Since the hurricanes of 2004 and then again in 2005, I’ve taken hurricane season much more seriously. Living without power for several days requires preparation and to do so in some comfort also requires making a few purchases.
In the Charlie, Francis, Jean season of 2004, we spent hundreds of dollars on plywood, flashlights, batteries, propane, food and other items “just in case”. Then we devoted hours to boarding windows, wind-proofing the yard and securing boats. These turned out to be good investments in both time and money as we dealt with the inconvenience of no refrigeration, no stove, no lights and of course no air conditioning. Instead of the electric gadgets we rely on on a daily basis, rakes, brooms and gas powered chain saws were essential in the summer and fall of 2004.
Since hurricane preparation is an expensive proposition, I suggest making a few purchases each week to spread out the pain.
Every Week: Start putting aside cash. Even $10 a week will give you a good start. You’ll need cash in small denominations if power is out and you cannot access the ATM machines and some businesses may be open and able to accept cash after a storm, but not able to accept electronic payments. Also, start stocking up on non-perishable foods, a jar of peanut butter this week, canned soup next week, crackers the following week. You won’t even notice adding a few items each week when you go to the grocery.
Week 1: Check your flashlights. Do they work? If not, but new ones, at least one per person and make sure some are self supporting so they can stand on their own. This is essential for use in the bathroom! This is a good time to check on your ice chest as well.
Week 2: Buy batteries and propane. Make a list of the types of batteries needed to power flashlights, radios and other battery powered items and don’t forget to have propane on hand for your grill and/or camp stove.
Week 3: Buy water and organize your important papers. It’s a good idea to have a case of individual water bottles on hand since they can be frozen and provide the ice you’ll need in case of a power outage, and then of course, when they melt you’ll have water to drink as well. Also, buy a few gallons of water to have on hand. The American Red Cross recommends one gallon per person per day. (I’d plan for 5 days and don’t forget you’ll need water for pets.)
Organize your important papers. You need to have phone numbers and account information for your car and home owner’s insurance as well as other important documents. Hopefully, many of these are stored electronically so you can access, but just in case, make sure you have account numbers for your bank and credit card accounts. (If you’ve already set up a good system, you’ll be able to grab and go.)
Week 4: Check your phone charger. Do you have one for your car? If not, now’s the time to get one. Your phone will be your life line if you lose power so make sure you can keep it charged. (And for those of us with cars made in the US, we’ll even be able to charge our phones when our cars aren’t running. Yay!)
Week 5: Restock your first-aid kit with plenty of band-aids, antibiotic ointment, eye drops, tweezers and other basics.
Week 6: Do you still have a radio? If not, make a plan as to how you’re going to stay up-to-date on local news. If you’re relying on your phone, all the more reason to get that charger for the car or maybe you want one that’s solar powered.
Week 7: Stock up on paper products, cleaning products and personal care items this week.
Week 8: Make a plan for pets. How will you care for them if you lose power for an extended time? Do you have shots records easily accessible? What if you need to evacuate?
So now you have the eight week plan for preparing for a hurricane this year or any year, and usually these storms don’t hit until August-October, so you should have plenty of time, but what happens if the storm hits earlier in the summer? No problem, you’ve got the list. You’ll just need to go through it more quickly.
I like the idea of spreading out the cost so it doesn’t all hit at one time and so I’m not competing with everyone in town for flashlights and batteries at the last minute. I’m looking for our flashlights this afternoon, hope you’ll join in and start preparing…just in case.