Floods, hurricanes, tornados, etc. are becoming regular news stories, and this year is expected to be a busy hurricane season.
A disaster supplies kit isn’t just for hurricane-prone areas.
It is a good idea for everyone to keep some basic supplies on hand in case of any type of natural disaster.
I experienced two hurricanes where I had no power or water for about a week. I learned my lesson the hard way the first time, so I make sure my disaster supplies are restocked. I also experienced ice storms with similar results, so it isn’t just hurricanes you need to worry about.
My first experience was with hurricane Fran which was still a category 1 when it reached the middle of the state of North Carolina. The disaster was not something Raleigh saw coming at all. We were trapped in our neighborhood for 3-4 days due to downed trees and power lines. Living way out in the “boonies”, we were the last area to get help with clearing roads. I was completely unprepared, and my oldest child was just a small baby.
My second experience was in Florida in 2005, the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. I was eight months pregnant when we were forced to board up our inland home due to a fast-approaching category 5 heading right for us. Assuming it could still be a 3 or 4 when it hit our area, we didn’t take any chances. It was terrifying. However, this time I was better prepared, and we weathered the aftermath with ease.
Along with the usual items, I included my own tips based on my experiences dealing with power/water outages.
Disaster Kit contents:
Each June 1st, the start of hurricane season, I check the supplies and switch out the batteries and food so they don’t get old. I use a large plastic tub to hold everything since it is waterproof.
Items to include:
- Flashlights and batteries. One per person.
- Batteries for other items. The kids’ DS handhelds were a life saver in keeping them happy and entertained.
- 1 battery-powered lantern with several backup batteries. When you are without power, the lantern will light up a whole room in a way the handheld flashlights can’t. The kids and I were able to play board games at the table. Having two is even better.
- Deck of cards – A pack of cards is priceless for killing boredom!
- Battery-powered radio
- First-aid kit
- Several plastic tarps – Use these to cover a broken window or leak due to house damage. You also should have one for each bathtub in your home so you can fill them with water for bathing, flushing toilets, hand washing etc.
- Paper plates and utensils – You don’t want to waste water washing dishes.
- Matches/lighter – Keep several for lighting candles.
- Can opener
Other items to have on hand:
- Drinking water – 1 gallon per person per day for several days. That is a lot of water to store, but I can tell you from experience you can’t have enough water on hand when you have no working water and it’s 105 degrees inside. I prefer the 24 packs of bottled water and placed them in the cooler 10 at a time to cool off.
- Car cell phone charger – My cell phone was my lifeline during the hurricanes. With no power, you can only charge your cell phone in the car. Thank goodness for 3G/4G phones these days which help stay abreast of what is going on in the world with internet access. It is your only communication with the rest of the world…that is if the cell towers are still standing.
- Cash – Have $200 in cash for emergencies because ATMs don’t work without power. If you do find a store open, chances are they won’t have power either but will be accepting cash.
- Prescription/non prescription medicine: Make sure you have all medications filled and some aspirin, anti-diarrhea medication, and antacid (for stomach upset). The heat from no A/C and stress can take a toll on your body.
- Food - Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
- Canned juices, milk, soup (if powdered, store extra water)
- Staples–sugar, salt, pepper
- Boxed mac & cheese and ramen noodles – if you have a camping grill
- High energy foods–peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix
- Foods for infants, elderly persons or persons with special dietary needs
- Comfort/stress foods–cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant coffee, tea bags.
- At the last minute, I also bought a couple of loaves of bread to make peanut butter sandwiches.
Items around the house that become handy:
- Candles. I prefer the jar-kind that aren’t at risk for falling over. Warning: if they are scented, don’t mix too many or you will find yourself with a strange smell in the house. We discovered pumpkin, vanilla, cranberry and cinnamon don’t mix too well.
Camping grill or a gas grille. They come in handy for eating up the food that will be bad in just a couple of days. Cook everything you can while it is still good.
If you are a coffee drinker, get a camping coffee maker so you aren’t boiling water and pathetically trying to pour it into a paper filter of coffee hanging over a coffee mug out of desperation.
The back porch became the kitchen, and the grill was worth every penny. If you are using a camping grill, be sure to have backup propane for it.
- Cooler - Several large coolers become your refrigerator. Use one to hold drinks and one to hold any food you can save from the refrigerator. Having some sodas and juice drinks, too, is nice because water gets old fast. A little variety helps make your situation a bit more bearable.
Fill your car with gas – I used to wonder why we were supposed to do this with a hurricane approaching. One reason is so you can run your car and cool down with some A/C occasionally while charging your cell phone. Also, gas pumps don’t run if there is no electricity.
During the Raleigh experience, trees where blocking roads everywhere. On my desperate trip out to find some ice, I had to keep turning around and trying a different route in search of an open store. Due to the lack of gas in my car, I was forced to give up. Lesson learned.
- Fill the bathtub with water – Line the tub with a shower curtain to prevent any from leaking out. Fill it with water. You can use this to wash your hands and flush toilets (not to drink). After a week you become a pro taking a shower with a bucket of ice cold water and finding it refreshing.
- Containers of water – I filled as many pitchers and containers with water as I could and put them in the refrigerator. This water was used up before using the bottled water.
- Make ice – Make as much ice as possible and store in the freezer. I just kept bagging what the ice maker made so it could keep making more. Also, use some plastic containers to freeze huge blocks of ice. They will take longer to melt, so they are better to use in the coolers. Ice becomes extremely important in saving some food in the refrigerator and keeping your drinks a little cold. After a couple of days, you are left with pantry food and warm drinks.
- Crank up the refrigerator settings and the A/C a little – This will help keep the refrigerator and house cooler longer. If you lose power, cover the windows with blankets to help keep the sun from heating the house.
- Bring all outside items inside – Lawn furniture, potted plants, etc. Bring them all into your garage or home so they don’t become projectiles in the wind and break your windows. I moved the gas grill into the garage during the storm to protect it, knowing it would be handy for cooking with no power.
Clean your house – I can’t emphasize this enough. Get all the laundry done, clean your bathrooms, mop, vacuum, run the dishwasher so it is empty, etc. Mold grows fast in a warm home, and you will be glad everything was clean to start.
If 3-4 days have passed without power and your food is going bad in the refrigerator, bag it up and get it out of the house before it starts to stink. Wipe down the refrigerator.
If you know in advance, preparations you can take
If you know you may encounter some problems, here are a few things to do ahead of time. Unfortunately, hurricanes are about the only natural disaster you have time to prepare for.
With better preparation the second time around, we were able to cook decent meals and weathered the outages with ease.
However, after five days of eating peanut butter and crackers and dealing with the unbearable heat, sitting in an air-conditioned restaurant eating a hot freshly-cooked hamburger was pure heaven!
Some information was obtained from FEMA’s site.
Have any other tips for weathering a storm?