Storm preparation guide – assemble a disaster supplies kit

disaster kitFloods, hurricanes, tornados, etc. are becoming regular news stories.

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.
  • hurricane supplies

  • 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
    • Vitamins
    • 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.
  • 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.

    Amazing photo courtesy of Melissa at from her iPhone

    • 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.

    • 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?

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  1. Like you, I learned the hard way. I went through Hurricane Katrina, and it was really rough. I now have two huge containers filled to the brim with all sorts of emergency supplies. I’ve linked to the emergency preparedness list that I blogged about in my linked name. There are a few suggestions that are different than those on your list. I love the idea of having a pack of cards on hand. I will go add that to one of my containers tonight. My biggest tip is a battery powered fan. Heat can be the biggest problem when there’s no electricity, especially in mid-summer in hot areas. Buy a couple of small battery powered fans (the square 10-inch kind are easy to find). Another good idea is to place a shallow pan of water in front of the fans to help blow around some cooling mist.

  2. You have put together an impressive list of things to remember to have in a hurricane. Thankfully, I live in NY and have not had to deal with them as much. It must be incredibly scary especially for people who live in areas frequented by hurricanes. Great list. Visiting from mom bloggers
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  3. Paul Novak says:

    Hello from the east coast of Fla. I’m over here in Brevard county and got to enjoy the 2005 season as well. I remember Floyd also. I think that one ticked me off more than the ones that actually hit. Floys sent us running to Lousiana, only to get there and find out the it decided to turn away at the very last second! Doh!

    Never a bad idea to put together your preparedness list early. After the last hit where we were without power for over a week, the one thing I will not do without again is a generator!

    • That is the funny thing..where do you run to? Why we boarded up and stayed. When it comes it comes for the whole state. Yes a generator would have been nice. It seems so expensive until you wish you had one. 🙂

  4. This looks supremely useful, and I definitely want to have it on hand as a checklist in case something happens.
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  5. Hey Melinda, I can tell you are a pro at this. I like all of these tips. I think it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit inside your car too, just in case the disaster prevents you from accessing your home. Add a Bible or prayer book to this kit because you’ll be saying a lot of prayers. Thanks! (and thanks for the keywordluv too 😉
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  6. We’re pretty lucky here in the UK. We’re not subject to Tornados, Earthquakes etc.

    However, what that means is that we go into panic overdrive if there happens to be anything remotely out of the ordinary. It always amazes me, for example, that in parts of Scandinvia, they have complete snow cover for months over winter and the world does not stop. Things continue just fine.

    We had a few weeks of heavy snow in the UK and people were buying preparation kits like you described above!!
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  7. We always think “it wont’ hit us” lol.. and then it did! not too bad, but I was 8 months pregnant with our last biggie and with no air I wanted to go early! lol
    Thanks for the reminders!

    • Yes being pregnant during a power outage was not fun. I was worried about what if I had to go to the hospital during the middle of a storm.

      I do find that buying one pack of water each grocery store trip to stock up over time is easier on the wallet than going out and buying everything at once. It is expensive to purchase supplies you may not need, which I think is why everyone waits to the last minute and rushes the stores. I stock up on batteries as I have coupons for them.
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    • I forgot..thanks for letting me use that cool storm picture from the other day’s storm. 🙂
      Melinda recently posted..Cool Find Friday 2My Profile

  8. Being prepared is the best way to deal with natural calamities.. Thank you for the information. Looking forward for your next post. 🙂

  9. Wow this is a perfect plan.
    I agree everyone should be prepared…the earth is going through an extreme changes.. We never had earthquakes in the Arabian peninsula since ever and now we hear about earth quake in different parts of the Peninsula,few storms and two desasterous floods from heavy rains … Luckily government managed to keep electricity and water supply running in those areas…and affected families that lost their homes were taken to the most near hotels…

    But we should not leave it to luck we should be prepared.

    Thank you Melinda..for these priceless infos
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  10. A timely reminder! Here in the Caribbean, we have the disadvantage of having nowhere to flee the oncoming storms, so we have to stay and batten down after following that carefully put-together preparation list.
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  11. As a former New Yorker, now a Florida resident, I have experienced both ice storm power outages as well as hurricane power outages. The heat and cold can be equally devasting although with the cold, layers of blankets and clothing help. You have a great list of ways to prepare. My wife would especially appreciate your clean house/dishwasher/laundry suggestion. You can never be too prepared for a power outage.

    • I agree. I used to live in NC where we never got snow..only ice that would knock out the power. I was glad I had a fireplace. 🙂

  12. There was a tropical storm that whipped through Maryland about four or five years ago. It caused all sorts of damage. The downtown area was a mess, and many businesses near the harbor suddenly had a lot of water.

    Our electricity was out for well over a week. I was working out of the home at the time, and our office was shut down for that first week.

    That made me become a bit more prepared. Although I had all the stuff in the house, it would have been nice if I had kept it all in one location.
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  13. Good stuff. In addition to a battery powered emergency radio, I would also highly recommend crank radios. Yes, I am obviously biased, but with good reason.

    My family and I made it through what was, arguably, the worst hurricane season ever in Florida several years back and lost the roof of our barn, parts of our fence and house and more. We lived without power for days as well.

    Communication can not only be a lifesaver, but also a boredom saver.

    I also like the suggestion of keeping your Bible or other key reading materials close as well as important medicine.

    Thanks all!

  14. A very helpful tips! Thanks for this post. Good preparation check lists. Preparedness is one of the things that we should give priority with in our daily living. I agree with this post that we should collect enough food that could last for a week. I had experience being trapped in our house for almost four days because of a strong typhoon. I’m glad that we were safe but with an empty and starving stomach. That’s I’m always prepared today. Thanks again.

  15. Nice and very helpful tips. It’s just like in the saying that “Prevention is better than cure!”. Being prepared in all kinds of unexpected events and calamities should take its first place and should not wait for being late and to be remedied after it happens.

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  17. These tips are very useful. I think it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit inside your car too. Thankfully, I live in NY and have not had to deal with them as much. It must be incredibly scary especially for people who live in areas frequented by hurricanes. I will surely check in your tips, thanks a ton for sharing these tips.

  18. Dean Diaz says:

    I could say that this is a complete list and guide with regards to preparation to catastrophe. We all know that disaster might come anytime and a good preparation facing it would definitely saved us from problems and worst result we might encounter.

  19. I have attended various sessions on how to prepare yourself for any disaster? Well, there I have learned many things which might come handy in any of the worse situations! These lessons makes the work easier in case of calamity!

  20. Well, these lessons are so much helpful to me! I was there in Indonesia last year during rainy & that time it worked & helped me a lot! Bingo! Too good to know!

  21. I would share one thing that last week I was in Newcastle & sudden floods in there made the things worse! Who knows when can natural floods damage the things? Well, on the other move, it is so important to make the things so necessary! Thanks to me & my team that we had enough practice for floods & we managed the things!

  22. These tips are so going to be so helpful for people who are not aware in trouble times. For them it is so necessary to learn these lessons & the preparations will surely help them make the things more effectively when in real trouble!

  23. Being prepared on any disaster is a must.We need to have emergency kits at home.Any disaster can come anytime so we need to be prepared.Thanks for sharing!

  24. This post is really helpful especially in the times of disaster and natural calamities. These are useful tips which we should take or look upon in order to keep our family safe and secure. We should also take into our plans with our pets and other valuable things. People must read this and take note of the tips and apply it when necessary. Thanks and more powers to you Melinda!

  25. I have read a book tackling preparedness against natural calamities. It is necessary that you always have with you a “go bag” that contains all your essentials in case something catastrophic happen.
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  26. Great tips. I’m really motivates to create my own disaster preparedness plan. I do keep an emergency kit in my car.

  27. Whenever there is a a natural disaster we must see to it that our family is prepared and geared with all the necessary stuff needed to survive. Educate your children on what to do in case of emergency.
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  28. It is necessary that you always have a go bag with you filled with essential stuff for your survival.