Although she was never a Boy Scout, Lisa Andrews knows the meaning of the group's motto "be prepared." She has to be. She lives in Florida during hurricane season. Andrews, who works at a local medical center in Delray, travels the area talking to people to make sure they're prepared for the worst Mother Nature has to offer. Not only does she speak of a storm's potential hazards, but she also emphasizes that each household prepare a storm survival kit [source: DiPino].
Making sure there are adequate supplies of water, nonperishable foods, batteries and medicines can make a storm a bit easier to weather, Andrews says [source: DiPino]. While the path of hurricanes and nor'easters can be predicted, other storms often blow up out of nowhere, catching people by surprise. In no time, you can be out of power, out of food and out of luck. That's why a storm preparedness kit is essential.
When Hurricane Irene took aim at New England in 2011, I went into survivor mode. I made sure I had enough water for drinking and flushing the toilet. I made sure my grill worked, and that we had plenty of ice and coolers ready to go. I had candles, matches, dog food and biscuits, cat food and toilet paper. I even went out and bought a chain saw before the storm hit.
What I didn't have was an emergency storm kit. I didn't have any batteries for the 10 flashlights I seemingly accumulated over the years, nor did I have enough canned food. Luckily, the power never went out in my neighborhood, although the chain saw came in handy. Experts say a storm kit is essential because you might need to survive on your own in an emergency. Your gas, water, sewage treatment or telephone service might not work after a storm [source: FEMA].
That's why you need to be prepared. Experts say you should have enough food, water and other supplies for at least 72 hours. Moreover, you should keep your survival kit in a safe place that is cool and dry. And if you already have a kit, make sure it's up-to-date [source: FEMA].
If you're making a kit, we'll tell you the 10 essential items you need to include in it next.
Water is probably the most important element of any survival kit, and the hardest to store. After a storm, you might not have a drop of water to drink. Your regular source of drinking water could be compromised because of contamination. There might not be any electricity to run your well's water pump. When the water isn't flowing, there's nothing to drink, nothing to bathe in and nothing to flush toilets.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends storing at least 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation purposes. Children and nursing mothers might need more. If you live where it's warm, have additional water on hand. Bottled water in it's original container is best, and don't open it unless you're going to use it. Make sure you put the bottles in a cool, dark place [source: FEMA].
Be careful when storing your own tap water. Make sure the containers you use are specifically designed to hold water. You can buy these containers at a camping supply store. Wash each container with dishwashing soap and rinse well before filling them up. If you're going to use 2-liter plastic soda bottles, make sure you disinfect the bottles with a teaspoon of non-scented chlorine bleach mixed with a quart of water. Rinse the bottles out well. Close the top tightly with the bottle's original cap [source: FEMA].
Canned vegetables and soup, boxed cereal, peanut butter, crackers and other nonperishable food should be part of your kit. Once again, the experts say store at least a three-day supply. Make sure that the food in your emergency kit are foods your family, especially children, will eat. Don't pack salty snacks, or other foods that will make you thirsty. Also, make sure you have a manual can opener [source: FEMA].
All foods should be in covered containers. Cooking and eating utensils should be clean. Throw away any food that is exposed to contaminated flood water. If it smells, swells or looks rancid, throw the food out. Don't let garbage pile up indoors.
Cooking during an emergency is an art form. Make sure you fire up the charcoal grills and gas camping stoves outside. Some commercially canned food can be eaten cold, right out of the can. If you want to heat the food inside the can, make sure you remove the label, then wash the outside of the can with one part bleach to 10 parts water. Oh, yeah, open the can before heating [source: FEMA].
Battery-powered or Hand-cranked Radio
It sounds so last century. But once the power goes out, there will be relatively few ways to recharge your iPads, cell phones, tablets, PCs, laptops and other electronic devices. That's why having a portable radio -- you know, the transistor kind -- is essential. Keeping abreast of vital storm warnings, news and other information is critical during an emergency. During a storm emergency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will broadcast weather and other information on its nationwide network of radio stations [source: NOAA].
First Aid Kit
Every storm survival kit should include first aid supplies to treat minor injuries. The kit should contain bandages, antibiotic ointments, burn ointments and other supplies. If you take prescription medications on a daily basis, make sure you have enough in case you can't run to the drug store. Moreover, make sure you also include enough medical supplies, such as catheters and syringes. And don't forget to stock up on nonprescription drugs, such as aspirin and anti-diarrhea medication [source: FEMA].
If the power goes out, you'll need to see at night. That's why flashlights and camp lights are essential. Some companies even make a combination electricity/light/radio that seems to be handy when the electricity is out. These portable units are equipped with a weather radio, detachable flashlight and a charging port that can power small electronics, such as portable cell phones. These devices come with a 12-volt rechargeable battery [source: Amazon]. Candles and dry matches are also essential, just be careful using them.
Each person should have a warm blanket. If you live in a colder climate, then it's important to have additional bedding. Clothing should also be part of your household storm emergency. Make sure you have a complete change of clothing for each person, which includes a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, jacket and reliable shoes. Once again, if you live where it's colder, store extra clothing including hats and gloves. Also make sure everyone has a pillow, extra underwear and socks [source: FEMA].
Toothpaste, toilet paper, diapers, soap and other sanitary items should also be on your emergency storm list. Some items might not seem important until you run out of them, such as contact lens solution, denture cream and feminine supplies. Stick everything in a waterproof container [source: My Great Home].
You don't want to be eating beans out of a can with your fingers. Clean utensils and mess kits will make life a little bit easier after a storm rolls through. To clean utensils, and any other surfaces, keep a bottle of chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper in your kit. By diluting one part bleach with nine parts water, you will create a perfect disinfectant [source: FEMA].
Games and Other Activities
It's every parent's nightmare. There's no power. That means there's no TV, no video games, no juice to charge up junior's iPod. What's a parent to do when the kids are bored? No emergency kit would be complete, especially if you have children, without board games, puzzles, coloring books and other activities. Listen, it's hard enough getting through a storm without a gaggle of kids clamoring at your heels. These items will make the going a little less tough. Also, make sure you have pencils, paper and pens available.
In the aftermath of a storm, banks might not be open and ATMS might be shuttered. One word, well actually four words: cash or traveler's checks. Before a storm hits, go to the bank or ATM and withdraw money. After a storm, some businesses might reopen even though they don't have any power. Without power, the clerk isn't going to be able to swipe your debit or credit cards. If you need to buy extra food, fuel, or other items, having cash in your pocket is the only way you can transact business.
Do you know how to prepare for a hurricane? Learn more about big storms and what critical steps you should take before a hurricane is coming.
Author's Note: 10 Must Haves in a Storm Survival Kit
This might seem like a lot of things to put in your kit. Most everything here you probably already have, if not, you need to prepare. If you know a storm is brewing, gather all these items in a dry and cool place. Place them in water-tight containers that you can easily access.
More Great Links
- Amazon.com. "Black & Decker Storm Station All-in-One Rechargeable Power." (June 12, 2012). http://www.amazon.com/Black-Decker-StormStation-Rechargeable-SS925/dp/B000B8GBCC
- DiPino, David. "Hurricane preparation expert offers advice as storm season nears." Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. May 23, 2012. (June 12, 2012). http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-05-23/news/fl-drf-hurricane-0523-20120523_1_storm-season-hurricane-storm-approaches
- FEMA.com. "Basic Disaster Supplies Kit." (June 12, 2012). http://www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit
- FEMA.com. "Build a Kit." (June 12, 2012). http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit
- FEMA.com. "Food." (June 12, 2012). http://www.ready.gov/food
- FEMA.com. "Water." (June 12, 2012). http://www.ready.gov/water
- My Great Home. "What Belongs in an Emergency Kit." (June 12, 2012). http://www.mygreathome.com/safety/severe_weather/emergency_kit.htm
- NOAA.com. "NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards." (June 12, 2012). http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/