South Florida Hurricane Preparation

The following is the recommended hurricane preparation kitaccording to the National Hurricane Center. I've added my own comments to the items that I found useful or useless.

The NHC's Hurricane Preparation Kit:

Water - at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. But on day 1 -- that's a single day after Hurricane Wilma disrupted our utilities -- we saw people scooping water out of the swimming pool. Our Oakland Park condo overlooks the swimming pool so we had a great view from our balcony of the folks who'd gone unprepared. We also stock a one-liter bottle of plain bleach -- sodium hypochlorite -- in case we need to disinfect water from the lake.

Food - at least enough for 3 to 7 days— non-perishable packaged or canned
food / juices— foods for infants or the elderly— snack foods— non-electric can opener— cooking tools / fuel— paper plates / plastic utensils
We cracked open the fridge and started cooking up everything we could. I started a fire of deadfall branches on the balcony (thanks Kendra and Andre for the Hibachi!) and Mer started prepping dishes. I've rarely eaten as well as I did on Days 1 and 2 after the hurricane.

If you don't have a mechanical can opener, you'll be making friends with a pair of tin snips or -- worst case scenario -- a plain kitchen knife and a hammer.

Blankets / Pillows, etc.
Who doesn't have blankets and pillows? You'll need to take some with you if you need to evacuate, though -- shelters don't stock creature comforts. Or creatures, either, for that matter.

Clothing - seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes
You don't really need this unless you plan on leaving your house. If you leave before the hurricane, you don't need it. If you leave once the hurricane's started, then you're in serious trouble and probably shouldn't spend a lot of time considering your footwear options.

First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
Disinfectants for minor cuts and scratches. Any prescription drugs of the tranquilizer/painkiller variety highly recommended.

Special Items - for babies and the elderly
Is this a euphemism for "diapers"? Since when did "diapers" become a dirty word?

Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes
Moisture wipes are a lifesaver when you can't shower. On about day 4, you get pretty rank. I wore the same pair of pants for five straight days and I started to smell like my Uncle Dale, who lives in the woods and only eats things he's killed himself.

Flashlight / Batteries
Yes -- also look into those eternal flashlights that you shake to charge up. They're supposed to last forever. Extra batteries are a very good idea so you can run your GameBoy/Ipod/radio/portable TV/electronic entertainment and feel soothed by its LED glow.

Radio - Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
Any radio will do. There's no reason to lay out major bucks on the crank-powered Grundig, unless you're still expecting the Russkies to nuke us.

Telephones - Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set
All the cell towers around us were levelled, so our phones were only handy to open up for a nice soothing light source. A traditional phone handset is super cheap (around $10 new) and EXTREMELY HANDY for when the phone lines come back up but electricity's still down. Get one.

Cash (with some small bills) and Credit Cards - Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods
Cash is absolutely vital. Gas stations aren't going to take your check or credit card -- not when there are 250 people in line behind you with fistsful of twenties. Get a couple hundred bucks if you can afford it -- $50 minimum. Enough to get out of town and to your nearest friend who lives outside of the affected area.

If you forget your keys, you're probably too dumb to be reading this, anyway.

Toys, Books and Games
Otherwise, you'll probably go crazy. I read Caleb Carr's Angel of Darkness and though I think his work is uniformly awful, this book was quite good. And it was long enough that it absorbed me for all the daylight hours of about 6 consecutive days.

Important documents - in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag— insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.
Know where this bag is so you can grab it in case you have to run out the door.

Tools - keep a set with you during the storm
Among these tools, a firearm and ammunition would be a very, very good idea.

Vehicle fuel tanks filled
But if you run to the gas station after work on the day the impending hurricane is announced, you're in for a LONG wait. Try going around midnight that night, or even later, if you can. But get at least half a tank of gas in the car. Also, a 5-gallon gas can that you can fill and store is recommended. That way, if things go south and you need to bug out ASAP, you can just throw the gas can in the car along with your cash, documents, and "tools" and drive north until you see streetlights shining.

Pet care items— proper identification / immunization records / medications— ample supply of food and water— a carrier or cage— muzzle and leash
Remember that shelters will not accept animals! You have three choices: stick it out and keep Fluffy with you. Drop Fluffy off with a friend or take her with you when you bug out. Or, leave Fluffy to fend for herself when you run to the shelter. If you choose the latter, I hope Fluffy bites you.