Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Of all the potential disasters, it’s not the TEOTWAWKI events that we all love to talk about that are most likely to cause us trouble. It’s the natural disasters. And of all the natural disasters that we deal with on a regular basis, hurricanes are one of the most devastating, hands down. When we look at the costliest disasters since 1980, hurricanes occupy the top six places on the list.
With that in mind, anyone who lives in a hurricane zone is dancing with death if they aren’t prepared. But it’s not just the hurricane itself that we need to be concerned with. As Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey proved for all time, getting through the aftermath of the hurricane can be just as bad, if not worse, than surviving the storm itself. While some might try and write off the flooding from Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans being below sea level, they can’t say that about Houston.
Every year public officials put out lists telling people what to stock up on in case of hurricane. The same people rush to the local store to buy those things, thinking it will keep them safe. But I’ve never figured out why they have to keep running to buy the same things year after year; do they think they won’t need to save them for the next year?
But the bigger issue is that the lists all those government agencies put out are faulty. They all come from the same basis, the list that FEMA has put out. But that list is based on a faulty premise; that FEMA will have relief in place within 72 hours and everyone will want to receive their help.
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I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’d want to go to a FEMA relief center or even a Red Cross one for that matter. It’s not that I have anything against the Red Cross, but you can’t bring firearms into either a Red Cross or FEMA shelter. Considering what happened in FEMA’s shelters during Hurricane Katrina, we’d all be better off on our own rather than going to a FEMA shelter and having to put up with dangerous people. Besides, what would I do with my dogs?
So if I don’t go to a shelter, but I depend on the FEMA list to make sure that I have enough of everything, then I’m going to be in trouble. We need to put together something better if we want to make sure that our families are going to survive, especially when another major hurricane comes through.
This raises the question of what we really need to have on hand if we’re going to survive a big hurricane. I’m going to break this down into three parts: things we need for our homes, things we need for our own survival, and things we need to have in case we have to evacuate.
For the House
Your home can’t protect you from the hurricane if your home isn’t protected. That may seem a bit obvious, but it’s something a lot of people overlook. Your home is your first line of defense against any hurricane. As part of that, keeping your home in good condition is important. A single loose shingle on the roof may not seem like much, but when the wind gets hold of it, it can peel off a whole row of them.
1. Window Protection
The windows of the home are the most vulnerable part as they are made of the weakest material. Standard residential windows are able to withstand winds up to 77 MPH, which means that they can withstand tropical storms but not hurricanes. Category 1 starts at 74 MPH, just about at the point of breaking windows.
The best protection for windows is to install shutters on the home. If that’s not possible, cut plywood to fit the windows and buy the clips to hold them in place. Buying that much plywood is costly, but not as costly as a set of replacement windows would be.
As we saw with Hurricane Harvey, hurricanes can bring flooding even in areas that are not considered to be flood zones. While a few sandbags probably wouldn’t have saved anyone’s home that time, there are many hurricanes which only produce minor flooding. In those cases, sandbagging across the doors of homes can help keep the home dry.
Of course, having sandbags also indicates a need for sand too. Hiding that much sand can be problematic, but if you have kids or grandkids, all you need to do is put in a sandbox and fill it up for a stealth sand supply.
Emergency Home Repair Materials
Having some basic repair materials and a few blue tarps can make it possible to perform emergency repairs. It’s not perfect, but it will make it possible to stay in your home. The tarps, and good sticky duct tape to hold them in place, are especially important.
4. Rainwater Capture
While rainwater capture really doesn’t help your home, it can help you survive the aftermath of the hurricane. Water purification systems often flood during hurricanes, requiring them to be shut down and sterilized.
5. Pest Control
Pests of all sorts are going to try and get into your home, seeing it as a refuge. Unless you want to share the space with them, you need to be ready to repel or kill them.
Once our homes are safe, it’s time to put together the things we’re going to need in order to survive the hurricane and its aftermath. Keep in mind that the aftermath is going to be much longer than the storm. It could take weeks or even months for the supply chain to be back in operation, providing everything you need.
The idea of only needing one gallon of water per person per day is false. That’s just what you need for drinking and cooking; you’re also going to need water for cleaning and bathing. I’d figure on something more like five gallons per person per day, and even that is going to require extreme water conservation techniques.
Another false idea that’s passed around is that you need to have three days worth of food. In the aftermath of both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, people were digging around in dumpsters looking for food, six weeks after the storm was over. Supply chains weren’t in place yet and people were hungry. Plan on having to eat from the food in your stockpile for a good three months.
8. Paper Plates & Cups
To save on water, stock paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils to eat with, at least until the water is back on.
9. Pet Food
Don’t forget your pets when you’re stocking up on food. Make sure you have enough to take care of them so you don’t have to use your own food for that.
10. Baby Supplies
Anyone who has had a baby knows that caring for them requires a lot of specialty items. Build up a stockpile of those things, especially the disposable ones, so you have them on hand for a hurricane or any other disaster.
11. Plastic Bags
Make sure you’ve got a good stock of plastic bags of all types, especially for disposing of garbage and human waste.
Alternative Means of Cooking
With the power out and possibly the gas as well, you’re going to need an alternative means of cooking. For most people, a barbecue grill can serve for this; but you’ve got to have plenty of fuel for it; and that fuel has to be stored where it won’t get wet. Make sure you have good fire starting methods available, which will work under wet, windy circumstances.
13. Emergency Lighting
With the power out, electric lighting will be as well. The simple solution to that is to have flashlights on hand. But make sure they’re good bright flashlights, preferably the LED type. LEDs are brighter, use less power, and are pretty much unbreakable.
But don’t limit your thinking to flashlights when it comes to lighting. Oil-burning lamps are great in times like this, even better than candles. Camp lanterns, especially the old-fashioned kind which will burn gasoline are great as they provide a lot of light, with a minimal amount of fuel.
You’ll need to find out what’s going on in the world around you and receive weather reports on what the storm is doing. That means having some sort of emergency radio, whether battery powered or with a hand-crank charger.
Both the flashlights and the radio are going to require batteries as well as a whole lot of other things we use. Be sure to gave a good stockpile of AA and AAA batteries especially as those are the most common sizes in use today. Fortunately, the major battery manufacturers have come out and said that alkaline batteries now have a 10 year shelf life.
16. Cell Phone Emergency Charger
Your cell phone is your main means of communications; but those cell phones tend to go through their batteries much faster than the manufacturers claim. With the power out, you’ll need alternative means of charging those phones. One idea is to get a battery pack that can recharge phones. The larger ones can give you several charges. Get a solar charger as well, even though it won’t be usable until the storm is over. Use that to recharge the battery pack as it takes forever for a solar charger to charge a phone.
As a final means of communications, make sure that everyone in the family has a whistle on their person, preferably on a lanyard around their neck. That whistle will serve to help rescue workers find them should your home collapse with someone inside. Three blasts on a whistle is the universal signal for help. All rescue workers know it.
18. First-Aid Kit
The chances of injury are greater during a disaster than at normal times. We’re not talking a skinned knee here, we’re talking major injuries. A basic first-aid kit of the kind you might find at your local pharmacy isn’t going to be enough. Rather, you need a good trauma kit so you have enough supplies to deal with major injuries. Take the time to learn how to use those supplies as there won’t be time to learn when a family member gets hurt.
19. Prescription Medicines
While a good first-aid kit should include supplies of standard over-the-counter medicines, including pain relievers, they won’t include prescription medicines. Yet, like everything else, those may be hard to get in the wake of the hurricane. Always try to keep at least a couple month’s supply of all prescription medicines on hand.
20. Emergency Personal Hygiene
Personal hygiene becomes difficult when the water is shut off. But those are the times when it is the most critical to protect your health. Deadly diseases can easily spread in the wake of most disasters, including hurricanes, because people aren’t doing what’s necessary to keep clean.
The big problem here is that those supplies need to be purchased with the idea of using them without a lot of water. Hand cleaners and sanitizers that work without water can be very useful; so can baby wipes. If you can’t bathe, then cleaning yourself with baby wipes will go a long way.
With the power out, credit and debit cards won’t work. That leaves most people without the ability to make essential purchases. The simple solution is to make sure you’ve got cash on hand. Don’t wait until a hurricane is on the way to go to the ATM machine as it might run out of cash. Rather, keep about $1,000 in small bills on hand at all times, hidden away in a safe place.
22. Important Documents
If your home is destroyed or even seriously damaged, that will probably mean that just about everything inside the home will be too. That includes your important documents, many of which you will need. Scanning these and storing them on a thumb drive is good way of ensuring that you’ve got copies on hand, even if your home is destroyed. Make a couple of copies and put one in your bug out bag.
For Bugging Out
Finally, if there’s extensive flooding or your home is destroyed, you may find yourself forced to bug out. Hopefully if that is likely to happen, you’ll be one of those that decides to bug out early. But none of us know the future and that’s a difficult decision to make. I’m pretty sure that nobody living in Southeast Houston expected Hurricane Harvey to stall over their city for three days, flooding their homes. If they had, they would have bugged out early.
Most of us can’t afford to buy a boat, just to have it sitting around on the off chance of flooding. On the other hand, it doesn’t cost all that much to buy an inflatable boat. But that inflatable will provide you with the ability to conduct a self-rescue should your neighborhood flood before you can bug out.
24. Gasoline (or Diesel)
One of the biggest problems with any evacuation is having enough fuel. You really can’t count on gas stations having enough; their tanks just aren’t that big. Getting fuel to those gas stations is difficult as well, especially in the middle of a mass evacuation.
The problem with gasoline is storing it for a prolonged period of time. Typically, you can’t store it for more than six months before it goes bad. Adding a fuel stabilizer to that can extend the life for another six months, but the most useful thing to do is rotate your stock, emptying a can into your vehicle every couple of months and replacing it. I use metal cans as fuel lasts longer in those; the hydrocarbons can’t leech out through the plastic.
25. Bug Out Bags
Everyone in the family should have bug out bags anyway; if not, this is a good excuse to create them. Make sure they have basic survival equipment as well as anything else the family might need when leaving home in an emergency. I won’t get into building a bug out bag here as that is dealt with elsewhere.
Your bug out bag should already include some good bug out foods. However, if you are bugging out in a vehicle and you have extra space, bring some extra food and cooking supplies. This could be vital if you end up stranded somewhere for a long time.
27. Packed Clothes
In addition to the bug out bags, I’d recommend that everyone have a packed suitcase with all the normal clothes you’d take on a vacation. If you end up bugging out due to a hurricane, you should have time to take suitcases as well. So there’s no reason to live in one outfit of clothing if you don’t have to. Of course, your real limiting factor here is how much cargo space your vehicle has.
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