June 1st Hurricane Reminders

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.

Not a hurricane, but severe weather may require storm preparation.
Not a hurricane, but severe weather may require storm preparation.

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.




It’s Time to Prepare for Hurricane Season!

I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s time to prepare for hurricane season. It’s been ten years since we’ve felt the impact of a hurricane, and nine years since we’ve HAD to prepare, however, that doesn’t mean preparation isn’t a good idea.

Last year at this time, I encouraged you to prepare for hurricane season, but it’s time for a repeat:

  • Get cash.
  • Fill your car with gas.
  • Buy water.
  • Prepare a first-aid kit.
  • Get a phone charger for your car.
  • Prepare for darkness.
  • Check out your battery operated radio.
  • Stock up on paper products, cleaning products, and personal care products.
  • Organize important papers, some clothing, and other items in case you need to leave.
  • Plan for pets.

Waiting until the last minute to prepare for a storm is stressful and expensive. That’s why I recommend you start preparing this week, and since the state’s Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday is in effect until Sunday, June 8th, you may as well take advantage of the lower prices on a few of the items you’ll need. This is the time to check and replace your flashlights and batteries, a good first step. But you may also want to buy gas cans, lanterns, or ice chests if yours need to be replaced. Many of these products are on sale this week so in addition to paying no tax, you should be able to take advantage of discounted prices.

It’s also a good idea to start putting away cash in case a hurricane comes your way. Without electricity you won’t be able to use the ATM so cash is essential. By setting aside $50 in cash every time you get paid, you should have a good start on collecting cash needed, and if there’s no storm this year, you can use this money for Christmas shopping or a weekend getaway.

Check out my memo from last year, It’s Hurricane Season or the American Red Cross Hurricane Preparation for more tips.

I’m hoping for another quiet hurricane season, but as my mom always says, “it’s better to be safe than sorry”!



It’s Hurricane Season – time to prepare!

hurricaneflagWe 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.