These 6 tips will help you prepare for hurricane season.
During hurricane season, we all watch the weather forecast with dread, silently praying for hurricanes to change course or die out in the ocean. But practically speaking, there are some preparations you should be making, just in case the worst happens. Here are six things you can do right now to prepare yourself.
Store at least three days' worth of drinking water.
This is potentially the easiest thing you can do to keep your family prepared for a hurricane. It is generally recommended that people drink at least 64 ounces (two quarts) of water a day. That comes out to approximately eight glasses of water.
If you have a dog, your pet could need as many as 16 ounces of water a day per 10 pounds. Cats typically only need a few ounces of water a day, especially if you feed them wet food (which is usually 80% water). These are just baseline recommendations.
Extremely hot or cold temperatures will require more water, as will physical exercise. One of the biggest fears during a hurricane is that the storm will knock out water treatment centers, usually through floodwater contamination. Even if you forget to stock up on water before a major storm, you can still fill up bottles, jars, or whatever kitchen containers you have, as long as state and local officials believe the water supply is still safe. If you know you're going to need a lot of water, you can also plug up your bathtub and fill it with water. While this is not the most palatable or hygienic option, it is an easy way to store a lot of water quickly.
Store at least three days' worth of food.
In the days leading up to any storm, grocery shelves usually go bare. People tend to go for the same two items—milk and bread. If having a warm, well-balanced meal is important to you, there are a number of survival food companies that sell freeze-dried meals that are ready to eat in minutes with nothing but hot water. Military-surplus Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) even come with their own heating element. Otherwise, canned foods from the grocery store are a great long-term storage option that you can always cycle out when you cook dinners. If you have pets, remember to keep extra pet food on hand. Chances are, you have enough canned food in your pantry or freezer to last three days.
During any storm, when the odds of losing power are high, you should always start off by eating what food is left in your fridge or freezer. It doesn't take long for frozen and refrigerated food to spoil, so only eat these foods if your power is still on or if you have only just lost electricity.
A great way to prepare for power loss is to take a cup of water and freeze it. Keep it in the freezer and place a penny or some other coin on top of the ice. That way, if you lose power, you will be able to tell because the coin will have sunk to the bottom of the cup. The deeper the coin, the longer the power has been out. If you have to evacuate during a storm, you won't be home to notice if the power goes out. If the lights are on when you get home, you'll have no way of knowing whether the food in your freezer spoiled and then re-froze. But if you use the penny trick, and you see that the penny is frozen in the middle or bottom of the glass, that tells you that you lost and then regained power and that your frozen food is not safe to eat.
Charge up your phones and devices.
If the power does go out during a storm, you will lose the ability to charge your cellular devices. Other devices like tablets or laptops may have a charge, but without electricity, your internet router will be down. Keep your cell phone charged in the lead-up to any major storm. Cell phone battery backups have become affordable, giving you the option to recharge your phone if the power goes out, as long as your backup battery is charged ahead of time.
If you want to maintain your internet connection during power flickers and outages, consider purchasing an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). These are battery backups designed to safeguard computers and other electronics from power outages. For under $50, you can purchase a small UPS designed to not only keep your internet router up and running for at least two hours, but also allow you to charge your handheld devices.
If you have a real emergency during a natural disaster, your phone dies, and you have no way to call for help, you can also charge your phone in your car. But this should truly be left as a last resort.
Fill up your gas tank.
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The 21st century has afforded us many luxuries. However, the supply chain for gasoline hasn't changed much. Gas stations still receive new shipments of gasoline every couple of days. Under normal circumstances, it takes a station those two to three days to run out of gasoline. If, however, refineries shut down, the deliveries stop, and people are frantically trying to stock up on gas, a station can be pumped dry in a matter of hours.
Don't wait for a state of emergency to fill up the tank. If you are driving on three-quarters of a tank of gas, fill it up. You can also fill up portable gas cans if you have a generator or are worried about being able to drive long distances, but make sure to only take what you need. If your survival plan relies on a generator, make sure you have enough fuel to keep the generator running for at least three days.
Fully read your insurance policies.
This is a big one. Most people have no idea what their homeowners, flood, or rental insurance policies say until a disaster hits and they need to make a claim. I recently had an apartment fire, and while I was completely covered, I learned a lot about my insurance policy that I didn't already know. For example, if a missile hits my house, I'm covered. But if that missile has a nuclear warhead, even if it doesn't go off, I'm not covered. That's obviously a silly example, but you will be surprised to learn what is and is not covered in your policies.
For example, most homeowner's insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Homeowners need to purchase flood insurance through the federal government in order to receive that coverage. However, many homeowners' or renters' insurance policies do cover flooding caused by fire sprinklers or if a storm creates a hole in your wall or ceiling and rainwaters pour into your house.
If you live in a flood plain and don't have flood coverage, it is a really good idea to stack as many valuables as you can on upper floors, attics, or on top of tall furniture. If you live in a flood-prone area, flood insurance will be expensive, but also worth it.
If you live outside of a flood area, flood insurance will be relatively cheap. Even if it isn't statistically necessary, it will provide you peace of mind in future storms.
Refill your prescriptions.
This one is really easy to do, but most people forget to do it until it's too late. God forbid, if you have to evacuate, make sure that you bring your prescriptions with you. If you aren't able to refill your prescription in the event of a natural disaster, bring along an empty prescription bottle with your name on it. That way, if you end up evacuating, you can prove that have been prescribed specific doses of medication.
Whether it's a hurricane, tornado, or just a regular old storm, you never know when you might lose power and have to hunker down for a few days. While there are certainly many other steps to take in preparation for a storm, these basics will keep you prepared and, in a worst-case scenario, could keep you alive.
Anything else we should have listed? Let us know in the comments below!