Preparing for a hurricane is very stressful. It can’t be said often enough: obey the directions of first responders, law enforcement and local authorities. Following these suggestions may ease the trauma and help you and your possessions survive in the event of a hurricane. Most of all, they will help you to be ready in the case of evacuation, and for the recovery process after the storm. Thanks to my friends in the Virgin Islands who lived through hurricanes Irma and Maria for passing these hints on. I hope they can be of help to you.
- If you have stuff you want to stay dry, put it in a plastic bin if you can. Then wrap the bin in a heavy-duty trash bag and seal it with duct tape. If you really want it to stay dry, use two trash bags.
- Put wooden furniture legs in plastic containers to protect them from water on the floor.
- Front-loading washing machines and dishwashers can be a good waterproof option to store valuables (wrapped in plastic, in case of any excess water inside the machine). Appliances may not be watertight, so don’t count on them for severe flooding, but this can help if it’s raining inside your house.
- If you’re in the path of the strongest winds, weigh things down (use boxes of books, tools, etc) so that if a window or roof blows off, your stuff might stay put.
- It’s so easy to misplace things in the chaos of a disaster, so don’t forget where you put your important stuff! If you move a lot of things around, do not assume you will remember what is where later. Make notes and/or take photos as you pack up and e-mail them to yourself. Go video or photograph everything in your house. Upload the photos/videos and a basic inventory to the cloud or email to yourself.
- If you evacuate or think you may need to, pack a bag for each person with documents, medicines, cash, keys, and other essential items. Some suggestions: clothes and all medications go in a ziplock bag; a small bag with photos and most valued keepsakes, snacks, PJs. Keep these by the door. If you have to be evacuated, hopefully you can take one small bag each. Make a folder with birth certificates, passports, wedding license, social security cards, bank accounts, health insurance and home insurance policies. Put them in a large ziplock bag. Email anything to yourself you’ll need. Save most critical stuff as screenshots in case you don’t have cell service. Then, PUT THINGS BACK IN THE BAG after you use them (see previous point!).
- Ready flashlights, one for each person. Hiking headlamps allow hands-free work in the dark. Gas up your car and generator if you have one.
- For pets: be sure they have collars on even if your pet is microchipped. Bring some food and water for your pets.
- Take pictures of everything, even if you don’t have insurance or you’re not expecting any impact. It takes very little time, and if you have damage, you may one day want to revisit your home/vehicle the way it was before.
- Once the weather passes, recovery begins. Find and prepare your cleanup tools now — waterproof boots, chainsaw, rakes, mops, towels, cleaning supplies.
- Basic multi-day power outage smarts: buy nonperishable food, fill your gas tank, get cash, and fill your bathtub and a few other containers with water. Charge all portable electronics you need (phones). After Hurricane Irma, the most important resources were water, food, fuel, and cash — in that order.
- Finally, this stuff is stressful. Take deep breaths and be patient and kind with yourself, and with those around you.
Other sources of hurricane preparation information can be found at the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Preparedness website here.