This past weekend Texas experienced its first tropical weather event for the 2021 season, and the season doesn’t officially begin until June 1st. Each year the tropics have been becoming active earlier than expected, and at this time they are unofficially starting the season in mid-May. Now is the time for the coastal United States to start preparing for what will inevitably be another active hurricane season.
2021 has proven that we need to be prepared for anything. The CDC recommends that each family have enough food and water on hand for a disaster that will last up to three days. Personally, I think two weeks of food and water on hand is a better goal especially since it could be weeks before the power infrastructure is fully operational. The following 8 items are what I personally recommend completing before the start of hurricane season.
The best foods to have on hand during a hurricane are non-perishable food items that can serve many purposes. We recommend these 25 foods for your emergency food pantry. Be sure to include multiple can openers that do not require electricity to use.
If you have family members who have special needs, be sure to accommodate for those needs. For example, my daughter has epilepsy and is on a ketogenic diet. She must have plenty of fats, protein, and green vegetables. Meanwhile, my son is autistic and gluten sensitive, and he needs to stay away from gluten-rich foods, so pastas, cereals, crackers, and some of the canned soups will not work for him. As well, make preparations ahead of time for those that are dependent on medical equipment. Oftentimes, those who are dependent on medical equipment to always be powered can feel the most vulnerable in the aftermath of an emergency or when the electrical grid is unpredictable. In fact, being without some of these devices for as little as a few minutes or more could be life-threatening, so prepare accordingly. Here is an extensive article that can help with these preparations.
Finally, do not forget to keep food on hand for your pets. I have a geriatric dog who has a special diet. I have made it a rule to always have at least two weeks of food for him. If there is disruption to the power infrastructure, it may be a while before his veterinary is up and running again. Also, my family feeds a stray cat. While Socks does not belong to me, I do feed her. I make sure that I have a bag of cat food and some Fancy Feast cans stashed away.
2. Food Serving Items
I have a family of 7, I do not want to imagine having to wash dishes for my family without the use of a dishwasher. Because water may not be safe for use after a hurricane, it is recommended that you limit the number of dishes that you may have to wash. Purchase a couple sets of plastic utensils, bowls, and cups, paper plates and paper towels.
3. Alternative Cooking Sources
When a hurricane enters the gulf, I move my propane grill to our garage. If the power goes out after the storm, I can still cook warm food for my family. If our power is out for multiple days and the freezer starts to thaw, it becomes a neighborhood barbeque. I recommend using a propane or a charcoal grill. Before the storm, make sure you have charcoal or propane tanks on hand. In addition, store extra aluminum foil. You can also use a camp stove to heat water (filter first) and/or food as well.
This week inflation prices officially hit my neighborhood Kroger’s grocery store. The management is preparing for new barcodes, so they reduced gallons of water for a quick sale. I was able to snatch up 4 extra gallons of water at 49 cents apiece, but that doesn’t begin to touch the water needs for my family. The CDC recommends a gallon of water a day per person in your family and per pet. For my family, that is nine gallons of water a day, 27 gallons of water for three days, and 126 gallons of water for two weeks. That’s a lot of water! I have both gallons of water and 16.9-ounce bottled water on hand. I have been known during hurricane season to stash water in any available hidden space that I have, such as in the bathroom under the sinks. Be forewarned that if you leave water there and forget about it, the plastic will deteriorate. Rotate your water when you buy new.
In addition, you can purchase additional water storage containers (like these WaterBricks) and fill them up before the storm. I highly recommend sanitizing them with a bleach solution before use. Also, when you are in the path of the hurricane, you can fill your bathtubs up with water if you run out of storage options.
My family has a several containers of Potable Aqua tablets to use in case we are under a boil water alert and we are unable to boil the water. The potable aqua allows you to filter your water and then add a germicidal tablet. I was able to purchase a two-pack for less than $8, which makes it an affordable option.
I have two children and a dog that require prescription medication. I have enough medication for my son to last several weeks, but I don’t for my daughter or my dog. When a storm enters the gulf and it looks like you are in the cone of probability, contact your doctor and request two weeks’ worth of extra medication. Most of them can have that prescription filled for the pharmacist. Gather medical items that aren’t used often, such as glasses, feminine supplies, hand sanitizer, and medical kits and place them in a secure area. Finally, don’t forget to add over the counter medication to your medical kit. Mine contains Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Naproxen, Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, antihistamines, antibiotic ointment, saline solution, vitamin C and Zinc. For a complete medical kit for the family, check out these essentials.
6. Power Sources
Last year when it looked like my home was in the path of what looked like a potential Category 5 hurricane, we made it a priority to purchase multiple power sources. Please note the closer the storm gets to you, the harder it is to find power sources, so don’t wait. My family acquired a generator last year, but that is a large expense. If you have a generator, be sure to change the oil prior to hurricane season and have enough fuel on hand for a minimum of two days of heavy loads.
Also, portable power stations are good for minor power needs and some have solar power options for charging once the storm is over. Having a portable power station like this one. Portable or permanently installed standby generators can come in handy during long-term power outages. However, if you do not know how to use these tools properly, they can be dangerous. Here are 6 generator safety tips to keep in mind before the next storm arrives.
Flashlights are needed for each member of the family. Our family purchased the AOMAIS POWER 1 because it is an AM/FM radio with the NOAA Alert Radio station, flashlight, provides emergency charging for a cellphone, and it can be charged via solar panel, hand crank, or USB. I recommend having spare batteries for flashlights and solar battery packs for charging cellphones after the storm.
7. Important Documentation
During Hurricane Ike and Rita, I evacuated ahead of the storm. I learned that it is important to take financial and medical documentation with you. Make copies of your household’s important documentation before the start of hurricane season. If you wait until there is a storm, there is a chance these won’t be gathered. This article gives an in depth look at what documents you will need and how to keep them safe when evacuating.
Include proof of residence and your insurance policies. Before the storm, take pictures and inventory your household items. Make a list of in case of emergency numbers and contact information.
It is recommended that you have copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce information, adoption or child custody papers, social security cards, passports, drivers’ licenses, social security cards, green cards, military service cards, and any concealed weapons permit. Include any wills, trusts, or power of attorney information.
Have financial records on hand, such has checking and savings accounts, debit cards, and investment information.
If any of your family members have special needs, include their medical and care information; don’t forget to include your family’s pharmacy information.
The above listed items are extremely important to have with you if you evacuate. When you return home, there could be law enforcement or military officers requiring this information. In addition, if your home happens to be destroyed, this information will be needed by your insurance company. Also, I recommend keeping the original documents in a safety deposit box or a fire safe and give another copy of the information to a family member you trust.
I cannot stress enough how important it will be to have cash on hand. If an evacuation is called by the governor, then the banks will close. Everyone will be making an ATM run, and they do run out of money fast. I stash cash throughout the year just to avoid last minute runs to grocery stores and ATMs during natural disasters. Read more on this subject here.
While this is not a complete hurricane preparation list; it covers how to prepare before a storm enters the gulf. I recommend using the usually quiet month of June to address this list. You can add a few items to each grocery list, and it won’t be financially overwhelming. Stay safe! Stay prepared!