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Hurricane Readiness List


Operation Mail Drop is over. It was a big success. We thank those who helped for their interest and support.

This is a tried and tested, step by step hurricane check list that is designed to help you survive better and longer in the event of a hurricane.  If you live in a coastal region this DO LIST can be a valuable tool to help minimize damage, prepare you better to survive after a hurricane - it may even save your life.  Feel free to print this out and USE it.

At the Beginning of Hurricane Season

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30. The East Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 through November 30, with peak activity occurring during July through September.  If you live in a costal region it's not a matter of "IF" a hurricane will hit you - it's a matter of WHEN one will hit you.  Accept this. Make plans and preparations now...your survival may depend on it.

The beginning of hurricane season is the perfect time to lay in some basic things that will help you survive better if you end up living without power for an extended period of time.  The time to lay in supplies is at the beginning of the season.  If you wait until the last minute the supplies you need will be gone as people rush into stores and buy out needed items in a matter of hours.  Don't wait. Set in your supplies at the beginning of the season.  Then you will have them - and you will likely spend a LOT LESS for them.

Recommended Equipment

The chance of losing electric power right before, during or after a hurricane is almost 100%.  You can make life easier by laying in these items for use when your power is out.

1. Buy a propane gas grill with a side burner.

These gas grills are a wonderful tool.  You can use the main grill for cooking large meals and the side burner is great for making coffee, fixing breakfast, heating baby bottles or boiling water.  This is a very versatile tool to have.  One tank of propane can last two weeks.  Charcoal grills can take hours to get to cooking temperature, requires lots of storage space for charcoal.  The gas grills are just cleaner and faster.  Be sure to lay in one extra tank of propane gas.  Propane camp stove are good too...if your family is small.

2. Look into buying a generator if you live in a house within 50 miles of the coastline.

A generator, can be a great help when your house is without power for a week or more.  A generator can be plugged in to refrigerators or freezers to prevent losing thousands of dollars in frozen and chilled foods. You can also use it for your TV or computer to keep you connected to the world.  In addition to that, a generator can power a hot plate to cook food, run a dishwasher, or run fans to keep the air circulating in a hot house.  If you keep a large stocked freezer, a generator will pay for itself the first time you use it.  The cost of running a generator (depending on model and size ) is about eight to ten gallons of gas a day for a medium-sized, four plug generator.  Be sure to stock up on gas early.- Trying to buy gas at the least minute may leave you without any!  Always use a generator outdoors - never inside as the gas and carbon monoxide fumes are deadly.

3. Get A Chain Saw: If you have large trees in your yard area you will need this.  A chain saw may also be critical if you need to get anywhere after a hurricane.  Often it is citizens in trucks with chain saws that clear the roads of downed trees to important area's long before help arrives.  A chain saw can mean mobility. 

4. Put together a Portable Medical Bag:  During a hurricane and after it, you may be isolated in your home for days or weeks.  Downed trees may prevent emergency medical services from getting to you.  The phones may down and you may not even be able to call in emergency help.  The solution is pack your own portable emergency medical kit.  

The best way to build a medical kit is to purchase a tackle box in the sporting goods section of a store and begin stocking it.  The portable kit will allow you to pick it up and go TO THE EMERGENCY.  In my opinion bathroom medicine cabinets are worthless.  Not too many accidents happen in the bathroom where all the supplies are.  Many accidents happen in the yard where someone can bleed to death before someone can gather all the supplies they need to stop the bleeding.  A mobile kit lets you take ALL the supplies to the location of the emergency saving time and lives where minutes count.

Start your kit, buy a general first aid book and read it.  Once you do that, then you can begin adding things to your kit.  Here are some basics: band aids, gauze, cotton ball and pads, butterfly tapes, medical tape, antiseptics like Betadine, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, insect bite medications, sturdy sting, popsicle sticks to use as splints, a snake bite kit, razor blades, scissors, tweezers, kelly clamps, ace bandages, arm sling, thermometer, stethoscope.  General medications like aspirin, Tylenol, decongestion meds, anti diarrhea meds, allergy meds, etc.  You can make your kit as small or large as you like.  I think once you set up your medical kit this way, and use it a few times, you will never go back to a drawer in the bathroom.  Do keep this close during hurricanes.

Other Equipment

2 to 4 Ice chests

1 - 3 to 5 gallon bucket for each bathroom, 1 bucket for the kitchen.

Portable radio, or TV more than one if you have a large house.  There are some "wind up" radios on the market that are ideal for hurricanes, they run about 15 minute per winding and never need batteries.

Hurricane lamps and oil:  Hurricane lamps are wonderful for light.  Oils these days burn cleanly and VERY slowly.  Purchase full sized lamps with as large a globe as you can find.  The larger the reflective globe, the more light it will put out.  Buy one per bedroom, one or two for your living room and one or two for the kitchen.

Candles: Buy clean burning candles that burn slowly.  Bee's wax is best.  Place in heavy glass containers to light dark bathrooms.

Stock up on flashlights and batteries:  We have found the new flashlights with a the side bar of florescent light is very bright, and these are easy on batteries as well.  For children that are frightened of the dark stock up on Halloween type chemical glow sticks.  These last for hours and provide bedtime comfort for toddlers.  

Pack a case for important paperwork

At the beginning of hurricane season, get a small portable plastic or metal case and pack these things into it.

1. All house insurance or renters insurance policies.

2. All health insurance and/or life insurance policies and copies of health cards.

3. Birth certificates, social security cards, marriage documents, children's shot records.

4. Pack a couple pads of checks, saving account pads and numbers, safety deposit keys and such.

5. Make a copy of your personal address and phone book.  Pack this in your case.

6. Pack any other important documents that you might need if you lost everything.

7. Save a few old prescription bottles of any medicines you are taking and add those to your case.  Or pull off the labels and stick to a sheet of paper with your name and doctor's name.  This can be very valuable and might save your life.

When you finish packing this case, put it in a place where your can grab it and go if you need to evacuate.  This case can be THE most critical thing to have with you after a hurricane.

Lay in survival supplies

Here are some recommendations for what to lay in and how much.

Water: For the sake of ease, water types can be divided into 3 categories.   1. Water for drinking and cooking.  2. Water for cleaning and washing. 3. Water for flushing toilets or doing outdoor jobs. 

1. Drinking water.  Lay in about two cases of 20 oz. drinking water bottles per person per week. Add 2 cases of 2 liter water bottles or from 4 to 8 gallons per week based on how much dehydrated food you have for cooking.

2. Water for cleaning (or drinking in a tight).  You can save 2 or 3 liter soda bottles and put up you own water for doing dishes or cleaning things.  Wash your bottles and rinse well.  Fill with clean fresh water.  Add 6 drops of chlorine bleach (PLAIN non-scented) to each bottle.  * drops per gallon. Seal and store for up to 6 months. 

3. Water for other uses.  Like watering plants, topping off car batteries and flushing toilets, etc.  For these kinds of uses you might want to consider putting a rain barrel at one corner of your house or perhaps an outdoor water feature, this is pretty and in a tight can expand your water supply for watering plants and such.  Also right before a hurricane DO fill up all your tubs with water so you can "bucket flush" toilets.   

Keep in mind that a person may be able to last weeks without food but only a few days without water. 

Other Drinkables

Do lay in a good supply of soft drinks, gator-aide, power drinks, fruit  juices, baby formula and any other things you like.  


For food, it's better if we divide this up into two categories.  1. Those that do not have a generator.  2. Those that do have a generator. 

No Generator Food list

When the power goes down your first priority is use up the foods stored in your freezer and refrigerator as quickly as you can.  If you practice good fridge protocol - not opening the doors a lot, most large indoor freezers will stay fairly frozen for 2 days and well chilled for another day.  Between the third and forth day you will have to clean out the freezer and either ice down the sealed items in ice chests or throw it way.  Fast foods, microwave foods, deserts not eaten by this time need to be thrown out. 

The reason most microwave and flash frozen boxed foods need to thrown away is not just because of the decreased in temperature, it's because of the way they were unthawed.  During the freezer melting process, water drips down from above onto other thawing foods below.  Foods that are not plastic sealed inside cartons like pizza, pies, ice cream, pot pies and any number of other frozen food that are just slipped into a box and frozen will leach food products into the melting ice.  When these things begin to melt, bacteria from the hotter upper levels, drips down on the partly defrosted lower levels and this broth of water and bacteria gets into everything....and it can be deadly if you eat these things. 

The rule is if ANY chilled or frozen food stays in a warmer environment than intended for 4 days it must be thrown out.  Even a loaf of bread stored in the fridge for 4 days without power can cause a nasty case of food poisoning and that can be deadly.   Practice the 4 day food rule.  

So the first order of hurricane protocol is eat as much of the food out of your freezer as you can.  Tuna steaks, pizza and ice cream may not be your average breakfast - but it's a situation of eat it or lose it!  Be creative and have fun with combinations.

After 4 days you will be reduced to dry goods and canned goods.  When selecting these items for stock try to get a variety of meats, boxed and can goods that compliment each other into meals.  Select canned meats that are just big enough to feed your family for one meal.  Remember that without power leftovers are not an option!   

Here are some suggestions to stock your hurricane pantry.

Meats: Canned hams, canned chicken, canned roast beef, canned corned beef, canned tuna, canned salmon, no cook bacon, meat sandwich spreads like chicken, deviled ham, potted meats, vacuum sealed sausages like summer sausage, or salami, etc.

Starches: Canned potatoes all kinds, Mac and cheese in cans, fully cooked rice in pouches, pasta fully cooked in pouches, snack dinners is pop top cans, dinners in plastic microwave tubs, etc.

Veggies: Anything in small cans as you like.

Bread: Buy crackers, all kinds and flavors, potato chips, pretzels, tortilla chips, cereals of all kinds etc.

Deserts: Cookies, candies, snack bars, etc.

Milk: Stock up on a small box of nonfat dry milk, non dairy creamer and a few cans of evaporated milk.  For milk for cereal - mix 1 small can of evaporated milk with 1 can of water and use for cereal or cooking.  If you have babies on formula stock up on that too.

Dairy items: You can buy some cheeses in sealed plastic, some you can get in cans as "spray cheese" for crackers.  You can also buy powdered buttermilk and eggs. 

Fruits: Buy whatever fruits you like in easy to eat sealed plastic cups or in pop top cans.

Dry goods: Mac and cheese, salad mixes, pasta mixes, stove top stuffing mixes, all in one box meals, etc.

Staples: Coffee, tea, sugar, flour.  To store, put in two zip-loc bags to double seal. 

Paper: Lay in a good supply of paper towels, toilet paper, feminine needs, diapers, baby wipe cloths, and Wet Ones.  Also paper plates, paper saucers, paper bowls and napkins. These are items you do NOT want run short on.

Plastics: Lay in extra supply of plastic silverware, garbage bags and several sizes of heavy duty zip loc bags.

Tip: When chilled space in ice chests is at a premium, use zip seal bags instead of plastic boxes.  The zip seal bags will take up much less space, can be squished, folded or pushed flat to fit any available cooler space. Once they are empty just throw them dishwashing needed.

Foods for people with a Generator:

For people that use a generator, you get a whole new set of challenges.  As long as your generator stays running and your fridge and freezer stay plugged in you can eat like kings until power is restored.  Normally, you think you have your bases covered on this and you do - until your relatives and neighbors find out you have a working fridge and freezer.

What happens then is that these people will come flocking to your house wanting you to store their food in your freezer and fridge.  If you are not FIRM about how much can be stuffed into your fridge and freezer, the overload can cause food in both appliances to go bad.  Adding 30 pounds of extra chilled food to a fridge will slow down cool air circulation, cause it to work harder and sometimes it can never catch up and ALL the food goes bad.  So be careful about how much you stuff into these appliances - you may end up loosing your own food trying to help others.

Another problem that crops up with generator run fridges is door use.  In tropical area's during hurricane season houses can easily get up to 140 degrees in the heat of the day.  Fans can help, but for people that are accustomed to air conditioning, this kind of heat is super miserable.   For the very young and the elderly staying with you, the temptation to open the fridge and just stand there and let the chilled air cool them off is very, very great.  If this goes on too much - you begin to loose foods to spoilage quickly.   To prevent this, you have to guard the door and do some fussing.  

During one hurricane I found my side by side fridge door standing open about ten inches. When I went to close the door I found my four year old grandson standing on the lower ledge of the fridge cooling himself off.  As I opened the door to pull him out I got another surprise - he had a cohort in crime - our little shih Tzu was in there too cooling off.  So watch your freezer and refrigerator doors!

Hurricane Time Table:

A Hurricane is 48 hours from landfall in your area.

1. Take a trip to the store.

Top off supplies with drinks, food items, bread, batteries, dog food, cat food, paper goods, diapers etc.

2. Check levels on propane tanks or lay in charcoal, canned heat.

3. Ready your house for hurricane winds, board up windows, pick up objects out of the yard, shelter plants or bring indoors.

4. Gas up all cars, vehicles and chain saws.

5. Ready your house for company - finish up all laundry, towels and bedding.  Clean and set up spaces or extra beds for unexpected company.

6. Clear outdoor and indoor spaces for cooking.

7. Fill all hurricane lamps, get out candles and put fresh batteries in flashlights.

Hurricane is 24 hours from landfall.

1. Keep tuned to the Weather Channel or your locate radio station for hourly updates.

Note: If you live within 25 miles of the coast you will be ordered to evacuate. Plan for it!

If you live in a mobile home you will be ordered to evacuate.

If you live in a flood area you will be ordered to evacuate.  Keep listening to your radio or TV for the order to be issued.

A. Make notes on what shelters are opening and where they are.

B. Plan your evacuation route.

C. Pack shelter bedding supplies, clothing, food, your emergency papers case and your medical kit or notify relatives you are coming or make hotel reservations well inland.

If you live more than 25 miles inland in a strong house begin prepping your house for the "no-power" protocol.

1. Clean out your leftovers or clean it out.

2. Set up fans in rooms if you have a generator.

3. Check emergency medical supplies.

4. Wash pets, make sure they have ID tags on.

5. Set towels out by doors.  Lay extra mats by doors to keep floors dry.

6. Set hurricane lamps and candles in needed locations.

7. Charge cell phones, cameras, games and such.

8.  Keep careful track of where your family members are at all times.

9. Seal all bathtubs and fill full with fresh water.

Hurricane Landfall

Hurricanes begin coming to shore with a number of feeder bands that causes intermittent storm squalls and times of rainless wind.  As the eye of the hurricane gets closer and closer the winds and rains increase.  When the winds and rains begin to get strong it's time to move to the most sheltered and protected part of your home and hunker down to ride it out. 

1. Keep tuned to the radio or TV.

2. Keep children entertained with coloring books, puzzles, portable video games and plenty of good snack "finger" foods.  Give them a light of their own to keep them calm when you loose power.

3. Stay put until the hurricane passes.  Wait for at least 3 hours of nonstop calm before going outdoors. Remember that when the eye of the storm passes over, there will be a short span of calm, maybe even sunshine but this will not last long and the back side of the hurricane after the eye passes can be the worst part of the storm.

4. Keep all doors and windows shut tight to preserve what air conditioning is left in your home after the power goes out.

5. Try to get what rest you can.  Remember that after the storm you will need all your strength and energy for clean up and providing basic care for your family.

After the Hurricane

More people get hurt, injured and killed after the hurricane than during it.   The reason for this is that people are not thinking about what they are doing all the way through.   The smallest thing done without thought can easily endanger you or your family.  Here are some guidelines.


With the power out there will be NO GAS available ANYWHERE. If you run out of gas you may end up stuck in some remote location without food or water.  Many babies and young children have died in the aftermath of hurricanes because parents went sight seeing and got stranded far from water or food when the gas ran out.  Children dehydrate twice as fast as adults.  Do NOT go sight seeing.


If you see a tree tangled in power lines, call the power company as soon as the lines are working.  DO NOT try to fix this yourself.  Hundreds of people lose their lives needlessly doing this very thing. 


Unless the media tells you otherwise, if you still have water after a hurricane boil the water for EIGHT MINUTES before you drink it or use it in cooking.  While you may have water pressure, there may be places where water lines are broken allowing contaminated waters into the supply.  If you get a case of e-coil where will you get help when the hospitals are down or on generators?  Why chance it - boil your water!


Do not go into crushed buildings, wade into flooded areas, walk under broken up tree branches, walk under sagging power lines, or wade through sharp debris.  All of these things can cost you your life.  Tree branches hanging by a thread can fall hours or days after the storm - crushing what ever is under them.  The smallest of breezes can bring live power lines down on top of you.  Take extreme precautions with where you go and what you do.  Look ALL around you before entering any damage area.


Some people get so focused on getting things back to normal, that they fail to notice when their bodies are beginning to slip into dehydration and exhaustion.  Remember that the temperature in a house or car can climb to 140 degrees by mid-day in hurricane season.  Take water or drinks with you and drink often to keep hydrated.  Without air-conditioning it's best to do work in the morning and in the late afternoon when temperatures are cooler.  Rest at mid day when the heat is greatest.


After a hurricane, phone lines either down during the storm or will go down within two days when the energy supply in the lines are gone.  Cell phones, at best, will give intermittent service.   If you have phone service after the storm call your next of kin right away to let them know you are OK.  THEN STAY OFF THE PHONE.  Now is not the time to park on the phone for hours and give a blow by blow account of the storm.  OTHER people need to call their loved ones and if the circuit are full they will not be able to get though.  So keep your calls short so other people can contact their loved ones.


Contact your insurance company, and any other agencies right away to begin the repair process.  The faster you call and get your claim number or register, the faster help will come to you.  Putting this off for days or weeks only endangers your lifestyle and slows down the recovery process. 


If there is one thing that hurricane Katrina should have taught all Americans it's DON'T COUNT ON OUTSIDE HELP.   The staged "good press" commercials on governmental agencies and large charity organizations paint a pretty picture on TV.  But in the actual test of fire, these agencies and organization did not even SHOW UP for days or even WEEKS after the Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.  You need to understand that this was NOT an isolated incident or time frame slowed by "circumstances."   This response time was AVERAGE for these agencies. 

In 30 years of living along the Gulf Coast, I have been through 9 hurricanes - 4 of which were direct hits and one 1 tornado.   In all these crisis, outside national agencies showed up in our town exactly two times.  SIX DAYS after Ivan hit - the media covered our town and these agencies followed the press coverage and stayed for three weeks.  After Dennis hit, it was FOUR days before they came.  They set up a couple of places for people to apply for help, turned down most people who applied for help with Ivan and left town with the press THREE days later.   

So let's take a close look at this.  In TEN disaster incidents, these national agencies or charities showed up one and a half times or about 15% of the time.   85% of the time people were on their own getting NO HELP at all.  This was something I learned LONG before Katrina hit.  Now the nation knows it too.

This is the reason I have put together this list.  If you have learned nothing else here, please know that your survival in hurricane or any other weather crisis will depend 100% on how well YOU and YOU ALONE are prepared to meet it.  Never think that it will never happen to you, if you live on the Gulf Coast it will -sooner or later.   So what are you going to do NOW?

Print out this list now.  Begin laying in supplies and organizing your household for a weather emergency NOW.  It may save your life and the lives of your family. 

By Debbora Wiles

September 16, 2005

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