In the midst of hurricane Fiona, I wanted to share some lessons about hurricane preparedness that I learned back when Hurricane Igor hit back in 2010 when my first daughter was just a toddler and I was pregnant with my second.
About a week before Igor made landfall we sat there making decisions that I’m sure many of you reading this now are trying to make. “Should we evacuate?” “Where will we go?” “How will we get there?” “What if….”
That was probably the hardest decision we’ve ever had to make, should we stay or should we go. I was ready to pack up and leave because I had a feeling it was going to be bad, but we stayed because my husband was traveling for work and I didn’t want to pack up my daughter and our belongings and leave him home when he got back from his trip.
If you wait too long to leave, you may get stranded on the way out of town which will most likely become jammed. Or you’ll run out of gas along the way because all the stations have run empty.
Seriously, the anxiety behind making that decision to stay or go was the hardest part. IF YOU DECIDE TO LEAVE, LEAVE EARLY! Especially if you’re traveling with babies, toddlers, or small children. Just imagine a seven-hour trip with children that turns into fourteen hours!
We ended up evacuating the day before the storm hit, which caused its own set of problems. Last minute scrambling to make sure our dog was well protected and to make sure that everything we couldn’t take with us was protected inside the house. We only had a few hours once we had changed our plans so the preparations were a very stressful, especially when you feel nautious the whole time.
Things we weren’t prepared for:
- Coming home after the storm. Seeing the damage on the way home was heartbreaking, even though we ourselves were relatively lucky.
- Losing food. Since we weren’t here to move things to coolers and/or eat the food we had stocked up on, we ended up losing all our hurricane food and all of the food in the fridge when we lost power. Since it sat for more than 48 hours without power we didn’t want to risk cooking up food on the grill.
- The fridge leaking as it defrosted. You may want to put towels down before you leave just in case.
- Being without power for nearly a week. We couldn’t charge our devices unless we went out to the car; or unless we visited neighbors and borrowed power from their generators.
- Grocery stores being without many staples. Many didn’t get restocked for about a week.
- Gas stations being without gas for about two weeks.
I honestly think that week after the storm was worse for us because we did evacuate, but only because we were lucky enough not to have been hit hard.
Either way, we were extremely blessed to have such wonderful neighbors and friends.
As the power came back on in different parts of our town our friends shared their generators with us. Friends with power would invite friends and neighbors to their homes to cool down and charge up. It was a really wonderful time to see people connecting with one another and being so helpful. By the time we came home two days later our yard had already been cleaned up by our neighbors.
We were incredibly thankful that we didn’t have any damage to our property; no flooding, no roof damage, just some minor debris to clean up.
Events to Be Prepared for During a Hurricane
Things that you may want to be prepared for include:
- Loss of power for days (or weeks in some cases)
- Loss of water
- Wind damage and water intrusion
- No gas at the gas stations
- No food at the grocery stores
Steps to Prepare Yourself and Your Young Family for an Oncoming Hurricane
If you decide to stay and ride out the storm here are some tips that may help you prepare. These tips are tips above and beyond what many emergency organizations provide you. For a full list of tips be sure to visit https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes which includes tips on prepping your home structure for a storm.
Food Loss and Storage Preparation
- Put any frozen breast milk in quart bags, submerge the bags in water, and freeze. This double-freezing method will take days to thaw and will help protect your freezer stash.
- If you’re using bottles, sanitize everything you need to early. Have them gathered together in case you need to grab and go.
- If you’re toddler or little drinks cows milk, have several containers of shelf-stable milk or powdered milk. If your little is the only one who drinks milk then you might want to get several of the small single-serving bottles so you can open them as needed and avoid spoiling a large bottle.
- Make sure you have food that you can cook on a grill or eat without cooking.
- Fill your propane tanks. You can heat soup cans, boil water, make coffee, and do other stuff besides just grilling meat. Get an extra, if possible.
- Drop the temperatures in your fridges in advance to give you a little extra time.
- Empty your ice cubes into bags or containers and make up extra ice.
- A neat trick to determine your food safety is to freeze a cup of water, and place a coin on top after it is frozen. Keep this cup/coin in your freezer to help you gauge the temperature if the power goes out. If the coin stays on top, the food is staying frozen. If the coin falls into the water, the freezer thawed out and most food will likely need to be thrown away. This is super helpful if you have to leave and come back, as it may appear everything is still frozen, but if the coin is in the cup–you will know!
- Stock up on pet food and fill up bowls of water for pets.
Potable Water Loss Preparation
- If you’re using cloth diapers, wash your cloth diapers the day before the storm. Flats, kitchen towels, flour sack towels, and t-shirts can all work as diapers if needed and wipe-clean diaper covers can be reused several times and/or be wiped clean between uses if you are unable to do laundry. Have a small backup stash of disposable diapers just in case! If you can’t wash diapers and run out you’ll have something else for your baby. Save the receipt; you can always return them if unopened.
- Wash all your towels, sheets, and anything you may need before the storm.
- Have a roll of quarters if you need to use a laundromat following the storm.
- Wash all trash cans, big and small, and fill them with water for flushing toilets. Line outdoor trash cans with trash bags, fill them with water and store them in the garage. This will be for your toilets only so you can add bleach to sterilize it.
- Fill old empty water bottles and other containers with water and keep near sinks for washing hands.
- Fill every Tupperware container with water and store it in the freezer. These will help keep food cold longer and serve as a back-up water supply.
- Fill drinking cups with water and cover with cling wrap. Store as many as possible in your fridge. The rest you can store on the counter and use first before any water bottles are opened. Ice is impossible to find after the storm.
- Also if you run out of water tap your hot water heater can have up to 30 gallons stored in there.
- Put water in balloons and store them in the freezer.
- Right before the worst of it hits, Fill every tub and sink with water. Cover the tubs with cling wrap to keep them from collecting dust. Clean water may become scarce so this will be a good backup supply if needed.
- Reserve fridge space for storing tap water and keep the sealed water bottles on the counter.
- Cook any meats in advance and other perishable foods. You can freeze cooked food. Hard boil eggs for snacks on the first day without power.
- Be well hydrated before the storm hits and avoid salty foods that make you dehydrated.
- Shower yourself and bathe your kiddos just before the storm is scheduled to hit.
- Keep baby wipes next to each toilet. Just don’t flush them!
- Run your dishwasher, don’t risk having dirty smelly dishes and you need every container for water! Remember you’ll need clean water for brushing your teeth, bathing, and cleaning your hands.
- Use plastic cups and paper plates. You need water to wash dishes.
- Have an activity box full of crayons, coloring books, games, and books for your younger children. Family game days will help pass the time if they are old enough to play board games.
- Charge any ipads or old phones and download movies or games for your little ones. With scary bad weather and no lights, a little distracting screen time may save your sanity and help keep the fears away too.
Long-term Power Outage Preparation
- Toss out any expiring food, clean any cat litter boxes, and empty all trash cans in the house, including bathrooms. If you don’t have a trash day pickup before the storm, find a dumpster.
- Clean your environment so you have clear, easy escape routes. Even if that means temporarily moving furniture to one area.
- Scrub all bathrooms so you are starting with a clean odor free environment. Store water-filled trash cans or buckets next to each toilet for flushing.
- Gather all candles, flashlights, lighters, matches, batteries, and other items and keep them accessible.
- Charge any device that provides light well in advance. Laptops, tablets, cameras, video cameras, etc.. Charge external battery back ups. But, just before the hurricane hits, unplug all your electronics. There may be power surges during and after the storm.
- Clean all counters in advance. Start with a clean surface. Buy Clorox Wipes for cleaning when there is no power. Mop your floors and vacuum. If power is out for 10 days, you’ll have to live in the mess you started with.
- Get out those glow sticks, as they also provide light for a few hours. Stand them upright in a glass or jar to make a lantern.
- If you live in a hot climate, drop the ac before the storm because that cool air may be a comodity later on. Grab any fans and such from your storage too.
Preparing for Flooding and Hurricane Property Damage
- Place anything that you want to try and preserve, but can’t take with you, into a plastic bin, put it in your dishwasher, and lock the door. This should make it water-tight in case of any water intrusion into your home. But of course, take all the important/irreplaceable items you can!
- If you can, take a video of your house and contents. Walk room to room–open and open your cabinets, drawers and closets. This will help if you need to make an insurance claim later. It will show proof of items and help you list all the items (help your memory, so you don’t forget anything).
- Bring in any yard decor and kids’ toys, secure anything that will fly around, secure gates, bring in hoses, potted plants, etc. Bring in patio furniture and grills.
Prepare for the Worst
- Pick your emergency safe place such as a closet under the stairs. Store the items you’ll need in that location for the brunt of the storm.
- Refill any medications. Most insurance companies allow for two emergency refills per year.
- Check on all family members, set up emergency backup plans, and check on elderly neighbors.
If you might need to evacuate at the last minute, as I did, here are a few things to do:
- Get cash out of the bank in smaller bills and coins.
- Fill your gas tank and have a spare gas container for your generator or your car when you run out.
- Place everything you own that is important and necessary in a backpack or small file box that is easy to grab. Include your wallet with your ID, phone, hand sanitizer, snacks, etc. Get plastic sleeves for important documents.
- If you’ve got two cars, move one to another area. It’s hard to predict which areas will flood, where a tree will fall, etc. so having them split up means you’re less likely to get stuck if something happens.
- Remember, pets are family too. Take them with you!
Staying-Put Emergency Preparation
If you’re planning on staying put no matter what, it’s a good idea to have a few extra items on hand in case of severe life-threatening flooding. Including:
- Gather up life vests (including for your baby, and even pets if you’ve got them), a baby carrier, so you can put your smaller baby on your chest or back if you need both hands free to climb anything, ropes and a backback full of water and emergency food. Place it in the last room you will take refuge in before an emergency.
- Place an axe or sledge hammer in the upper level of your home, in case your ground level floods and you need to break through the top level(s) of your home to escape
- Charge any old phones you may have and keep them in this location as well. Old cell phones can still be used for dialing 911 and you’re less likely to drain these during the storm.
I hope these tips help you and your family out in the event of a hurricane.