you own, each of your pets, and one for the house. Then buy a big box of those clear plastic, 3-ring, document protectors. Now, all you need is a plastic container, with a waterproof seal, to put it in. Organize each person’s documents in their own section of the binder, each individual vehicle in its own section, each pet in its own section, and the house in its section. Drop the binder in the container, along with traveling and gas cash, seal the lid, and you are done. The last thing you put in the car, before you drive away, is the container with all your documents in it. If you have tons of pictures, put them in plastic sleeves and binders. Seal them in plastic containers and put them in the top of closets. Be sure to put one of those little humidity packets in with them so they will be safe while you are gone. If you do those 8 things, plus making sure you have enough canned food to last your family two weeks – and yes, batteries for your flashlight – you should come through any hurricane just fine.

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