Hurricane season is right around the corner and that means it’s time to think about preparing for the possibility of being unable to get power from your electric company for a while. Here are three simple steps for making sure you can deal with a power outage — before the lights go out.
1. Create a Disaster Supply Kit
The first thing you should do to prepare for being without power during a hurricane is create a disaster supply kit. You can keep it in your garage or somewhere near your car in case you have to evacuate. Make a list of the following items and then cross them off as you add them to your kit:
- Water — At least one gallon of bottled drinking water per day per person, for seven days. For a family of four, that’s 28 gallons.
- Food — You need to buy enough non-perishable foods (canned foods, juices, snacks) to last for seven days. Make sure to include foods for infants and the elderly; a non-electric can opener; cooking tools and fuel, including plastic utensils, paper plates and bowls; and if you’re ambitious, a stove for cooking.
- Medicine — Make sure you have a first aid kit, an ample supply of any prescription medications, some extra bandages and antibiotic spray or ointment.
- Papers — Gather copies of important documents — things like driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, insurance papers, proof of residence, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates — and seal them safe inside a waterproof container, like a Ziploc bag or waterproof safe. Include road maps of the city and state you live in, as well as a map that includes surrounding states.
- Hygiene — Get a large Ziploc bag and fill it with toiletries, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, moist wipes, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, razor and shaving gel or electric razor, feminine hygiene supplies and anything else you may need to keep clean.
- Flashlights, Candles, Matches and Extra Batteries — Include a couple of high-power flashlights in your disaster supply kit, along with some candles that you can burn at night in order to save batteries. Make sure you have extra matches for the candles and extra batteries for the flashlights.
- Cell Phones and Radio — Keep your cell phone charged and buy an extra battery and charge it too, just in case. Also, buy a battery-operated radio and keep it and several extra batteries in your kit.
- Tools — Make sure you have a good travel-size tool set just in case you need to fix anything.
- Clothing, Blankets and Pillows — Keep several days’ worth of clothing in your kit, as well as a few blankets and pillows.
- Cash — Consider keeping a couple hundred dollars in your kit so you’ll have it if you need it. When the power goes out, ATMs won’t work.
- Pet Care Items — If you have pets, you need to include identification and immunization papers; food and water for at least seven days; muzzle or leash; carrier or cage; and anything else you might need in case of a power outage or evacuation.
2. Prepare Your Home
Once you’ve completed your disaster supply kit, the next thing you need to do is prepare your home for being without power. Just like you did for your disaster relief kit, make a list of the following tasks and cross them off when you complete them:
- Water — Clean all the bathtubs and sinks in your home and then fill them with water. You’ll be able to use this water for taking sponge baths and for filling toilets for flushing. If you keep the water clean, and don’t bathe directly in it, you could also use it for drinking water if your seven-day supply of bottled water runs out. Consider buying several additional five-gallon containers of water to supplement your bathing and bathroom needs.
- Fuel — Keep your cars’ gas tanks full in case of extended power outages or in case you need to evacuate and need to get on the roadways. Gas will be hard to find in town and far outside of town along evacuation routes as well once a storm hits. Consider filling a few five-gallon fuel tanks and taking them with you to extend the range of your car.
- Refrigerators and Freezers — Turn your refrigerator and freezer thermostats to their coldest settings and keep the doors closed as much as possible.
3. Develop a Plan to Go Where the Power Is
In case your electricity may be out for a while, or you’re instructed to evacuate, make sure you have a place to go — preferably one with power. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make sure your family has a way to contact one another in case you’re separated when a storm strikes and the power goes out.
- Arrange for a place to meet in your neighborhood, or at a family residence or another location further inland, such as a motel, that is more likely to have uninterrupted power.
- Designate an out-of-town family or friend to serve as a point of contact in case it becomes easier to make long distance calls than to call across town.
Ready America (FEMA) website, “Hurricanes.”
National Hurricane Center website, “Hurricane Preparedness: Be Prepared.”