When hurricanes strike, swift action is required to help save lives and safeguard homes. The first step for effective hurricane preparation can be taken long before storms arrive by assembling an emergency hurricane kit. While most people recognize the importance of emergency supplies, a hurricane’s intensity and duration require far more than basic necessities.
Hurricane Kits: The Basics
The first things that need to be a part of any hurricane emergency kit are familiar to disaster preparedness everywhere: food, medications, and first aid supplies. Unlike other storms that may last only a few hours, however, a hurricane’s devastation may impact supplies for weeks, and kits should be stocked to meet that need. Basic items to include in a hurricane kit are:
– Non-perishable food that can be eaten without additional preparation: Dry cereal, cookies, crackers, peanut butter, beef jerky, and chips are excellent choices that are not only edible, but may also provide a measure of comfort, particularly for children.
– Water: Between one and two gallons is recommended per person, per day, since hurricanes can induce severe flooding that will taint water supplies. Stocking chlorine and other purification tablets is a wise precaution in case stored water supplies are exhausted.
– First aid supplies: Basic items include bandages, antiseptic towelettes and ointments, as well as aspirin and other general first aid items along with any necessary prescription medications. Instructions about specific medical conditions (allergies, etc.) should be a part of the first aid kit in case emergency workers require that information.
– Documentation: Because hurricanes can cause incalculable property damage, it is important to preserve records for insurance claims and identification. Keep copies of house and car titles, insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage licenses, school records, immunizations, and other critical paperwork with your hurricane supplies. Photographs of different possessions (particularly expensive ones) can also help speed compensation claims.
– Utility replacement items: After a storm passes, basic utilities may be unavailable for days. A portable radio with several sets of batteries, a portable television, electric generator, candles, matches, and even a small camping grill are all useful items to help restore lost utilities.
Emergency Items for the Soul
Personal suffering caused by hurricanes is not only physical, but also emotional. Keeping certain sentimental items easy accessible in an emergency kit can help calm family members and preserve continuity no matter how bad the physical damage may become. These items may not be a permanent part of the emergency kit, but it is wise to keep a list with the kit so they can be gathered quickly and efficiently. Consider including the following emotional items in a hurricane emergency kit:
– Irreplaceable photographs: A wedding album, childhood photographs, and other sentimental snapshots may be lost forever in a hurricane’s aftermath. Preserving them will provide a link to the past no matter where the future may lead.
– Stuffed animals and games: These comfort items will help calm children and keep them occupied both during and after a storm when electricity is unavailable. Avoid electronic games requiring batteries that may be in short supply.
– A diary or journal: Writing can provide both an emotional outlet and a personal record of events that can become treasured reading material for descendents.
– Books and magazines: Reading material for teens and adults can help pass the time when other distractions are not forthcoming.
– Sentimental items: Figurines, favorite clothing, and other sentimental items should be included in a hurricane kit to keep some measure of comfort available to every member of the family. Be sure to limit items to what can easily be transported, particularly if you reside in an evacuation or flood zone.
Providing for Pets
Pets are members of the family, but far too often they are left out of emergency preparations. It is important to note that many evacuation shelters will not allow pets (with the exception of service animals), and families that plan to include their pets must make other arrangements for their well-being. Contact local humane societies, veterinarians, and kennels to inquire about suitable boarding facilities and their hurricane preparations. It is wise to find out in advance what nearby hotels along evacuation routes are willing to accommodate pets, and keep their contact information handy if plans must be made quickly. Furthermore, always keep pet vaccinations up-to-date to keep them as healthy as possible, since care services may be unavailable for some time after a hurricane. In the emergency kit, include the following supplies to help pets weather the storm:
– Food and water: Like human supplies, pet food may be out of stock after a severe storm, and supply trucks will be focusing on supplies for evacuees rather than pets. Because of this, plan additional supplies for pets beyond what may be included for humans.
– Medications: Keep any necessary medications in the emergency kit, along with appropriate flea and tick repellants. The standing water after a storm may breed additional pests, and pets must be protected.
– Toys and treats: Comfort items are just as important to pets as they are to children. A favorite toy, blanket, pillow, or bag of treats can help ease a pet’s mind about the uncertain environment.
– Vaccination records: This documentation may be required by hotels and kennels, and keeping records updated will prevent any last-minute refusals or complications.
– Leash, collar, and tags: After a storm, debris and downed electrical lines can be dangerous, even fatal to pets. A sturdy leash, collar, and associated tags are necessary to protect animals from investigating every nook and cranny in what is a very changed environment. Be sure to keep identification tags on pets at all times in case they are separated from the family.
– Crate or kennel: If possible, provide a safe, known space for the pet to be housed. Not only will this provide them a measure of comfort and familiarity, but it will also keep them in a known location.
Caring for a Hurricane Emergency Kit
Assembling a hurricane kit is the first step to surviving a storm with as little impact as possible, but those preparations will be useless if the kit is not properly cared for. At the beginning of hurricane season (June 1), update all records and double check assembled supplies. New food and water should be added to the kit, and any changes can be made at that time. Throughout the season, check supplies once per month for any spoilage or missing items, and replace perishable goods as needed. After a hurricane, double check against a master list what items have been used or lost, and replace them immediately – demand for emergency items can be tremendous in the days prior to an expected storm, and batteries, water, food, and other essential items may be unavailable at the last minute.
At the end of hurricane season (November 30), remove perishable items from the hurricane emergency kit, but take note of what needs to be replaced next season. Keep food, water, and medications updated and fresh rather than leaving them in the kit for years unused.
With proper preparation and care, a hurricane emergency kit can go a long way toward helping families survive a storm both physically and emotionally intact, no matter what the storm’s toll.