Are you prepared if a hurricane comes? What's your game plan for a natural disaster? Here's a handy guide for everything you need to know and how to pack the perfect hurricane survival kit, plus plenty of tips for staying calm and keep your family's spirits high.
One September, I got scared. We're not talking a little scared; I'm talking about that moment when you feel completely helpless and can't catch your breath. This was the exact moment when Hurricane Harvey swept through Texas. The rest of the country watched the devastation, almost helpless as hard-hit residents were rescued from on top of their roofs over many days afterward.
After 8 years of living in Virginia Beach, Hurricane Harvey made me wake up and take action. I knew that if my family was prepared for this weather event, I wouldn't be as nervous or uncomfortable when a tropical storm with torrential rain came towards Virginia Beach. That's where my hurricane survival expertise started.
When you're expected to evacuate, it's not like you can lug all your belongings with you. So you have to be selective and prepared! You also don't have an unlimited amount of time to get everything organized, and you're probably not going to be thinking clearly – so again, it's important to have a great hurricane survival kit before a tropical disaster or an evacuation.
So I started researching exactly what supplies and essentials we needed for a hurricane survival kit, and I made one of the most epic lists I've ever made. While the kids were in school during the day, I started to comb the aisles of Walmart, Taylor's Do It Center, and Target and assembled a magnificent (large) bin of anxiety calming essentials! So what is exactly in your disaster kit?
You don't need to break the bank, but it's important to have the necessary items to keep you and your family safe. Because being safe and alive is what matters! So start with the basics for your hurricane survival kit. Make that checklist!
Be sure you have it filled when you hear of a hurricane or tropical disaster approaching!
I would definitely recommend investing in a gas or diesel generator if you can. A standby generator can be a lifesaver. It takes a while for the power outage to end. But having the gas can for your car is helpful too in case you need to evacuate. Buy 2-3 tarps, rope, and duct tape. Having flashlights that work in your hurricane survival kit is crucial. We have head lamps for each of our family members, fully charged. As well as extra batteries for backup on the headlamps. Buy big trash bags in case you need to cover up things to keep dry in your hurricane survival kit.
Have a few boxes of waterproof matches and fire starters in there, too. I also have a stash of smaller plastic bags in my Disaster Kit as well. Remember all those whistles kids bring home from school? Put those into your kit. Walmart sells waterproof boxes – these are great for putting electronics, your phone, the matches, and anything else that can go in there that cannot get wet. Throw a can opener in your hurricane survival kit, too. Having a battery-powered radio and light is important in case the cell phones stop working.
We have a big first aid kit for our house, one in the car, and a small one I carry in my “mom bag” at all times. It has an array of medical-related items, band-aids, bandages, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol for sanitation, creams for all injuries. You'll also find an ace bandage, medicine for the kids and adults, bug spray, sunscreen, chapsticks, tweezers, nail clippers, sewing needles, thread, thermometer, small and big scissors, allergy medicines, etc.
I restock my hurricane survival kits in each location to make sure I have enough supplies. I try to think of anything that can go wrong health-wise and overstock for it. In addition to the medical kit, I also have a toiletry kit full of toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, dry shampoo, soap, and feminine hygiene products. This may sound morbid, but over the past year, I have had to use many items from all these medical kits, and I've been glad that I had them fully stocked!
I have an entire stash of clothes in a large bag in the disaster kit, so I don't have to go digging through dressers in a fit of panic. Long pants, socks, jackets, etc. I also keep our rain boots and raincoats all in the same place for an easy grab. Keeping extra diapers, wipes, and diaper cream in the hurricane survival kit if you have small children is also important. You might also want to designate a small backpack for each person's clothes so they can find everything easily.
And you need to discuss this plan with your family, including your children. The Weather Channel has a great video of Elmo discussing what happens during a Tropical Disaster. You can easily google kid-friendly videos to show your children what happens with extreme wind and rain. It's important for you to remain calm, so your children are comfortable. Download important apps ahead of time. @americanredcross, @noaahurricanes, @weatherunderground, @gasbuddy, @weatherchannel, @fema, @waze. Be sure to download the FamilyApp, too, so you can talk things over with out-of-town family members. Make your smartphone a special hurricane survival device.
You're not going to want to be lugging a heavy box with you if you evacuate, but you do want all the stuff inside of it! Most disaster sites recommended scanning those documents and send extra copies of your will to family members. I copied all the documents and have those copies in a waterproof ziplock bag in my hurricane survival kit. Passports, Marriage Certificates, Birth Certificates, Social Security #s, car information, medical records, banking information, life insurances, wills, insurance policies, etc. You might not remember these important items in the craziness of extreme weather, but if you plan ahead, you'll be in great shape!
It's always good to prepare for the worst. If the eye of the hurricane passes, and you get hit with maximum sustained winds, falling power lines could disrupt the power grid for days or weeks. That means no credit cards, so have some type of accessible currency.
It's recommended to have 2 gallons of drinking water per family member (and pet!). Yes, you can run out and buy water at the store, but you can also fill up growlers, bottles, and anything else you have in your house with tap water first. We've pulled out the Jetboil from our camping supplies, along with an MSR Water Purifier to have in our hurricane survival kit (until we need it to go camping…). Fill up your bathtubs with water to use for flushing toilets, just in case. And clean out garbage cans – putting a liner of a clean trash bag to hold water too.
After you clean out your fridge, you can put those filled bottles, growlers, etc., into the fridge to keep them chilled. You can also fill up Tupperware containers with water and stash them in your freezers or fridge to help keep things cold if you lose power. That helps prolong the durability of food and keeps food safe. If you're staying put and not leaving your house, the recommended amount of food for you to have is enough to last for 5 days. Start stocking canned food in your pantry like tuna, soups, dried fruit, and any favorite comfort food. It might help to have a few storage boxes with extra emergency food to always have the essentials. Just don't forget the can opener!
Move your outdoor plants inside away from windows. Clean off your porch and put all the backyard toys, chairs, etc., into a shed or inside your house. Wash all the bedding and clean your house. This helps if you're stuck for days without power, you'll thank me after you have clean sheets! Do you have older neighbors? Check on them to see how you can help get them situated and prepare their hurricane survival before the storm hits.
Keep all your electronics charged, and have a charger handy. Be sure to pull out your family's favorite games to play. I have an entire bin full of card games, board games, paper, marker, craft supplies, glue, etc., in our hurricane survival kit. If you have little ones who are afraid of the dark, you might also want to have a sleeping bag or airbed ready for a family sleepover in one room!
Make sure you know how to fill up a generator with gasoline and how exactly to start it. I even have a scar on my leg from falling over it one year. Battle wound of Hurricane Sandy. That 5-gallon fuel tank will come in handy with your generator.
When Hurricane Florence started coming our way, I admit I had no clue which zone our house was located in. Following your city on social media helps immensely as they have up-to-date information. If you have to evacuate, be sure to walk through your house and videotape every single room, drawer, closet. This documents the things that you're leaving in your house in case there is damage. Also, you can leave important things that you can't take with you in your dishwasher or washing machine and dryer.
Cat and dog owners fear not! If you're evacuating with pets in a state of emergency, hotels HAVE to take them in. Be sure to have the cat carrier handy to keep your precious pets out of danger.
Life might seem a little crazy right now, but if you have a well-prepared plan to avoid panic and a hurricane survival kit, you'll be able to handle any storm! If hurricanes are a way of life for your area, it's so important you take the right precautions. Especially for your children, be sure you make the most of the situation. Stay safe!