Months - a week out
1. Have a plan, and prepare- We start this process at the beginning of Hurricane season each year. Make sure you have thought about under what conditions you would evacuate (this decision will be made for you if you are in certain areas). Know where you would go, what route you would take. If you have animals make plans for them. Make sure that you have pictures of your house and belongings and have your insurance documents within easy reach in case they are needed.
A week-3 days out
To do- 1) Do things like clean out your fridge (once power is out, those green moldy things in the back will get foul fast!!), and catch up on laundry so that if your power is out you aren't left with piles of dirty laundry.
2) If you have a basement where you can wait out the worst, make sure you have comfort measures like folding chairs, water and canned goods there along with flashlights, and a battery powered radio.
3) Keep things like cell phones, laptops, camera batteries (you might need to record damage) and for me, my Kindle fully charged.
4) Make sure storm drains are clean and any backyard furniture and other outdoor items are either secured or moved inside.
5) Keep your cars fully gassed, as gas will become scarcer as evacuations begin
6) If your home is two stories, make plans to stay downstairs during the storm to keep you safe from falling trees. If you are in an apartment above the first floor with large trees around, identify a place to go during the storm. Make friends with first floor neighbors or move to family or friends where you are safer- I am emphasizing this because some of the tragic fatalities during Hurricane Irene, including a young boy, was from trees falling on second floor apartments.
8) Freeze bottles of water- great to use in the cooler to keep things cold, and it is nice to have cold waters when you are working on clean-up
To get - Canned foods that you can eat without heating up, shelf stable milk, water, peanut butter, crackers and bread. Make sure you have a manual can opener, or else you will end up both hungry and frustrated. If you have a gas cooktop on your stove, make sure you have matches, since your electronic ignition will not work, but the burners will.Garden or leather gloves will help with the subsequent cleanup, and keep you from being exposed to poison ivy or splinters.
Once the storm has passed:
- If you have a charcoal or gas grill and would use that as a cooking tool during a power outage, make sure you have charcoal and/or gas. If you are a camper, your campstove with propane is great for power-free cooking, but it must be used outdoors.
- If you have a generator, make sure that you use it correctly and in a well-ventilated area. Also use outdoor-rated extension cords and use a surge protector between the generator power and any electronics that you plug in to minimize chances for power surge damage.
- Post-storm is a great time to coordinate with neighbors- After Isabel- we had a gas cooktop that our neighbors could use to perk coffee, and one of our neighbors had a gas water heater that we could use to take a shower. Since we had a freezer and a generator, we held meat for friends and neighbors to minimize losses. We took turns making ice runs so we didn't add to the lines, to spread out the work, and conserve precious gasoline. We also did some of the most amazing communal meals. Our house was a magnet since we had a generator and a gas cooktop.We ran our generator only from about 4PM to 10PM, so people brought food that needed to be cooked, we fired up grills and the stove, and caught up on the news.