We all have a favorite season of the year. For most school children it’s summer – for obvious reasons or maybe the Christmas season. Sports fans may look forward to football season or baseball season. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed fall. The one season of the year I’ve never heard anyone claim as their favorite is the one that begins on June 1st and will conclude on November 30th, hurricane season. The 2013 hurricane begins this Saturday so what better time to remind you of hurricane season preparations.
I lived in Florida for over 30 years before having any serious concern about hurricanes when Andrew hit south Florida. And while we were not directly affected by this storm in Ocala, my parents and the residents of Lighthouse Point where I grew up were evacuated. But after the storm, it wasn’t Lighthouse Point that was badly damaged but instead Homestead, Coral Gables, and other Dade County locations where Dad and his family lived. Seeing the images of destruction to familiar areas and hearing the stories of friends and relatives changed everything. Hurricanes are real threats that require real preparation. And of course, I’m sure you all remember the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005; but since you weren’t adults at that time you weren’t responsible for preparing for those storms. Now that you are on your own, you need to know what to do to prepare – and it’s NOT have a hurricane party. (No drinking when the meteorologists say “hunker down”).
So today, I’d like to share some hurricane preparation tips. If you decide to skip the rest of this memo, that’s fine…so long as you save this and read it when it’s time to prepare for the next hurricane heading toward central Florida (or Jacksonville).
- Get cash! If the storm hits and you lose power, you will not be able to use your debit card so you’ll need cash. How much? Hard to say! I suggest a minimum of $200 in mostly small bills – ones, fives, tens, and some twenties because others may have difficulty giving change.
- Fill your car with gas. You’ll need a full tank if you’re required to evacuate, but even without an evacuation order, you’ll want a full tank if there’s a loss of power since no power means no gas. And if you own gas cans, it would be a good idea to fill them as well.
- Buy water. If you freeze individual bottles of water, you can use them to keep food fresh for awhile. The frozen bottles can be used in an ice chest to keep food cold or they can even be used in the refrigerator to keep food cold since the refrigerator is well insulated and can keep items cool for several days so long as it isn’t opened often. Then of course, when these bottles thaw, you’ve got water to drink as well. (You may have heard that you need to fill the tub with water in preparation for a hurricane. This is not for drinking, but rather for cleaning and other non drinking uses.) Of course, you won’t want to freeze all of our water bottles so make sure you have plenty.
- Prepare a First-aid Kit. Band aids, antibiotic cream, Tylenol or other pain relievers, alcohol or alcohol wipes, insect relief ointment, gauze and adhesive tape are a few items to include. You may want to include allergy medicine, Tums, and Pepto Bismol as well as other items along those lines.
- Prepare for darkness. Flashlights and batteries are essential! Note flashlights…more than one. You need at least one lantern style flashlight which can stand on a table or counter – you’ll really appreciate this type in the bathroom. Then you’ll also need the traditional style – one that can be easily carried and pointed in dark drawers, cabinets, ice chests, or refrigerators. And don’t forget to purchase a good supply of batteries to keep these flashlights lit.
- Get a phone charger for your car. You’ll be miserable if you’re unable to call or text. Your phone will be an important connection to the outside world and your only way to stay in touch with and check on friends and family.
- Check out your battery operated radio and make sure you have plenty of batteries. You’ll want to get weather updates as well as information following the storm so you’ll know how clean up is progressing in your area.
- Stock up on non perishable food. Cereal, crackers, bread, peanut butter are just a few items that require no refrigeration or cooking. But in addition, you may want to cook some food prior to the storm for later use. Cook chicken, a roast, or other meat that can be eaten cold or used on sandwiches. This is also a good way to use food in the freezer to prevent it from spoiling if you lose power. Don’t forget propane for your grill since this is another good way to cook without electricity, and if you have a camp stove, you can cook most anything.
- Stock up on paper products, cleaning supplies, and personal care products. Toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, Clorox wipes, and similar products are indispensable after a storm.
- Pack important papers, some clothes, and other items in case you need to leave. It’s a good idea to organize and pack important papers (social security card, birth certificate, passport, insurance information…put these in a Ziplock bag to protect them) computer, chargers, clothes for a few days including sneakers or Topsiders, toothbrush, shampoo, and other personal items (don’t forget prescriptions). If these items are packed, it’s much easier to load them in the car and head to a safer location if necessary.
- Plan for pets. You’ll need pet food, shot records, leashes, carriers, and other items…especially if you need to leave home. Hopefully, you won’t need to go to a shelter; but if you do, you’ll need to know where you can go with pets.
For further tips on hurricane preparedness, check the list provided by the American Red Cross.
Let’s all hope that this is not needed. It would be great if we have another thirty year period with little hurricane activity, but it’s better to have a plan than to react at the last minute.