Hurricane Preparation and Safety

In order to survive a hurricane disaster, proper planning is critical and takes enormous effort. In addition to assembling supplies as early as possible, a plan must be devised and also practiced. A simple but effective plan developed by The Harvard Medical School is as follows:

Collect disaster supplies

If you have not experienced one it's hard to imagine how destructive a hurricane can be. Those affected are without electricity, water, domestic gas, telephone and even shelter. To be prepared, collect the following items and store them so that they will easily be found in the event of an emergency — but not so easily that you end up depleting the supplies without realizing it. Some people store these items in a section of the basement or a closet that is used infrequently. Decide what will work best for you.

Disaster-supply list

  • Bottled water (1 gallon per person per day; three-day supply ideal)
  • Cash (ATM and credit cards may not work or be accepted by businesses)
  • Cellular phone (with non electrical charger, such as a car charger or AAA battery pack)
  • Clothing and underwear
  • Phone numbers of friends and family
  • Important Documents (driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, etc.) in a waterproof container
  • Dust mask (one per person)
  • Eating utensils (plastic or disposable)
  • Emergency numbers: local, state and federal
  • Financial inventory (a list of bank and investment accounts, mortgages and loans, including account numbers and location of original documents)
  • First-aid kit (see “Your first-aid kit,” below)
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Food (canned goods and other nonperishable items that do not require cooking)
  • Masking tape, duct tape
  • Medical information (list of your medications, any chronic conditions and medical history)
  • Medications (three-day supply of all daily medications)
  • Paper towels, toilet paper and sanitary products
  • Pet supplies and carrier (include food, water, leashes and records of shots)
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Radio (battery-operated) with extra batteries
  • Scissors
  • Sleeping bags or blankets (one per person)
  • Toiletries (soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.)
  • Tools (can opener, knife, pliers; a Swiss army knife may suffice)
  • Trash bags 

Create a portable supply kit

In case you have to evacuate your home, it is good to put the supplies you think you would need the most in a portable container. Some people try to fit all of the supplies listed above in a large rolling trashcan with a lid or a large rolling cooler. Another option is to store the items in several small coolers or boxes. Think about what supplies you need, what you can reasonably carry or store in your car, and how many people will be available to help you transport the supplies.

Develop and practice an emergency plan

All the planning in the world will not do much good if you do not prepare ahead of time. This enables you to go through your plan while you are calm and thinking clearly, but it also enables you to modify it before you have to put it into action.

  • Identify emergency evacuation routes and shelters in your community and near your workplace.
  • Decide where family members should meet if you are separated in an emergency.
  • Identify a backup location to meet at, in case the first location is impossible to reach.
  • Identify a point-person in the family who will serve as the central contact to call in case of confusion.
  • Choose an out-of-state friend or relative to serve as a backup contact, in the event that local lines are tied up or out of service.
  • Provide every member of the family with a cellular phone or prepaid phone card to make sure they can make a call in the event of an emergency.
  • Consider family members with special needs while making plans. (For example, who will help someone in a wheelchair?) Do not forget your pets, either. (For example, where can you leave pets if you have to evacuate to a hotel that does not allow them?)
  • Practice the plan at least once per year. 

Water is Critical

Of all the supplies listed the most critical by far is an adequate supply of drinking water. Everything else (including food) is secondary to water because the body needs a large and continuous supply of freshwater. After a hurricane, water service is interrupted for lengthy periods of time because of lack of power and the fact that existing water supplies are often polluted. Pure and freshwater is mandatory to ensure proper hydration and avoid disease spread through polluted water.

Plan to collect and store water supplies that exceed the minimum and use the highest quality water possible. Ultra-pure distilled water can be stored for long periods because there are no minerals or bacteria in the water; supplies can be maintained almost indefinitely if stored in a cool dark place.

Estimate supplies for more than your immediate needs because in times of emergency and hurricanes many people move to safer structures or higher ground, which may burden existing supplies of safer locations.