I don’t live on the coast so I’ve never had to prepare for a hurricane before.
Hurricane Irma wasn’t your average storm. Meteorologists predicted that the storm would come pretty far inland, although they guessed it would likely turn into a tropical storm by the time it got as far in as middle Georgia.
It came before Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Texas, and it was followed by Hurricane Jose. Now Hurricane Maria wreaks havoc. With the magnitude of these storms setting records, people like me—who have never had to worry about tropical storms—have started to do what Floridians and coastal Texans have done for decades: learn how to prepare for extreme storm conditions.
I grew up in Tennessee, so I can prepare for a tornado quickly and efficiently. The warning signs of tornado activity have been drilled into my head practically since birth. For tropical storms? Not so much. For those of us who are first-timers in preparing for tropical storm weather, it can be overwhelming.
Some of the storm preparation is simply common sense, but there are also a few tricks that are being passed around on the Internet to help out those in the path of natural disasters.
Here are a few ways to get ready for the storms that are coming:
1. If we’re in an area being evacuated, evacuate if possible. First responders, hospital personnel, and others may have little choice but to stay and weather the, well, weather. But if we can get out, we should go to a safer place.
2. Don’t forget to evacuate with household pets. If we have to stay, we should make sure we protect our pets to the best of our ability. Please don’t leave them to fend for themselves.
3. For those who may experience flooding, double wrap family photos in plastic bags. It’s not the most environmentally friendly option, but in an emergency situation, it may just protect those irreplaceable photographs. A more eco-friendly option is to put them in waterproof storage containers that can be re-used later. Place them with valuables in the dishwasher, which is watertight. Turn off the water to the dishwasher to prevent electrical surges from turning it on. The dishwasher is also a great place to fill with ice to store more food in case the power goes out.
4. Take pictures of each room of your home for insurance purposes.
5. Charge your phone and all devices.
6. Have batteries on hand for flashlights.
7. Have candles in case of power outages. In the event of an emergency, Crayola crayons burn just like a candle since they are also made of wax. The paper on the crayon acts as a candle wick. Melt or cut the crayon down to the paper. You can use a paper cupcake holder turned upside down as a holder. Keep in mind that these candles are short-term solutions. While reputed to burn 30 minutes per crayon, the reality is more like half that time. This can be a great way to have a little light in an emergency situation, but we can’t survive an entire blackout only with crayons. Use them as needed, but be sure to have a backup plan.
8. Make sure you have plenty of bottled water. I reuse gallon milk jugs and refill them with filtered tap water. They can even be frozen to prepare for a potential power outage. In our house, we don’t throw out jars or other reusable containers. We simply reuse them, and they make great storage containers for water during emergencies.
9. A great milk alternative during an emergency is to keep a supply of evaporated milk and a can opener. The containers are recyclable, and the milk lasts a long time. Keep a supply on hand for emergencies, and remember that an awesome use for evaporated milk outside of emergencies is homemade hot chocolate.
10. Tie down and/or store outdoor items that could be blown away or damaged by high winds. This includes garbage cans and recycling containers, which can be blown away during storms.
11. Keep a sense of humor. This one seems like an odd must-have, but when storms are coming, it’s important that we keep our loved ones close, and keep our sense of humor close at hand. Storms can be stressful, and focusing on levity can help us bear it.
12. Have nonperishable food on hand in case the power goes out. A three-day supply is often recommended. In the event of power outages, eat any cooked meat first as well as fresh fruit and vegetables that may spoil.
13. We can look for other available shelters if our homes aren’t safe to withstand a storm, and if our homes are safe, we can offer safe shelter to others.
14. Keep a weather radio on hand, when possible, to get the latest updates. Weather alert radios will automatically alert you to any urgent weather conditions in your area. While radio stations in your area can be impacted by severe weather, a weather alert radio is considered to be more reliable in times of inclement weather.
15. Keep a first aid kit on hand, just in case. If you don’t have a pre-made first aid kit, it’s easy to throw together an emergency kit for these situations. Simply make a kit that includes bandages, pain relievers such as ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment (you can also use natural antibiotics and essential oils), cotton balls, medical tape, hand sanitizer, heating pads, and instant ice packs. A great natural antibiotic ointment can be made with coconut oil, tea tree oil, and lavender oil. A variety of recipes exist online for antibiotic ointments, natural pain relievers, and even homemade hand sanitizer to make the most eco-friendly first aid kit possible.
16. For those with babies and small children, make sure to be stocked up on diapers, wipes, formula, and baby food.
17. Don’t run generators or outdoor grills indoors. There’s a high risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
18. Stay indoors, away from windows, and keep outdoor furniture away from windows.
19. Go to a small interior room at the height of the storm, away from windows.
20. Don’t take unnecessary risks; especially the kind that involve trying to photograph or video unsafe weather conditions. Be smart!
21. To make a waterless toilet bowl, use doubled up garbage bags over the toilet. While not an eco-friendly solution, it works for emergency situations when we have little choice. Keeping kitty litter on top also helps keep this sanitary and scent-free. (Kitty litter is also great to have on hand for an emergency kit in the car to provide extra traction when stuck in deep snow or slick ice.)
22. Keep medication and important documents in a safe place. Don’t forget to have insurance documents and contact information available with information on your policy.
23. Prepare for cabin fever! Being stuck inside, even with friends and family, can add a significant amount of stress and pressure. Prepare for it. Have books to read and board games to play. For younger children, plan easy activities like Play-Doh (there are plenty of Pinterest ideas on how to make your own using average kitchen supplies), coloring books, and even home scavenger hunts. Be ready for boredom and have an idea of how you will combat it in a small space. Get creative, and have options in case of power outages. Throw it back pre-technology style, and play telephone charades. Pictionary is also an easy game to recreate at home with markers and paper.
24. Don’t panic. Have a plan in place for the worst case scenario, and discuss the emergency plan with your family. When the worst of the storm passes, be sure to let friends and family know that you are okay. Simply checking in as “safe” on Facebook is a great way to let others know that you made it through the worst of it.
25. Stay smart, stay aware, and stay safe. Help each other. And survive. Please survive.
With earthquakes hitting Mexico and Puerto Rico, safety during natural disasters continues to be of paramount concern. While safety practices differ depending on the anticipated event, concerns for safety tend to revolve around our loved ones, our pets, our homes, and our cities. Our thoughts are with all those affected.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: YouTube screenshot
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Leah Sugerman