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The material contained in these pages are the author's opinions, and do not reflect that of any other person or entity.  You are advised to seek expert opinion if you have questions or concerns about your specific emergency preparedness situation.

Residential Preparation Overview
Anyone who lived through Hurricane Katrina will tell you that being cut off from the outside world can be a terribly frightening experience.  The numbers vary, but by most estimates, roughly 1,800 persons died as a direct or indirect result of Katrina.  As you prepare for a hurricane, keep in mind that for awhile, you will need to be your own police, fire and emergency medical service until things return to normal.  You need to be prepared to protect yourself and your family from looters, intruders, or just the idiots who like to run amuck when disaster strikes.  To learn more about training on firearms in your community, check the National Rifle Association training web page.  You should also attend a Community Emergency Response course to learn the basics of first aid and how to safely fight a fire should you be faced with that situation.  Check the Citizen Corps web site for a course near you.

As you prepare to weather a storm, you should be prepared to take care of yourself, your family, and your pets for a period of at least three full days.  Many government agencies have adopted the slogan "The first 72 (hours) is up to you."  However, if you're only prepared for three days, and help doesn't arrive as expected, you may find yourself very hungry and thirsty!  Even then, "help" may arrive with warm water and government issue military-style meals.  It would be wise to have provisions on hand for at least a full week for the entire family and pets.

Things You Should Do Soon

If you have large trees that have overhanging branches that could fall onto your home, then you should have those trimmed back early in the season.  Any dead or dying trees may need to be entirely removed.

You should have already cut and marked plywood that will be used to cover your windows.  Half-inch plywood is probably the thinnest that you should consider using; five-eighths inch is even better.  Be sure to mark the plywood on both sides to save time during installation.  If you have a brick exterior on your home, then you may consider using Plylox Hurricane Window Clips instead of having to drill into the brick.  If you have a home made of stucco, or have windows that aren't surrounded by brick,  then you may wish to consider Windstorm Products' PanelMate fasteners.  They have a wood screw thread on one end and a machine screw thread on the other, allowing you to install the anchors ahead of time, then affix your window coverings quickly and easily with just a wing nut.  And by the way, don't bother to use masking tape to cover your windows.  It adds no strength, and only creates a mess that will need to be scraped off after the storm.

Another highly vulnerable part of your home are the garage doors.  It's not unusual for garage doors to get blown in or sucked out in a hurricane.  Once the garage doors are compromised, that allows a perfect funnel for the wind to enter the residence and do even more damage, such allowing the roof to more easily blow off.  I tried building braces for my garage doors out of lumber, and it was one of the longest, most frustrating projects of my life!  I spent well over forty hours and $200, and ended up throwing them away.  Instead, I now use Secure Door vertical bracing system for garage doors.  They are relatively easy to install (though a hammer drill is recommended for the garage floor anchors), lightweight, and easy to store.  They can also be purchased at Lowes.

To keep from completely losing all of those valuable photos, you may consider scanning them onto either a portable hard drive or CD.  You might also back up your home computer files onto a USB external drive, or use some offsite archive service.

If you don't have flood insurance, you should evaluate your flood risk and consider purchasing a policy today.  Most homeowner policies don't cover flood damage.  Remember that there is a thirty day waiting period before the insurance will go into effect, so now is the time to buy.  Also, keep in mind that flood insurance may not afford the same level of coverage as your conventional home-owner's insurance.  For instance, my policy has a pretty low cap, and does not offer replacement-level coverage.

Thoroughly document all of the valuable items in your home in case you need to file an insurance claim.  Receipts are typically the best proof of purchase, but a narrated video of the contents of your home may also be acceptable by your insurance provider.  Photographs are also a viable option in most cases.  Check with your insurance provider if you have questions.  Store this information in a safe place away from the home, such as a safe deposit box.  

As The Storm Approaches

As soon as a named storm enters the Gulf of Mexico, you should keep the gas tanks filled on any vehicle you may need to evacuate.  Whenever a storm threatens, I fill up my tank every single day until I have to evacuate or until the storm is no longer a threat. 

As the storm approaches, you must complete your last minute preparations.  Keep in mind that anything left unsecured outdoors will become a missile in the high winds of a hurricane.  Even a trampoline can act as a sail and fly through the air with deadly force!  And speaking of trampolines, the most common question I get on this website is about how to secure a trampoline in a hurricane.  So here's the answer: Remove the large, center mat and store it indoors.  Then, flip the trampoline frame upside down and secure the frame to the ground with several screw-in ground stakes.   

If you have a garage, park your vehicles inside to protect it from flying debris.  If you do not have a garage, then at least park where it is least likely that a tree limb, billboard or utility pole will blow over on it.  

Riding Out The Storm

You should ride out the storm in the most secure part of your home.  Most experts recommend an interior room without any windows.  Make sure your emergency lights and radios have fresh batteries and are readily accessible in your safe room.

If it looks like your home is going to flood, consider turning off your electricity at the breaker box.  If there is already rising water near your breaker box, be sure to stand on a non-metallic, non-conductive stool or ladder to reduce the chance of electrocution.  If your breaker box is outdoors, you should probably go ahead and turn off the power before the rain begins.

You should never leave your home during the hurricane unless it is a life or death emergency.  As Ron White so aptly stated, "it's not that the wind is blowing, it's what the wind is blowing."  The smallest and most seemingly harmless objects can prove deadly when flying through the air at 100 miles per hour!

After The Storm

In a typical hurricane, roughly 59% of the deaths are due to fresh water flooding.  And of those who die in freshwater flooding, 80% walked into or drove into the water where they drowned!  So perhaps the most important post-hurricane advice I can give is to stay away from flood water if at all possible.  Do not venture out into the water unless you have to evacuate your home.  And never let your children play in flood water.  Beside drowning, the waters may contain dangerous bacteria, snakes, fire ants and a host of other nasty things that can ruin your day!  Flood waters can also blow off manhole covers, which can result in drowning if you step into a manhole hidden by the water.

In addition to the hazards presented by flood waters, you should also be very careful around downed power lines.  Though they should be checked by a lineman before being energized, you never know what may happen in the aftermath of a storm.  Report fallen power lines to your local power company as soon as possible.  

In your home, leave your breakers turned off until after the power is restored in your neighborhood.  This is very important, since the process of restoring the power often results in electrical surges throughout your home.  These surges can cause permanent damage to sensitive electronics and your air conditioning system!  

Home To-Do Checklist

To Do


Board or shutter windows  
Bring emergency repair tools into the house  
Bring in outdoor pets If you have outdoor pets, make sure you bring them in so you don't have to search for them before the storm.  Animals can often sense a storm and may run away from home to seek shelter.
Charge all cell phones   
Charge batteries on emergency repair tools ( cordless drills, saws, etc.)  
Clean tubs thoroughly and fill with water to use for personal hygiene and toilet flushing  Be sure to test your tubs ahead of time for leaks.  A small amount of calking around the stopper can be used to create a temporarily seal.
Cover emergency supplies and/or generator in garage to protect them from water damage  
Park vehicles away from trees or poles that could fall in a storm  
Place emergency food in waterproof container and move up from floor level  
Remove anything outdoors that could fly in the wind If you have a pool and don't have enough room for lawn furniture in the garage, consider carefully placing it in the pool.
Unplug any sensitive electronic devices (such as televisions, computers) that could be damaged if the electricity begins to flicker.  

Home Shopping Checklist



Aluminum foil  
Baby supplies such as baby food, diapers, baby formula, bottles, medicines, etc.  
Batteries of various sizes to fit flashlights, radios, portable TVs Be sure to test your devices ahead of time to determine how many batteries will be required to power them for a week or more.
Bible or other religious material of your choice  
Can opener - Manual  
Cash Remember, banks will be closed and ATMs will fail if they lose electricity.  Get plenty of small bills!!!
Cell phone Make sure it's fully charged!
Charcoal for grilling  
Charcoal lighter fluid  
Clorox (Unscented) A 1/4 tsp per gallon of water will help purify water in an emergency
Contact list of family and friends Be sure to jot these down in case your cell phone battery is dead and you have no way to charge it.
Coolers or Ice Chests: Coleman-type cooler to keep food cool Consider having two coolers: One for ice and food that will be opened often, and one for just ice that can be kept shut except to remove ice.
Dry ice Careful!  Touching dry ice with the bare hands can cause severe burns!
Duct tape Get only high-quality tape, such as 3M or Scotch.  Cheap tape will ooze out the adhesive when exposed to summer heat.
Eye glasses or contacts Extra pair of glasses or contacts
Fan: battery operated Available at sporting goods stores
Filter for wet/dry vacuum If you have to run your wet/dry vac in the house to pull up flood water, a musty old filter can stink up the whole house.  Keep a fresh one on hand for such emergencies.
Feminine hygiene products  
Fifty-five gallon garbage can (for holding water to flush the toilets)  
Flashlight Consider a 3 "D" cell MagliteĀ® (I prefer the LED version).  It's rugged, dependable, and can double as a defensive weapon if necessary. 
Garbage bags - Box of 30 or more 1.1 mil or stronger
Gas for car Some extra gas on hand may be worth their weight in gold.  Be very careful when storing gasoline around your garage or home!
Ice: Several bags for daily use  
Mops and buckets for clean-up  
Paper plates and cups This reduces water needed for washing plates and cups
Paper towels  
Plastic sheeting or drop clothes Plastic garbage backs can be cut along the seams and use in a pinch.
Pre-moistened towelettes  
Propane tanks for gas grill  
Radio: Battery operated AM-FM radio  
Radio: NOAA Weather radio.   Get the ones with the long, telescoping antenna;   they work better in fringe areas.  Click this link to obtain the NOAA SAME codes for your area.
Shoes or boots: Hiking boots or walking shoes  
Sleeping bags  
Solar shower Purchase at sporting good stores. Hang the container from a tree and enjoy a hot shower.
Sterno For outdoor food preparation.  Do not use indoors!
Thermos for keeping beverages hot  
Toilet paper  
TV: Battery operated black & white Remember that your old analog TV is useless now that all of the broadcast stations have gone digital.
Twelve volt to 120 volt AC inverter  
Water purification tablets  Purchase at sporting goods supply stores
Water: Cooking.  The Red Cross recommends at least one half gallon per person per day for seven days. This may be best in large containers (that have been sterilized before filling) or five gallon containers.
Water: Drinking. The Red Cross recommends at least one half gallon per person per day for seven days. Consider purchasing individual bottles (such as Ozarka).  This reduces waste and dirty drinking cups by allowing everyone to have their own bottle.  I recommend placing several of these in the freezer before the power goes out.  The bottles will freeze without cracking.  If the power goes out the ice will help keep the freezer cold longer. When the ice melts the water will stay in the container and you still have drinkable water. 
Water: Other water (for flushing toilet, washing hands, bathing).  Pool water is great for flushing toilets.  A 30 gallon plastic trash bag can transform a dirty trash can into an acceptable container of wash water.
Waterless hand cleaner / Sanitizer  
Ziplock bags  

Medications & Personal

Medicine Comments
After Bite (for relief of itching)  
Alka Seltzer  
Anti-diarrhea medication  
Cold medicines  
Contact lens supplies  
Disinfectant soap or hand sanitizer  
Headache medicines  
Hydrogen Peroxide  
Mosquito repellant You may be working outside to clean up debris or make repairs.  Mosquitoes are especially plentiful after a hurricane.
Rubbing alcohol  

Owner: Haskell L. Moore
All articles are property of the owner, and may not be reproduced in whole or part without
written permission from the author. Copyright © 2008 - 2013.
Email me at: HurricaneHaskell@gmail.com