First of all let’s hope you never need this list, but in case you do, I hope it helps.
If you are reading this you either live in the hurricane belt, have family/friends that do or you have a morbid fascination with destructive hurricanes (if you’re the latter, please move on) Whatever your reason these are some of the things I recommend you prepare for in case you find yourself where I did in 2017 with Irma and Maria. Photos below were taken by me before and after the Hurricane Irma.
Before the storm hits
Obviously this will be the longest part of the list. It is as they say better to be safe than sorry. Aside of the usual boarding up of the house, stocking up on canned food, cleaning supplies, waterproof containers, industrial garbage bags and flashlights, candles and lanterns, the below can easily be overlooked in the anticipation of certain doom.
ONE: Easy to miss pet essentials
We tend to forget about the basic needs of our fury little friends when our lives suddenly become at risk. Any responsible pet parent will be keeping their pet children inside a designated room or garage during a storm (mine were with me in a small room in the house).
Besides stocking up on enough pet food, cat litter and pet medication, remember to get training pads for your dogs. They might be holed up inside the house with you for hours if not a days. My fence was blown down so they had they inside the house for three days after the storms. It wasn’t pretty.
Get crates and have leashes ready in case you need to evacuate last minute. Make sure your pets are microchipped, especially if there is any chance of them escaping during or after the storm. With fences blown down it is a real possibility. Another must have is a pet emergency kit. This can come in handy after the storm.
*Bonus Tip: get Melatonin for pets to keep them calm during the storm. It is natural and safe for your pets.
TWO: Pack a small bag
You may find yourself without a home that is safe enough to stay in after the storm or God forbid you find yourself having to flee in the middle of the storm. Pack yourself a small bag with underwear, a change of clothes, passport, other important documents and your medication and keep that bag with you in whichever room you decide to wait the storm out. A waterproof bag would be ideal.
THREE: Gas up
A few days before the hurricane is scheduled to hit, fill your car’s gas tank. Much like Ice, gas can become a rare and precious commodity in the days after a destructive hurricane. Even if your car gets damaged, you will probably still be able to use it to charge your phone and other devices or in the least use your car’s AC for a few minutes of chilled bliss. The car radio can also come in very handy to stay informed of what is happening around you.
FOUR: Cash in
Go to an ATM or bank and make sure you withdraw enough cash. It is most likely that electricity and water will get disrupted, possibly for a few days/weeks. Credit card machines will not work for while.
FIVE: Multi-purpose water
Obviously you know already to stock up on drinking water for yourself, your family and your pets. But don’t forget water for the toilet, whatever plants may survive the storm, water for cleaning and of course to wash yourself with. Fill up large containers, bath tubs and garbage bins with water at least two days before the storm. Water supply may get cut a day or so prior to avoid damage to the water plant and prolong water issues.
I highly recommend a large water container to collects rain water. By the time a storm is looming you’ll be set. And it gets refilled every time it rains.
SIX: Clean out the fridge
Try to use everything in the fridge the days leading up to the storm and in a day or so after. It can be a while until electricity is restored, unless of course you have a generator. I which case, you lucky SOB.
Check my list of things to stock in your emergency pantry and some delicious vegan recipes here.
SEVEN: Charge up
Make sure all your devices are charged and that your portable chargers are charged as well. You may not be able to use your phone to receive or make calls right after the storm but phones nowadays are so much more than just calling devices. The flashlight option on my iPhone came in especially handy.
Day of the storm
Hopefully you are all set by now with the pre-storm preparations. It’s time to do a last minute walk-around the house, make sure all is well barricaded, go over your plan B, C and D, as well as mentally preparing yourself for what is about to happen.
EIGHT: Smallest room is safest room
The smallest room in your house is the safest room, most probably your bathroom or closet. Make sure you stock up that room with food, water, flashlights, lanterns, entertainment like your tablet or playing cards, pillows and blankets to make your stay in there as comfortable as possible.
If you are not sure your roof will stay, try to get a mattress in there as well. This could help to barricade the door or can function as an additional safety precaution in case the roof goes. Debris will be flying around and hiding underneath the mattress can save you and your loved ones.
*Bonus tip: Also have some essentials in another part of the house in case your safe area gets compromised.
Unplug all electronics and cover them with plastic tarps or garbage bags.
Order your garbage bags and other hurricane prep needs here.
TEN: Duct tape and WD-40
Before retreating inside your house, spray WD-40 in the keyholes of all doors leading outside and cover them with duct tape. This is to prevent the locks from rusting and is especially the case for buildings close to the ocean.
After the Storm
Congratulations, you are now a hurricane survivor. You have survived what could most probably be the worst day/night of your life. Make sure it is safe to go out before opening those doors, assess the damages and leaks and prepare yourself mentally for what you’re about to witness once you open that front door.
ELEVEN: Check on your neighbors
Make sure your neighbors are ok and see if they need assistance.
TWELVE: Screen your yard
By now you cannot wait to let the dogs out so they can do their business but before you do, screen and clean your yard. There will be debris and sharp objects everywhere. There will also be the occasional carcasses of animals that perished during the storm like iguanas, birds or other. These carcasses can become poisonous to your dog once they start decaying. Take it from me, the last thing you need is a pet emergency right after the storm. My dog got a life threatening disease called Botulism right a few days after Irma after eating an iguana that had been dead for a few days.
THIRTEEN: Start a Neighborhood Watch
Looting is an unavoidable evil after every catastrophic event. Team up with your neighbors and keep your neighborhood safe from unwanted visitors.
FOURTEEN: Clean your house
I found that cleaning my house right after, helped with my sanity. You may not have control of what is going on outside but you can certainly keep things inside organized. Cleaning your house is also an excellent way of getting rid of any bad “Juju”, at least it is in the Caribbean.
FIFTEEN: Sharing is caring
Your neighbors will become your best friend during those first few days/weeks after the storm. You will come to rely on each other for a lot. Share water and food if needed, have cookouts together, share information. Your neighbors will become your support group for those early days in your new post-apocalyptic world.
Other bonus tips
- Take pictures of all damages for insurance purposes and document everything.
- Get citronella candles. The mosquitos and flies will be plenty after the storm.
Check out my friend Jen’s blog for more last minute preparation tips.
The above is based on my own experiences before, during and after the 2017 hurricanes. While my experience was undoubtedly completely different than others, I can say that these are the things I wish someone had told me about before going through a super storm. We were prepared but not prepared enough. Our food supply threatened to diminish after a week, help was delayed due to the damages at the port and airport and the looting quickly escalated out of control. I am sure we all learned valuable lessons after Irma and Maria and those lessons are worth sharing if it means sparing you from what we had to go through. So, if any other hurricane survivors out there have any valuable things to add to this list, I urge you do so in the comments below. Thank you and have a safe hurricane season.