Tips for Preparing for Hurricanes

I have lived in South Florida for almost 15 years and have seen my fair share of hurricanes. With the devastation that happened in Texas last week from hurricane Harvey and the imminent threat from Hurricane Irma, I wanted to do a write up on the steps I personally take to prepare for Hurricanes. I perform all of these steps prior to boarding up my windows.

Food + Water + Personal Items

It goes without saying that you can only survive for so long without Food And Water. You should have enough food and water on hand to survive 2-3 weeks in the event that stores are closed. I normally perform a large shopping trip prior to the start of hurricane season to pick up these items before the rush, I personally keep over 2 months worth of food on hand in the event of a major storm. Ideally you should stock up with food items such as:

  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Canned Foods
  • Granola Bars
  • Cookies
  • Nuts
  • Trail Mix

Most of the food items above do not require any cooking and can be consumed with little preparation.

You should ensure that you have plenty of drinkable water in the event that your water supply becomes contaminated. I personally stock up on several cases of bottled water and I also have 5 x 5 gallon jugs of water in a water dispenser. Prior to the storm, I also wash out and fill several plastic juice jugs with tap water to act as additional water.

Aside from food and water, you should stock up on the following items;

  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Soap
  • Dish Soap
  • Trash Bags
  • Zip Top Storage Bags
  • Batteries
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Emergency Water Filter (LifeStraw)
  • LED Lights and Lanters

Remember your Pets

Ensure that you have plenty of pet food and water on hand to cover your pets needs. Furthermore ensure that you have copies of all of your pets medical records in a safe place.

During a storm, your pets may also be scared. Ensure you have treats, toys and other items that can be used to comfort your pets while you ride out the storm.

Have Multiple Forms of Gathering Information and Communication

Make sure you have several different ways of gathering information and communicating with the outside. You should have a classic AM/FM Radio and a Mobile Phone at the least in the event your loose TV service or power.

During a storm – It is best to use SMS and data services to communicate with the outside in place of phone calls unless it is an emergency.

If you use Twitter, you should follow several accounts including the National Weather Service(@NWA), The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel), National Hurricane Center (@NWSNHC) and any local county and city twitter accounts for the latest news. I normally have these accounts setup to give my phone a notification. <shameless plug> While you are following the account above, why not also take a moment to give me a follow @KeithIMyers.

You are also best to follow any local news twitter accounts as well.

Self Defense

Sadly one trend that seems to be growing after major storms is the fact that some people choose to loot take things that dont belong to them. These people take advantage of the fact that emergency police services are likely incapacitated immediately after the storm so the likelihood of being caught is minimal. It is best to ensure that you have a way to protect yourself in the event of a threat.

If you purchase a firearm – make sure you know how to use it and understand the laws in your area on its use. If you do not have a firearm or do not wish to own a firearm – there are other options such as machetes, baseball bats or even a long stick if needed.

I hope that anyone who reads this will never have to use their weapon but it is best to be prepared.

Take Photos Before and After

When it comes to dealing with insurance companies, photos of your property can make a massive difference if you have to get reimbursed for damages. The best rule is to take photos are 3 different points

  • Before the Storm – Take several high resolution photos of your house a few days prior to the storm showing its normal state. You should take photos of both the interior and exterior of your house. Furthermore you should take photos of all of your valuables including electronics.
  • After your house is secured – Repeat the steps mentioned above but after you have secured your house. These photos should show that you have tied down or secured all items on the exterior of your house that could become airborne and your shutters. You should also show any interior prep work such as moving electronics to higher places in the event of a flood.
  • After the storm – Take more photos of your property before you begin the clean up process. Take special care to photograph any damage up close.

Make sure that these photos are saved in a secured place such as a private cloud storage account.

Back Up Your Physical Data

The section below this will go into backing up your digital data but before I do, I need to go into physical data. You should take a few hours this week to scan all of your important paperwork and store a digital copy. This includes photographs, insurance policy information and just about anything else that you can think of.

Back Up Your Data

Spend a few bucks to get a secure cloud storage solution if you do not already have one. Make sure you back up all of your important content to this cloud storage provider – including the items I mentioned in the previous section. If you are backing up “sensitive” data to a cloud storage solution, I highly advise that you encrypt the content locally before uploading it to a cloud storage solution. Google Drive, OneDrive, DropBox and Amazon Cloud Drive are all great options.

I also keep 5 local copies of critical files “offline” – 1 on a 128 GB USB Flash Drive, one on a 200 GB MicroSD card, on on a 500 GB SSD, one on a Intel Compute Stick and one on a mini PC. This includes the copies that are already on my laptops.

Solar Panels and USB Battery Packs

Invest in a few USB Battery Packs to keep your personal electronics powered up during the storm. This will allow you to keep connected to the outside world. You should at least have a 20,000 mAh battery back which can charge most phones 7-10 times. Furthermore many of these USB battery packs include features such as LED Flash Lights which can be used to light your house in the event of power loss.

Ideally you should also have a way to charge these power banks in the event of a prolonged power failure. I personally have purchased 3 small solar panels. 2 of the solar panels have USB ports to directly charge the battery pack while the other solar panel has a car power outlet to allow me to connect a 12v battery bank. I have purchased this massive 50,000 mAh USB battery Pack with multiple output options including 120 v AC in the event I need to power a laptop or appliance.

Charge All The Things

In addition to charging your USB battery packs as discussed in the section above, make sure you charge all other battery operated items you own. In a pinch, an old laptop can be used to charge your cell phone as long as it powers on and the battery holds a charge.

Pack a Bug Out Bag

Make sure you have an emergency bag with necessities that you can grab in a moments notice if you are forced to evacuate. This bag should contain everything you need to survive for 48-72 hours.

Dont forget the Entertainment

Make sure that you have plenty of entertainment options to keep you busy while you ride out the storm. Make sure you have a few books or a kindle paperwhite to keep you busy while offline.  I also have plenty of offline videos saved to my tablet to keep me entertained if there is no connectivity.

If you have children, make sure you have several toys and board games to keep your children entertained as well.

Have a Plan

Make sure you have a plan consisting of places you can go in the event that your house becomes unsafe. Talk to local friends and family members to see if you can bunk over there if you are without power (and hopefully extend the same offer to them).

Make sure you also have a place that you can go in the event that your area becomes uninhabitable for a period of time.

Misc Items

The items in this section are important but do not really have enough content to warrant their own section on this site

  • Freeze Things – Place water bottles and blue ice packs in your freezer as soon as possible to allow them to freeze prior to the storm. In the event of a power loss – this ice will help you keep your freezer cold for longer. Furthermore if you freeze water bottles, they can be used as an additional source of drinking water
  • Tie Down Your Trash Cans – If you live in a house with trash cans that you keep outside. Tie them to a tree or other anchored surface.
  • Unplug Your Electronics -Even if you do not loose power in the storm, you may suffer severe brown outs and power surges which can destroy electronic equipment – even if a surge protector is in use.
  • Gas up your car – Make sure you have a full tank of gas at all times.
  • Get Cash – Ensure you have a few hundred dollars in cash in the event that ATM Machines are down.
  • Use Plastic Zip Top Bags – Place electronics and important paperwork in plastic zip top bags to protect them from water damage.
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