Everything I learned during Hurricane Harvey turned into a Hurricane Prep List to help you get ready for any big storms
I hope this Hurricane Prep List helps you get ready for any hurricane and big rain or snow storm. If you think you’ll be losing power for long periods, stuck in your home for a few days, or even just unable to get to grocery stores and gas stations; this list will help you get ready.
I wanted to share these tips and a hurricane prep list with as many people as possible after going through the craziness and unpredictability of Hurricane Harvey. You can read a little about our Harvey story and see the pictures on my Cleaning Up Flood Damage post.
Please Note: Some of these tips may be specific to the United States. Be sure to follow the tips in your country over these. 🙂
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First, I want to say these are recommendations for emergency situations. They will not match up with some diets or eco-friendly habits. Sometimes you have to make more garbage than you’d like, use more batteries, or feed the kids sugar. But, this is an emergency. Life can return to normal after you get through this. 🙂
Hurricane Prep List: General Safety First
- If you have been ordered to evacuate, please do so as soon as possible. Safety is the priority. This list is just for times when you can safely stay home and ride out a storm.
- Learn and go over your evacuation route with your family.
- Locate the nearest shelters, just in case. Also, make sure they’re pet-friendly if you’ll be taking a furry friend. Only return home once the officials say it is safe.
Flooded Road and Building Safety
- Never drive through water. It can be a lot deeper than it looks and flowing water can sweep cars away.
- Never drive on washed out roads or bridges.
- Silt and mud from flooding can be hiding broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Try not to drive on it.
- Only walk on silt and mud in safety boots. My husband was wearing thick rubber boots in home clean up and still got a nail through his foot.
- Following that, beware of skin infections and flesh-eating bacteria after entering deep rain water and flooding. The infection can easily enter through cuts and even small bug bites. Read these symptoms for flesh-eating bacteria from WebMD. If you have swelling it can be life threatening and can quickly turn into sepsis. Please, be careful and pay attention to wounds.
- Stay out of buildings with water in them. Electric shock and gas leaks are a risk.
- Also, stay away from down and loose power lines.
- Inspect homes for structural damage before entering.
- See my guidelines for Cleaning Up Flood Damage for more tips and details on safety.
Additional Safety Notes
- Don’t use tap water for washing, drinking, or food prep until you know it is safe.
- Throw out any spoiled food or food that has been in flooding. Plastic containers cannot safely seal flood water out.
- Watch animals closely. Make sure they follow all of these guidelines too.
- Listen to NOAA Radio for weather emergency information. We have this highly recommended NOAA emergency radio with phone charger. It can be operated on solar power and by hand cranking. But that doesn’t last very long. It runs for a couple days on the batteries though. So, buy batteries to be safe.
- Just in case you lose internet service and/or power on your phone, have a printed map of the evacuation area.
Hurricane Prep List: Stocking up on Food, Water, and Supplies
- You really can’t believe how quickly you go through water. You’ll need water for food prep, cooking, toilets (if you have well water), hand washing, dish washing, and bathing. 1 Gallon of water per person per day is the rule.
- If you need to have water to flush toilets, the tank will need between 3 and 7 gallons per flush. So try to only flush when necessary, if you know what I mean.
- Buy baby or hand wipes to use as hand cleaners to preserve water. And, frankly, you may need them if you can’t shower too.
- Use paper cups, dishes, napkins, and plastic ware as much as possible when the power is out. Washing dishes takes too much water.
Babies, Pets, Sick, Elderly, Disabled
- Think about babies, elderly, sick family, and disabled in your care. Is it better to evacuate early, when you can do so safely and easily? Hurricane Harvey was an unusual situation, but it shows that you never know what might happen. Homes that were never thought to be at flood risk were flooded. And families were evacuated from their homes by boat.
- Grab diapers, wipes, formula, food, and anything else you might need for a happy baby. Get 4 weeks worth. Getting to stores may be rough during and after a disaster.
- Any necessary pet supplies for a few weeks. Carrier, leash, food, medicine…
- Insect Repellent. The mosquito’s get pretty bad a few days or so after the storm passes.
- Medicine! Get at least enough for the next month. You don’t want to be without. I even stocked up on kids OTC stuff, just in case. During bad disasters, the pharmacies will have a hard time reopening. My husband had to go out and buy diabetes supplies for an evacuee shelter that ran out. They couldn’t get the supplies for a few days because the pharmacies weren’t open. Plan ahead.
- Anything that can just be eaten or heated and eaten, is best. Something that just needs water, is second best. Items that require ingredients that are refrigerated should be skipped, unless you have the fridge on a generator. Here are some ideas:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables (think about how you’ll cook certain vegetables though)
- Instant Coffee, Cappuccino, or tea that doesn’t require milk.
- Large Gatorade bottles
- Dried Fruits and meats
- Canned items like chili, soup, tuna, chicken, vegetables and fruits. Make sure you have a hand-operated can opener.
- Peanut or other nut butters
- Keep spirits up and kids happy with pudding, cookies, fruit chews, and other items that are ready to eat.
- Cereal, oatmeal, bread, grits…breakfast items you can eat without milk.
- Dry Milk, if you really need milk, you can always mix it.
- Pasta and Pasta Sauces
- Some mashed Potato and Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese Boxes only require water.
- Cooking indoors can get tricky, if you lose power.
- If you have gas, you can use your stove to heat food.
- Your fireplace may also be used to heat food, if you can do so safely. This one, I would use caution with.
- Some camping equipment and MRE’s can heat up food through a safe chemical reaction.
- Butane stoves, generally used for camping, are lightweight and generally can be used indoors.
- Propane stoves, also common for camping. Many of these CANNOT be used indoors because they leak dangerous gases and fumes. Be sure to follow all safety requirements for whatever you buy.
- Outdoor gas or charcoal grills, again, for outdoor use only.
- Have rain gear ready for the family; coats, boots, hats, etc.
- Batteries, batteries, batteries. These are critical for lights, radios, phones, etc. Those big ‘D’ batteries sell out first, when preparing for a hurricane. Keeping them on hand is always a good idea.
- A small fire extinguisher.
- Enough cash to buy items while power and electricity might be out.
- CNN’s hurricane checklist recommends these items in a first aid kit: latex gloves; sterile dressings; soap/cleaning agent; antibiotic ointment; burn ointment; adhesive bandages in small, medium and large sizes; eye wash; a thermometer; aspirin/pain reliever; anti-diarrhea tablets; antacids; laxatives; small scissors; tweezers; petroleum jelly.
- Do you need a homemade AC?? Luckily, Harvey brought cooler air for us. Low 80’s during the day and about 70 at night meant we could sleep, barely. But, if you know it will get hot and you won’t have power these DIY AC’s might be a solution for keeping one room cool enough for sleep. We ordered battery operated fans to make one for the next hurricane and possible camping trips.
- Buy and hook up a generator, if possible. Get enough fuel to last a few days too. Just hook up the bare minimum to extend the fuel supply. Maybe just the refrigerator, water well pump (if applicable), 1 AC Unit and lights and power in one room.
Hurricane Prep List: Prepare the Outside of your House
- Clean the gutters. The 22-foot high gutters around our chimney have been unreachable for years. We should have rented equipment to reach it. The blockage and high winds teamed up to blow the sheet of rain water that couldn’t get into the gutters up and into our attic vents. This leak damaged the ceiling drywall. Luckily, ours isn’t permanent or large, but it could have been worse.
- Clear any grass and materials away from pop-up drains.
- Clear mulch and dirt away from the foundation. Building codes vary in each area. But I would have at least 4 – 6 inches clear below the weep holes in brick or any type of siding.
- Make sure that the ground slopes away from the home. After years of plant debris build up and adding mulch, a slope causing drainage towards your house can build up in flower beds or yards. Grab a rake or shovel and slope that soil away from the home, or at least flatten it.
- Caulk any questionable spots on windows and doors. Use towels under inside of doors if the wind is able to blow water under it.
- If you are close enough to the coast, boarding up is also necessary. Hurricane shutters or 5/8″ plywood should be used.
- Board up or reinforce the garage door too. You don’t want it blowing open.
- Take all of your yard furniture, pots, toys, etc. inside the garage or to another secure place. Large items that can’t be carried, should be tied or weighted down.
- Turn off propane tanks, if evacuating, or when flooding.
- Charge all batteries for hand held tools, like your saws and drill. Take that saw into the attic, if you absolutely have to go in there.
Hurricane Prep List: Prepare the Inside of your House
- Fill the bathtubs with water. This will give you water for flushing the toilet and some washing.
- Keep 1 days worth of water, food, an emergency radio, light, and blankets in your safest spot during a Tornado.
- Your cell phone(s) will be very important. You’ll typically be able to make calls and check the internet for info, as needed. Cell service usually keeps working, even if power goes out. So, get back up phone chargers to last a few days. Try to save those batteries and stretch them out. This USB charger works for phones and other USB devices.
- Emergency Radios are awesome. Having music or news when you’ve lost power is incredibly helpful at providing info and a bit of entertainment. Most emergency radios include lights and sometimes cell chargers too. Be sure to stock up on batteries.
- LED lanterns with Lumens of 500 or higher are great for lighting up dark rooms. Some of these can be phone chargers too.
- Turn the fridge and freezer to it’s coldest setting, in case you lose power. This will help the food stay cold longer.
- Freeze water in plastic containers. You can use these ice blocks to help keep the fridge and freezer cold for some extra time, if power goes out. That water can be used for cooking and drinking once it melts.
- Pack important documents and papers in a watertight container.
- Photograph all household belongings. Get a picture of all appliances, electronics, artwork, furniture, etc. You’ll want proof for any necessary insurance claims and it will help you make an inventory, if necessary.
- Wash all of your clothing. It may be a week or more without laundry, in the worst case scenario. You’ll want clean laundry ready for long power outage or evacuation.
- Pack an evacuation bag with clothing, food, and drink for everyone. Keep medicine and important documents ready to go too.
Hurricane Prep List: During the Storm Tips
- Do not, I repeat, do not shelter in your attic. No one will know you are there. And rescue workers will have a very hard time getting you out. They recommend going on your roof so that rescuers can see you. If you do have to go to the attic, take an ax or battery operated saw so that you can cut an escape route out.
- Keep phones plugged in as much as possible during a power outage. Our power went on and off quiet a bit. Making sure the device is plugged in helps you get any charging possible while the power is on.
- A running car can also be used, with the right cables and adapters, to charge your phone. Make sure to run the car outside, not in a garage.
- Washing dishes uses precious water. I recommend using one pan or kettle for just heating water. Then cook, when necessary, in another pan. And, if water is an issue, wipe pans and pots clean with paper towels, when possible.
- My super cheap grandpa saved water by keeping a sink full of soapy water all day. If you need to wash, just dip your hands in, scrub them together, then dry off. This works great when you have to conserve water too. Get off grease and grime with towels or wipes first, to make that water last longer.
- Keep yourself and the kids busy. Turn on the radio to fill the room with normal sounds. Read books, do puzzles, color, craft, sew, knit, clean, organize. Plan to be bored and figure out what your family would like to do in that time. Some friends with power did a lot of baking to stay busy with the kids during the 3 days of rain. I actually finished building and painting a table on our worst day with Hurricane Harvey. And, I had so much time, I also organized our messy office and kids toys. You can actually get a lot done without power.
- Look up a few times a day, at least. Walk the house and check the ceiling of each room and closet for water damage. Check the windows and doors too. Hard winds can blow water under doors. Water was even blown into our closed garage.
- Look down too. Check baseboards for changes. Almost a week after Harvey ended, I noticed a baseboard under a window had a new 3′ long crack in the caulk. The next day the laminate hardwood floor looked wet and bubbly. That’s how long it took for water damage to show up. The rain water entered through a weep hole that didn’t have enough clearance. So, keep an eye out for changes.
- Never leave candles burning. Stay safe when you use them. Keep them away from kids, pets, and flammable items. Never fall asleep with candles still lit. Only use lanterns or flashlights while sleeping.
Hurricane Prep List: If you Evacuate
- Unplug appliances and electronics. If possible, turn off gas, water, and electric all together.
- Take important documents and sentimental items, if possible.
- Take enough food, drink, and gas for an extra long travel time. Last minute evacuations can take 5 times longer than normal.
Hurricane Prep List: Checking your House After the Storm
If you have Flood Damage, read these guidelines for dealing with insurance companies, safely cleaning the damage, and how to salvage your belongings (including photos, furniture, and clothes).
For additional info and resources, check this Red Cross Hurricane Guide.
Please comment below if you think I should add additional info from reliable state and federal sources to this post. I can’t cover everything here, but may add valuable info, as needed.
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