101 Things You Can Do To Prepare For a Hurricane or Tropical Storm

I created this long list of 101 things you can do to get ready for a hurricane or tropical storm, in order to stimulate your thinking during your planning process. Most of the preparation lists out on the web have like 10 ‘steps’, but that is way to simplistic. If you go thru my more exhaustive list, some will apply and some won’t. But just reading thru it should help you develop a more realistic plan for yourself.

While I was preparing this list, I thought thru all my experiences over the years of preparing my home and family for storms like Charlie, Irma, and Florence. Each experience was different, but all involved a lot of stress and anxiety. I truly believe that thinking thru all the possibilities is empowering, as we can each take actions that will help us get thru these powerful storms.

I will be going into detail on each one of these topics in subsequent posts, so feel free to ask questions or add suggestions in the comments.

Jamie, Your Hunker Down Guide
  1. Look up your address on the local hurricane evacuation map to see if you are in an evacuation zone
  2. If you will need to evacuate then look up your nearby shelter options and get directions to find it in an emergency
  3. If you have pets and must evacuate, look for shelters that take dogs and cats
  4. If you have pets and must evacuate, contact your veterinarian to see if they know who can board pets during a storm
  5. If you or a family member have special medical concerns that could be problematic if 911 was unable to respond, contact your doctor or local officials to find a special needs shelter
  6. Fill up your gas tank right now and never let it go less than ¾ of a tank in run-up to the storm, as stations will either run out of fuel or lose power and be unable to pump it
  7. Review the structural integrity of your roof and walls to see if you feel it is safe to hunker down at home for the storm
  8. If you live in a mobile home, determine and execute your evacuation and shelter plans, as these structures can be damaged or destroyed by strong winds
  9. Stockpile at least a week or more of any prescription drugs
  10. Buy a new first aid kit or check and refresh the contents of your existing one
  11. Get out all your flashlights and camping lights and look at the type of batteries you need, then purchase extra packs
  12. Keep a flashlight in known location, perhaps a small rechargeable one plugged into an outlet, so that you know exactly where to grab it if the lights go out at night
  13. Keep a flashlight in your car’s glove compartment
  14. Check your car’s tire pressure and condition, including your spare tire, to avoid getting flat during evacuation or after the storm passes
  15. Check and clean your car or SUV’s 12 volt battery terminals, clamps, and cables, and verify that your car battery is not worn out
  16. Buy distilled water bottles at a discount or dollar store, to have at least 1 – 2 gallons per person for a 3 day minimum
  17. Fill up pots and pans, flexible water storage bags, and other clean containers with lids ( or cover with plastic wrap), to have at least 1 – 2 gallons per person for a 3 day minimum
  18. Buy extra pet food, with enough to last a minimum of 3 days
  19. Stock up on your pet’s prescriptions, including calming drugs for dogs afraid of storms
  20. Buy lots of cat litter
  21. Make sure you have lots of large plastic garbage type bags for creating waterproof storage for valuables, papers, clothes, as well as for bagging up garbage for days or weeks after a storm
  22. If you have a generator, check the oil level, and refill as needed, then test start the generator
  23. Buy extra oil for a generator
  24. Buy extra gasoline and store it in safe containers approved for storing fuel
  25. Use a propane tank gauge that weighs a tank to tell how much full is inside
  26. Take propane tanks to be refilled or exchange empty ones for full tanks at big box stores
  27. Store propane tanks outside under a deck or other secure location, possibly using a steel cable and lock to secure them
  28. Find all your heavy duty extension cords and label the length
  29. Determine where in your yard or driveway you will move your generator after a storm, in order to position it 20 to 25 feet from any open windows or doors
  30. Pull the generator to a safe location, far outside your home, run your extension cord to your appliance or lights, and do a test run in advance of the storm
  31. Make sure you have a multi-outlet adapter for your extension cord if you plan on running more than one item
  32. If you have a generator, consider buying and installing a house transfer switch, as it allows you to power 4, 6, or more house circuits from the generator using a special generator cable
  33. If you are going to power your fridge with a generator or battery backup, turn off the ice maker or defrost cycle if possible to save energy
  34. Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting hours before bad weather begins, to help the food last longer in the event of a power outage
  35. Fill small plastic water bottles and containers with fresh water and put them in your freezer to fill in empty areas, to build up ice in case of a power outage
  36. If the electricity goes out and you have a well, your fresh water supply will eventually stop working as there will be no pressure, and power failures in public pumping stations can cause contamination in the pipe network, so buying and storing water for drinking, and filling a bath tube can give you a non-potable water to use by the bucketful to flush toilets
  37. Consider buying a properly sized inverter for use with your vehicle battery or a deep cycle battery, so you can power your fridge during and after a store
  38. If you are planning to power some or all your household lights using a generator, take this time to replace all bulbs with energy saving LED bulbs
  39. If you own hurricane shutters or your new house came with then, review how to install them and either DIY or hire the job out well in advance of any wind effects of the storm
  40. To make DIY shutters, buy 4 foot by 8 foot plywood sheets, measure, and use a circular saw to cut them with enough overlap to secure them properly over the windows of your home.
  41. Buy metal shutters and install them using headless bolts or lag screws.
  42. Buy extra fasteners, headless bolts, cement screws, and washers, and keep them with your shutter installation tools
  43. If you are going to use cement screws or headless bolts to fasten shutters to stucco or cement walls, make sure you have an electric drill or hammer drill and the proper sized cement bits (and spares) and drivers required for that hard surface
  44. Garage doors are particularly vulnerable to winds, so either upgrade to a hurricane rated door or use shutters and 4X4 wood to build a shield across the outside of the door
  45. Make sure you know how to open your garage door during a power outage, usually by pulling a release cord near the motor
  46. Charge up all cordless power tool batteries and store them in a handy location
  47. Assemble a tool box of basic hand tools and power tools needed when you must prepare for a hurricane, including some nails and screws for securing things
  48. Consider increasing your hurricane food and water supplies to last 7 days instead of just 3 days, as it often takes time for supplies centers to be setup after major storms
  49. Resist opening the refrigerator or freezer doors during the last hours before a storm hits, as every time you open up the compartments will warm up
  50. Turning the refrigerator and freezer temperatures to the lowest settings before the storm hits, could help keep the food fresh longer, in case of a power outage
  51. Take pictures of the food in your fridge, so that after a power outage, you will know just where to reach for them when you minimize the opening of the fridge door(s)
  52. Food can start to spoil in a fridge after 4 hours of no power, so consider buying a wireless refrigerator and freezer thermometer to help you monitor the interior temperature of the compartments
  53. Buy Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) or dehydrated camping meals that can be prepared by adding hot water
  54. Buy a propane camping stove or an alcohol hiking stove for heating up water, and make sure you have enough fuel to last 3 to 7 days
  55. Buy extra ice and keep it in the freezer or keep extra inside ice chests, as ice is like gold during a power outage
  56. Make sure you have a mechanical, non-electric can opener
  57. Make sure you have matches or lighters in zip-lock bags or other waterproof container
  58. If you have a gas outdoor grill, buy extra propane, or if you have a charcoal grill, buy extra charcoal and lighter fluid – to be used for cooking in power outage
  59. Inventory your canned foods, noodles, and other non-perishables and purchase more to create a meal plan for 3 to 7 days that can be easily prepared on your backup cooking equipment
  60. Make a plan of what cold and frozen foods should be prepared and eaten first, in case of a prolonged power outage
  61. Consider buying energy bars and other food items that require no cooking or preparation
  62. Make a list of all your important family and friend’s phone numbers, email addresses, and street addresses in case your phone normal digital contacts are not working after a storm
  63. Keep all your phones fully charged before a storm hits
  64. Buy an external USB battery, for recharging cell phones, and make sure you have the right cables to connect things to it
  65. Walk around your yard and secure everything that can blow around in the extreme winds, as even heavy objects can become projectiles in a hurricane
  66. If possible, move your vehicles away from trees and limbs that might be blown over during a storm
  67. If you have a grid-tied PV solar panel system on your roof, the inverter will not generate electricity in the event of a power outage – be sure to be prepared to turn the utility cutoff switch to off when a storm hits to avoid back-feeding power from your system into downed wires
  68. Consider creating a stand-alone, off-grid battery backup power system using an inverter, deep cycle battery, and a PV solar panel for reachable power after a storm
  69. Buy a USB adapter that fits your brand of cordless power tool batteries, which allows you to charge cell phones from your 18 volt or 20 volt lithium cordless drill-type batteries
  70. Gather up yard tools, hand saws, chainsaws, axes and other things useful for cleanup after a storm knocks down limbs and other debris
  71. Get free sandbags from local government to place in front of your garage or other doors that could have wind-driven rains or flood waters
  72. Heavy duty garbage bags filled with sand, soil, or landscape pebbles can also function as makeshift sandbags
  73. Buy heavy duty synthetic rope and metal stakes and use them to create tie downs for sheds and outbuildings, by going over the roof multiple times and staking down on all sides
  74. Before a storm hits, review your property and buildings for places where water might get trapped or impeded during heavy rains,and clean out the gutters, downspouts, drain lines, gullies and other paths for the water to flow away from your house
  75. Well in advance of a storm, either DIY or hire a professional to trim dead tree limbs, thin out foliage, and evaluate any tree or limb that hangs over your home or is likely to break off during high winds
  76. Long before a storm threat, call the power utility to report tree limbs or foliage that are against power lines or could cause a problem during a hurricane, so that their crew can come out and trim anything that might knock out wires
  77. Get board and card games ready for entertainment during a prolonged disruption after a storm passes
  78. Plug computers, TVs, routers, and other sensitive electronics into surge protectors, as lightning strikes and surges due to utility outages can cause damaging power spikes
  79. Make a digital file and encrypt it, with your important family contact records and other information, in case your paper records and electronic devices are damaged or inaccessible after a storm – and email to yourself or use a Dropbox account, so you can access them later from an evacuation center
  80. Email distant relatives and/or close friends with your plans for staying or evacuating,and keep them in the loop with email or texts throughout the experience
  81. Find the safest place inside your home, possibly a large closet or room with no outside windows, and create a safe-room with pillows, food, water, flashlights, and other hurricane supplies – examples being a first floor walk-in closet in the corner of a cement block home or closet under the staircase may have extra structural strength in case your house is hit hard by winds or tornado conditions
  82. Wash and dry all your clothes, and run your dishwasher, all well before a storm hits your area, as these appliances will not function without power
  83. Make sure you have a sufficient stockpile of toilet paper and other personal hygiene supplies
  84. Put family photos, video tapes, and important documents into zip-lock bags, and out them inside plastic storage bins elevated off the floor in case of flood or roof damage
  85. Buy an AM/FM weather radio, possibly with a crank or solar charger, to pick up weather service or NOAA forecast
  86. If you have cable TV, consider buying a low cost over-the-air antenna to allow you to watch TV weather and local news, even if the cable or internet provider gets knocked off the air
  87. If you have FIOS or another type of internet connection that has a built-in backup battery, check that the battery is fresh, as the backup power might help keep your VOIP phone and/or internet service running if household power is lost – or have a way to power up the provider’s interface (in your garage) in case you go to your own backup generator
  88. Look up your local power company’s website or call then to find out the procedures for reporting power outages and getting repair status, including updating your contact information with them in case they have a cell phone-based reporting system
  89. Review how to cut off your home’s water, natural gas, and electricity services, in the case of a water pipe leak, external flooding, or other emergency situation  
  90. Review your homeowners, flood, and vehicle insurance policies and put then in zip-lock bags and take images with your cell phone, in case you have heavy damage and need to know how to contact the companies to report a claim after the storm
  91. Walk around the inside and outside of your home and take pictures and videos or your property, belongings, and valuables, and store a copy of these on Dropbox or other secure web service in case you need to file a claim
  92. Make sure your smoke alarms have fresh batteries, and that you take extra precautions during and after a storm to prevent fires (e.g. don’t leave candles unattended), as fire department response may not exist during a crisis
  93. Purchase a carbon monoxide (CO) detector or replace one or more of your smoke detectors with a combination CO and smoke detector, as CO is an odorless, invisible gas that can kill you if vehicle, generator, or cook stove fumes get inside your home thru open windows or doors
  94. If you have a boat at a marina, make arrangements to have it moved inland, secured with extra storm moorings, or if your boat is on a trailer at home, make sure it is garaged or secured to the ground with tarps, stakes, and ropes
  95. If you have a baby, make sure you have 3 to 7 days supply of diapers, formula, and a portable crib for use in your safe room or at a shelter
  96. If lightning becomes severe or you hear transformer explosions and power fluctuations start, turn-off air conditioners and water heaters to avoid damage
  97. Review post storm safety rules with your family, such as 1) never go outside until the storm has completely passed thru, especially not in the deceptively calm eye,  2) watch out for downed power lines, which may be hidden under debris or water, 3) avoid flooded areas and never play in water, as it can harbor spilled chemicals, wild animals, and germs,  4) water filled ditches may seem harmless but may have incredibly strong, hidden currents that can suck people into storm pipes, 5) do not drive in standing water, as cars float be swept away,  6) be very aware of increased risk of fire and injury, especially if cooking or using generators, as there may not be emergency services for some period of time 7) never operate engines or cook indoors, as they can create deadly carbon monoxide poisoning
  98. Get cash in case the ATM machines are out of operation for a week or more
  99. Monitor the National Hurricane Center, as well as local TV and radio weather stations, for both long range forecast and short term threats and warnings
  100. Even if you are planning to hunker down and shelter in place, situations can rapidly change, so prepare a “grab bag” with your most important papers, spare clothes, water, energy bars, and essential supplies – just in case you need to move quickly before the storm hits or after the storm passes
  101. After you are secure, help your neighbors and friends prepare their homes as well – building up good karma.  Who knows, you might need their help after the storm.

You can do it … It is never to late to start

As I said, I will be going over every one of these in more detail as the season progresses. Good luck with all your preparations, and may the tropics remain peaceful…

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