Hurricane season is fast approaching for those of us living in Florida. With it comes the risk of heavy winds and floods that can do plenty of damage to our homes. It’s time to dust off disaster supply kits and make sure they’re full of all the supplies you might need, and make sure your family knows what to do in the event of a hurricane.
Your Family Disaster Plan
A disaster plan is simply an action plan that you’ll carry out if a hazard affects your home and family. It includes preparation activities you do before the hazard becomes a threat, and activities you might need to carry out during a storm or other emergency.
- Determine the types of hazards you might be affected by, and how your home is most vulnerable. Check out some ways in which you can minimize the risk of damage or safety threats during a storm.
- Check your insurance and make sure you’re covered for flood damage in some way (standard homeowner’s insurance rarely covers floods).
- Take classes in CPR, first aid, and disaster preparedness.
- Locate rooms or areas in your home which are safe from hurricane hazards. Generally this will be an interior room which has no windows.
- Determine escape routes from your home (these might vary depending on the hazard involved) and choose one or more meeting places where your family can gather if separated.
- Plan what to do with your pets if you have to evacuate your home.
- Choose a contact person—a friend or family member who lives out of state—that family members can contact if needed. Make sure you have at least two ways to contact that person (such as email, home phone, cell phone).
- Create and maintain a disaster supply kit, and make sure your family knows where it is and what it’s for.
- Check your disaster supply kit when a hurricane watch is issued and make sure you have all necessary supplies on hand.
- Discuss all of these issues with your family to make sure everyone understands what to do during a storm.
Creating a Disaster Supply Kit
A disaster supply kit is full of all the things you might need in the event of a storm doing enough damage that you lose your electricity supply or become isolated from the rest of the world.
When creating and maintaining disaster supply kit, it’s important to make sure that everything that goes in the kit stays in it. Don’t be tempted to remove items from the kit for any reason—it’s far too easy to forget to replace them. (Of course, you can use your own discretion when deciding whether or not to buy items such as blankets, pillows, and clothing especially for the kit.)
What should you include?
- Plenty of water—a good rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day, with at least three days’ worth for each person in the household.
- Enough food for three to seven days. Include only non-perishable food such as canned or dehydrated items, and also add some plastic utensils and paper plates, as well as a can opener and cooking implements.
- First aid kit
- Toiletries and personal care items
- Blankets and pillows
- Battery-operated flashlight and radio, and plenty of spare batteries
- Books and toys for you and the kids
- Important documents, including insurance policies, social security & bank account numbers, wedding and birth certificates. Keep these in a waterproof document sleeve.
- Tools (battery or hand-operated)
- Pet care items for any pets you own, including a leash and muzzle for dogs, and a cage or carrier for any small pets.
You may also want to have on hand items that you may need for emergency repairs if windows and other household fixtures are broken during a storm.
Some items, such as prescription medication and documents, won’t be a part of your disaster supply kit at all times, but you can gather these items when you hear of a hurricane watch and add them to the kit.
Store kit items in a safe and secure location, in water-tight boxes or bags, and make sure everyone in the family knows where your emergency supplies are located.
Some items may need to be replaced periodically even if you don’t use the kit—this includes batteries, and may include first aid and food items.
What should you do when a Hurricane Watch is Issued?
If a hurricane watch has been issued for your area, your actions will depend on whether or not you need to evacuate your home.
If you’re able to stay in your home, assemble your disaster supply kit and check for any items that need to be replaced. Stock up on any supplies you need, fill your car with gas, and grab some extra cash (in case ATMs and banks close). Carry out your pet plan, notify your contact person of the hurricane watch, and check up on your neighbors, too. If a hurricane does show up, gather your family in your home’s safe room, along with your disaster supply kit.
If you’ve been ordered to evacuate, or live in a vulnerable area, you’ll need to decide on a destination and inform family and friends (including your out-of-state contact) where you’re headed. Evacuate to the home of family members or friends in a safe area if possible, or try a motel or hotel in a safe location. Shelters will usually be a last resort, as these may be uncomfortable, and many don’t accept pets.
One of the worst feelings for family and friends is not being able to reach you and know that you are alright. Decide on one out of state contact and let your family and friends know ahead of time who that is and how to reach them.
Assemble your disaster supply kit, take care of your pets, grab extra cash, fill up your car’s tank, and secure your home. Before leaving, map out a route you’ll take to get to your destination—don’t get on the road until you know where you’re going and you have a safe route to get there. Be patient and leave as early as possible.