Preparation for hurricane season – running from June to November – also is applicable to many other unexpected emergencies. The key to any emergency situation is having an organized plan in advance.
At the beginning of the hurricane season, check the status of your home insurance, flood insurance, and other plans for your property. Organize a detailed list that you can carry with you of your policy insurance number, carrier, and local and national contact as well as other important contacts and accounts, such as your bank. Update your list of home contents, and create a non-perishable food and water supply and an emergency kit (see below) that includes matches, a medical kit, flashlight, radio, batteries, and bug spray.
Know where your house, and the access roads to your home, are located on floodplain maps. Consider flooding, storm surges, and wind. If you are in your home during an emergency, locate a structurally sound room with outside access should you need to evacuate; also know safe buildings in your neighborhood to which you could evacuate. If you are in an area without easy outside access, keep a tool on hand, such as an ax, that could be used in the evacuation.
Have a preset escape route and location where you will rendezvous with family and friends. Keeping this location within fifty (50) miles will better ensure that persons can reach that location. Have with you a contact list and one person out-of-state who is designated to be the point of contact for your family. Remember to educate your children on using 9-1-1 in case of an emergency, as well.
Know what to do with your pets. These important members of your family may not be welcomed at rental facilities, shelters, and motels but still may need a home away from home. Be certain that they are up-to-date with vaccinations and medications and that you have proof of this. Carry a photo of the pet should you be separated, put an identification collar on the animal, and have an appropriately sized pet carrier handy.
Water: An average person will need to consume one gallon per day. Have extra supplies available for cleanliness, and maintain a supply for at least three days. Also, fill sinks and bathtubs prior to an expected emergency for extra supplies.
Food: Again, have enough available for no less than three days. You will need to consider a non-electric can opener, cooking utensils and tools, fuel, coolers with ice for perishable items, and disposable plates and flatware. Have food for meals and snacks and for infants and the elderly, if applicable. Also, purchase pet items.
Bedding: Pillows, sheets, and sleeping bags may come in handy if you need to evacuate your bedroom or home.
Clothing: Pack at least one change of clothes and a towel. Include closed-toed shoes like boots and socks. Consider packing items in plastic bags and keeping a rain jacket available should you encounter heavy rains or flooding.
Medicine: This includes first aid items in addition to prescription medications.
Hygiene: Seal toilet paper in a plastic container. Include disinfecting wipes and liquids, baby wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, and nail clippers.
Hardware: Batteries, flashlights, a radio, and a non-electrical wall phone or a mobile phone are essential. If available, a generator and extension cord also is useful.
Fuel: Five (5) gallon containers for gasoline are convenient storage items for extra gasoline as shortages may occur following an emergency. Also consider having extra vehicle oil, propane, and firewood.
Money: Have on hand a small supply of cash in small bills and credit cards.
Documents: Secure identification documents in a waterproof and preferably fireproof container or place items in your safe deposit box. Include insurance, passports, medical records, bank accounts, and your Social Security card. Keep at least one form of identification on you at all times, such as your driver’s license or state identification.
Tools: Depending on the severity of the situation, tool needs may vary. For example, if you live in the floodplain, keeping an ax in the attic or in a readily available area would be wise. Also, sharpen your chainsaw and lawnmower blade every spring or after heavy use.
Security begins with your preparedness plan. If this is your first hurricane season, or if you are needing new materials, consider the highest priority item purchases prior to hurricane season to alleviate upfront costs.
Walk around your house and outside structures and evaluate areas where wind and water may enter. Also, you may need to have someone inspect your roof for any signs of weakness. Strap down roof and wall connections and lighter outside buildings like portable buildings and sheds. Shutter windows and glass doors, but always leave exits accessible. Bolt doors that may swing open, and see if your garage door can be fitted with bracing and support.
Collect outside items such as garbage containers, bicycles, patio furniture, and potted plants, and move them inside to a secure location. Remember, loose and lightweight items may be moved with great force during a hurricane and can be a danger to property.
Inspect trees and shrubs for dead growth. Have these items removed prior to hurricane season.
Evacuating in the approach of a threat often is the safest option. View evacuation maps for the closest route, fuel up your vehicle, and notify neighbors and family of your plan. If possible, exchange contact information with someone who will stay locally, and notify your public safety officers. Locate a place to stay overnight, and ensure that your pets are cared for if they cannot go with you.