Having been raised in Florida, hurricanes have always been something I’ve had to think about. Like most native Floridians, I have my “hurricane kit” ready and waiting, but with the thousands of people who move to Florida each year, more and more people are finding themselves at a loss when it comes to preparing for the next hurricane. As we hit the height of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, I’ll cover 5 essential tips that everyone needs to know in order to stay safe.
Tip 1: Get Out Of Town
The first, and best, tip I can give you for preparing for a hurricane is: “Get out of town”.Hurricanes (and tropical storms for that matter) are no joke. Even the smallest hurricanes are massive storms that can potentially be hundreds of miles wide. Since there is no point in Florida that’s more than 90 miles from the coast, any hurricane carries with it the possibility of serious damage. The good news is, tracking and forecasting these deadly storms has become much easier thanks to improvements in communication technology. Now, in most cases, we know days (and sometimes weeks) in advance of a coming storm, plenty of time for you to get out of town for a few days.
If you talk to many native Floridians, you’ll undoubtedly hear stories of “hurricane parties” and people who chose to “ride it out”. First of all, I don’t care who you are or how long you’ve lived here, no one, and I mean no one can “ride out” 110mph winds and storm surges of over 10 – 15 feet, and that’s only a moderate (category 2) hurricane. As I said, don’t be a hero. Your family’s safety is too important to risk on something so foolish.
Tip 2: Make A “Spy Kit” With Cash And Important Documents
It’s a cliche in almost every spy movie, the secret stash of passports, guns, money, and gadgets. Well my friends, this is your chance to act like James Bond. Get yourself a fireproof container (available at just about any hardware/office supply store), nothing too expensive, and pack it with the important stuff; cash (enough for either a few days or to get you out of town), passports (no fakes), and important documents that you’ll have to have later (insurance papers, etc).
I also have a “burn phone” in mine, a prepaid cellphone (charged and with a backup car charger) to use if something happens to my phone (or to my carriers service). You know best what your family will need, so plan accordingly. Remember: power can be out for several days, this means not only for you, but for banks, pharmacies, and restaurants as well, so make sure that you plan ahead.
Tip 3: Keep Your Vehicle Filled, And Have Extra Gas On Hand
As I mentioned above, power can be out for several days after a hurricane. This means no power for electronic cash registers. No power means no credit/debit cards. The good news is, that doesn’t matter anyway, because there won’t be any power to run the gas pumps in the first place. You see where I’m going with this? Almost everything we do these days has some electrical component to it, after a hurricane, all of that goes away. You’ll need to make sure to keep your vehicle full of fuel during hurricane season (never park for the night with less than 3/4 of a tank).
It also wouldn’t hurt to have a couple extra cans of gas stashed away in the garage (in a safe place, and well ventilated) just in case. Car batteries can die quickly if you don’t have the vehicle running to keep them charged, and even idling burns enough fuel to leave you empty in only a couple days. If you do stay in town for the hurricane, extra fuel is a must.
Tip 4: Make Sure To Have Plenty Of Water Stored
Experts recommend having at least one gallon of water, per person, per day, stored in case of a hurricane. Personally, I like to add an additional gallon per person total just to be safe (if there are four people in the family, then four gallons), this accounts for things like brushing teeth, personal hygiene, and other incidental uses. Keep the gallon per person per day for drinking, cooking, and the important stuff. You can also use the water from your hot water heater for taking a bath and flushing the toilet.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have enough water on hand. Of all the supplies you buy and prepare, water should be at the top of the list, followed by essential medications, and then food. Also, with the power being out, unless you have a battery powered T.V./Radio, you may not hear about any “boil alerts”, so to be safe, always assume that once the power has been off longer than 12 hours, you’ll need to boil any tap water you may get.
Tip 5: Have Extra Batteries On Hand
Batteries, batteries, batteries. Guess what this tip is about. You need to have extra packs of batteries put back for use during and after the storm. It goes without saying that you should also have a battery powered radio and flashlights in your kit also. I also have an extra battery for my car stored in the garage (it was on sale), but that one’s up to you.
Again, you may be without power for several days (starting to see a theme here) so make sure that you stock up. Also, you’ll want to check your stash from time to time to make sure that the batteries (especially the batteries) are still fresh (not expired) and, most importantly, are still there, and haven’t found their way into toys and games.
Being prepared for hurricanes is just a part of life in the South East, but in Florida, it’s especially important, so make sure that no matter what your plan is, that you at least have a plan. I grew up through every major storm in the last 33 years, Andrew, Hugo, Charlie, and yes, Katrina, and I can tell you from first hand experience, even there is nothing minor about a hurricane of any size. So, be prepared, and you and your family can stay safe this hurricane season.