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Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Hurricanes and Natural Disasters

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Hurricanes and other weather related emergencies cause stress and worry, often resulting in disorganized emergency preparation. This emergency preparedness checklist comes from “boots on the ground” hurricane survivors.

While some of these emergency supplies will carry you through the storm, a bigger concern is often the time after a hurricane or natural disaster. When the power’s out. When the gas stations are out of fuel. If the supermarket shelves are bare and supply trucks and barges can’t get through.

flooded picnic tables

Having an emergency preparedness checklist can help you make sure you’ve covered all the possible scenarios. 

Remember: The things you need after the storm will likely be unavailable after the storm.

Emergency plans

  • Make emergency plans with your family. If you’re not all together for the storm, where should you go? How will you connect after the storm?
  • Determine evacuation routes and know the location of local shelters. Consider how your route will need to vary if flooding occurs.
  • Have an emergency kit or “bug out bag” ready in case you need to evacuate.
Tip: It’s a good idea to designate a family member or friend who is NOT in the emergency zone as a contact. You might not be able to reach family in other devastated areas, but calling (or texting) outside of the area may be possible.

Emergency preparedness checklist

Water: One gallon per person per day. This includes water used for hygiene purposes. Fill recycled bottles, canning jars, or water coolers with water from the tap while it’s still flowing. There’s no need to buy water bottles if you’ve got a sufficient number of water vessels to fill. Fill the bathtub, top-load washer, and five gallon buckets with water to use for flushing the toilet and personal hygiene.

Ice: If you have room in your freezer, pack it with recycled bottles and freezer containers full of water. This will help keep items cold for longer, plus once thawed, you’ll have more potable water to drink.

Tip: If you need to evacuate, set a coin on top of frozen ice in one of the containers. If the power goes out and the items in the freezer thaw, then refreeze when power is restored, you’ll know, as the coin will have fallen to the bottom of the container. Discard food that’s been thawed and refrozen.
home canned salsa - items for emergency preparedness checklist

Food: Have a two-week supply of non-perishable food items on hand. Ready-to-eat options like canned meats, beans, soup, and fruit make sense. Peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, and granola are good options, too. In case of long-term power outages, it’s a good idea to have some dry bulk foods on hand as well. (You’ll need water to prepare these.)

Can opener: A hand-operated can opener is imperative.

Plans for cooking food: You should have plenty of ready-to-eat food on hand, but a warm meal (even if it’s canned chili) will be appreciated and add a sense of normalcy to a tough situation. This could be a propane stove, a barbecue, or a DIY rocket stove.

black coffee in an orange tin cup

Coffee: If you count on your morning cup as much as I do, make sure you have a way to prepare coffee without electricity! Your drip machine is not going to work.

Important documents: Passports, insurance papers, medical information, deeds, etc.

Contact information: Write down contact information for family; our phones’ address book has made the need to remember numbers obsolete. If you run out of charge, you’ll need to know how to reach people.

Tip: Before the storm, take pictures of the outside and inside of your home. This will come in handy if you need to make an insurance claim.

Light: A solar lantern will provide light at night, without the need for batteries. A headlamp is good for hands-free after-hour chores.

Zip top bags: Yes, I like to avoid unnecessary plastic, but add these to your emergency preparedness checklist. (I have to hide them, otherwise my husband will fall back on old lunch-packing habits!) Use these to waterproof devices or important papers. It’s a good idea to double or triple layer the weather protection; a single layer might leak.

Batteries: Take stock of the emergency equipment you have and make sure you have batteries to keep those running.

batteries on a brown countertopCash: Have cash on hand in small denominations. Stores may not be prepared to make change, and the ATM won’t work if the power is out.

Tip: Check your yard (and your neighbor’s yard!) for loose items that could become dangerous projectiles in high wind conditions.

Fuel: Fill up your vehicles, as well as any gas cans you have. You’ll be able to get around if the roads are clear, plus that fuel will keep chainsaws running so you can remove downed limbs.

Sandbags: If you live in a flood-prone area, you may need to try to keep water at bay.

Health and hygiene

Portable toilet: A 5-gallon bucket lined with a trash bag will do in a pinch.

Hygiene products: Wet wipes are a boon to keeping things clean when water is limited. You’ll also want to have toilet paper on hand, though emergency situations are a good time to consider educating yourself about family cloth. Include feminine hygiene products and birth control, too.

Medications: If you or any of your family members take medication, be sure to have a two-week supply on hand.

Mosquito repellent: Standing water after a storm will increase the mosquito population if the weather is warm. If your home is damaged, you might not be able to keep them out. Mosquito repellent will help keep them at bay.

First Aid: A simple first aid kit with bandages and aspirin is mandatory. A more fully-equipped first aid kid is preferable.

three plastic spoons with baby food

Emergency preparedness checklist for children

Diapers: If you use disposable diapers on your babe, you’ll want to pick up at least a few extra packages. You should also think about getting some diaper pins. If you run out of disposables, you’ll need a way to secure makeshift cloth diapers in place. (Old kitchen towels and t-shirts can be pressed into service as cloth “diapers” as long as you’ve got pins to secure them.)

Diaper liners: These allow you to lift away and flush big messes, leaving you with a diaper that’s easier to clean without using a lot of precious water.

Baby food: Stock up on potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, apples, and carrots. These items will keep for weeks (or months) without refrigeration and can be easily transformed into “baby food.” Simply peel and cook until they’re very soft, then mash with a fork.

Entertainment: Kids will be antsy, both during the storm and in the days after. Gather some favorite books and games along with a simple deck of cards to keep them occupied.

Bug out bag for babies: If you need to leave home, having a ready-packed bag will help you do so quickly.

woman in jeans and black rubber boots, walking through muddy water - text: emergency preparedness

Emergency plans for your pets and livestock

Food: Just as with humans, make sure you have a two-week supply of food on hand for your animals.

Tip: Opt for whole grain feed for livestock during storm recovery. Crumbles and pellets will just dissolve in wet weather.

Pet carriers: Animals get scared in storms. Have a way to contain them safely for evacuation or to prevent them from bolting.

Medications: If your pets require medication, be sure to have a two-week supply on hand.

Bug out bag for pets: Gather together what you need for your four-legged family members so you can leave in a hurry if need be.

chainsaw on a concrete bench

Emergency preparedness checklist: Gear and equipment to keep on hand

Shelter: A tent and sleeping bag will come in handy if your home becomes too damaged to safely remain.

Tarps: To protect damaged roofs or provide protection from the weather.

Rope: To secure tarps and other items that may come loose in high winds.

Tools: Hammers, screwdrivers, nails, screws.

Chainsaw and fuel: Roads can be blocked by downed trees. If you’ve got a functional chain saw, you can help clear the way instead of waiting for the road crew to show up.

Power pack: An extra power pack will help keep your devices running for an extended period of time.

Tip: When you get news of an impending hurricane or weather disaster, gather all of your devices — cell phones, tablets, e-readers — and make sure they’re fully charged.

Radio: Opt for a solar, battery, or wind-up option to stay in the loop when the power is out.

Generator: Not an essential, but you’ll be extremely happy to have it if you’re without power for more than a few days. Do not run generators inside as this can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

5 comments… add one
  • Sonia (foodiesleuth) Aug 26, 2014, 7:50 am

    Kris…I wish I could give this post and my own Be Prepared! document to all of our friends, neighbors and island ohana…You covered something in your list I had not even considered in my document…diapers!

    Well done!

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 26, 2014, 8:42 am

      😉

  • Mel Aug 26, 2014, 8:38 am

    I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast and we are accustomed to preparing for hurricanes.  You’ve hit upon most of the items that we try to keep on hand, but you’ve missed a few.  

    1.  Canned Foods, and a manual can opener,  Not everyone has the skills or supplies to home can.  Having a ready supply of food to last you and your family is essential when you don’t have power, and is a lot easier than trying to cook on a camp stove.  Convenience always won out for me because I was having to devote time that I normally would spend in meal preparation to debris clean up.  I always tried to keep enough a week or more on hand during hurricane season in case of extended utility outages.
    2.  Pet Food and extra water.  Don’t forget about Fluffy and Fido and your livestock’s needs if you have any.
    3.  Battery, solar, or wind up radio.  To keep yourself apprised of what is going on around you.
    4.  Medications. Make sure that you have a couple of weeks worth of any necessary medications.  Also you need to make sure they are either shelf stable at typical outdoor temperatures for your climate, or have a way to keep them cool, otherwise they will degrade.
    5.  First-Aid Kit, complete and with unexpired components.  Accidents happen, especially when it is hot outside and you’re cleaning up debris.  Enough said.
    6.  Tools.  I’m not just talking about chainsaws.  I’m talking about hammers, nails, screwdrivers, hacksaws, and other manual tools because they aren’t run with gas, and you might not have power.
    7.  Generator.  Not an essential, but you’ll be extremely happy to have it if you’re without power for more than a few days.  A packed freezer will only stay cold for so long.
    8.  Plywood.  Enough sheets to cover every window of your house.  Source these at the beginning of hurricane season, before there are any storms on the horizon.  They become a scarce commodity when there is any threat.  If you’re lucky enough to find some be prepared to pay a pretty penny for them.
    9.  Entertainment that does not require power or batteries, especially for the little ones.  They can only help so much, and keeping them occupied and out of trouble is essential.  
    There is a lot more that I’m not mentioning, but I recommend checking out  https://www.ready.gov/kit   They are a good place to start, and don’t be afraid to add a few things to the list to fit your personal situation.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 26, 2014, 8:42 am

      Excellent. Yes, I wasn’t aiming for a complete list here so I absolutely missed things. My intent was to address the items that are being requested by people after the fact. Thanks for adding these ideas!

  • Leonard A Antonelli Apr 21, 2020, 2:56 pm

    would like to how you build brick rocket fire cooker

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