BEFORE THE STORM
Outside the home
- Refill special medications.
- Get cash (ATMs may not work for days after). Don't charge credit cards to the limit; you might need extra cash after the storm.
- Get supplies.
- Don't fill gasoline cans until right before the storm; they are a fire hazard.
- Fill vehicle fuel tank. Gas stations could run out and some will not have power to run pumps.
- Check your car's battery, water and oil.
- Make sure you have a spare tire and buy aerosol kits that fix and inflate flats.
- Check fire extinguishers.
- If you own a boat, make necessary preparations.
- Prepare your pool. Don't drain it.
- If you own a plane, have it flown out or secured.
- Get shutters, storm panels or plywood in place on windows. If you haven't installed sockets, attach with wood screws; they're better than nails and do less damage.
- Don't tape windows; tape can create daggers of glass and in the heat can later bake onto panes.
- Remove swings and tarps from swing sets. Tie down anything you can't bring in. Check for loose rain gutters, moldings.
- Move grills, patio furniture and potted plants into your house or garage.
- If you do any last-minute pruning, take clippings inside so they don't become hazards in the wind.
- Disconnect and remove satellite dish or antenna from your roof.
- Check your mailbox. If it's loose, secure or remove it.
- Remove roof turbines and cap holes with screw-on caps. Unsecured turbines can fly off and create a large hole for rain to pour through.
- Prepare patio screening. It usually is built to sustain tropical-force winds, but with higher winds, it can separate from the frame. Officials recommend you remove a 6-foot panel on each side to let wind pass through. Pull out the tubing that holds screening in frame to remove screen.
- Secure and brace external doors, especially the garage door and double doors.
- Move vehicles out of flood-prone areas and into garages if possible. If not, park cars away from trees and close to homes or buildings.
- Don't turn off your natural gas at the main meter. Only emergency or utility people should do that.
Inside the home
- Seal key documents — including passports, wills, contracts, insurance papers, car titles, deeds, leases and tax information — in zip plastic bags and get into a protected, dry place, such as a safe-deposit box or home safe.
- Monitor the news
- Set the refrigerator to its coldest setting in anticipation of the power failing.
- Fill the bathtub. It may be your main supply of water.
- Stock heavy-duty garbage bags for post-storm home and yard cleanup.
- Check flashlight and radio batteries and have extras on hand.
- Charge rechargeable cellphones, drills, power screwdrivers, flashlights, lanterns and batteries.
- Make sure you have enough toilet paper to last until you can safely get to the store again.
- If you live in mobile home, you should evacuate if a hurricane of any strength is heading your way.
- Move furniture away from windows or cover with plastic.
- Move as many valuables as possible off the floor to limit flooding damage.
- If possible, secure small, fragile and/or valuable items that could be thrown around if winds enter your home.
- If you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, you must evacuate if an order is given. Please see evacuation zone maps (if available) to find out which areas must evacuate for Category 1 or 2 hurricanes and which must leave for Category 3 or higher storms.
- Your first choice should be to stay with a friend or family member who is living close by but is not in a flood-vulnerable area.
- If you plan to leave, start packing. Don't wait until the storm is almost here to get on the road.
Regulations may have changed, so be sure to check your policy.
Here's what you should buy now. Don't wait for a storm, when lines will be long and supplies short.
Packing up the kitchen
- Heavy-duty plastic bags: "Contractor bags" are the strongest ones out there, and are available at home warehouse stores and Publix. These hold sticks and bricks without tearing; good for packing boxes of food, countertop appliances, and things with sharp corners. They come in 30- and 50-gallon sizes. (They can be slit apart and used as thick plastic tarps for countertops or protecting big items.)
- Permanent markers: Use them to label jars and cans that might lose their labels in high humidity or floods. Write contents of cans on their bottoms or tops and date them; label plastic bags or bins to identify items packed within.
- Food-sized storage bags or containers: Empty all open packages of foods into these airtight bags or bins to keep them fresh.
- Extra water jugs: Preferably 2.5 gallons or larger. Buy the biggest size your freezer will hold.
- Heavy-duty plastic garbage cans with lids: Can be used for water storage, packing foods, packing valuables — or storing trash.
- Extra coolers: Buy metal ones with foam/plastic inserts for maximum cooling (see ship's stores or online sources). Buy large Igloo-type coolers that can stack and are on wheels. Buy foam ones to have on hand, but note these are not meant for long-term ice storage. Consider investing in a small cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter of the car, or a mini-fridge to plug into a generator.
- Waterproof storage bins: Flooding during a storm can be more of a problem than winds. Packing everything in plastic, waterproof bins can save the items. For already opened foods, use bins with airtight seals. Use large, clean garbage cans for additional storage.
To prepare your kitchen for flooding:
- Pack as many loose foods as possible into plastic, airtight containers. Label with permanent marker. Pack sealed foods in watertight storage bins or heavy trash bags. (Do not use cardboard boxes for packing.)
- All opened jars and cans (examples: spices, coffee, popcorn, peanut butter) should be packed in heavy-duty plastic bags, or plastic waterproof storage bins; label them, then pack into larger storage tubs.
- Clean out under-counter cabinets, including cookware and everything that can rust or be damaged by water.
- Unplug all appliances that aren't essential. Pack in plastic bins and wrap boxes with plastic sheets or bags.
- Use a permanent marker to write the contents of cans on their tops or bottoms in case labels are lost.
Ice and water
There's never too much of these items. Here is a guide to how much you need and how to keep it.
Do not leave pets at home, especially if you live in an evacuation area. Even if they survive the storm, they might flee a damaged home and be lost in the chaos.
It might be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead.
Keep a list of "pet-friendly" places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information. For an impending storm, call ahead for reservations. The web site petswelcome.com maintains a list of hotels that accept pets.
Take clear, color photos (frontal, left and right sides) of you with your pet, and store these with your pet’s license, medical records and ownership papers in a waterproof carrier to take with you. Include pictures of the pet with you to help with any challenge to your ownership. Take photos with your cellphone so they’re stored there as well.
Pet Disaster Kit:
- Medications and medical records (in a waterproof container)
- Collar or harness for each pet
- Non-spill food and water dishes
- 14-day supply of food, water in nonbreakable containers
- Manual can opener
- Grooming supplies
- Pet's blanket and favorite toy
- Cleanser and disinfectant to handle wastes
- Newspapers or litter, paper towels and plastic bags