Unfortunately, it is all too common following a hurricane to think of some really great things you wish you had bought… and planned on buying… that are then promptly forgotten until the next hurricane hits. There are a lot of sources out there for guidance on how to prepare for a hurricane; one of the best can be found at ready.gov/hurricanes, which includes several disaster kit recommendations.
But perhaps more important than supplies is a PLAN. Don’t wait until a few days before the storm to get supplies or determine how you want to handle it. Spend some time discussing your options, and create a plan to deviate from as needed. The CDC, Red Cross, and FEMA all have good planning tools on their websites.
Many people have found value in assembling a more “comprehensive” kit that can be tucked away in a closet somewhere in the event power or water is out for an extended period. Done right, this kit will not only give you peace of mind but hopefully eliminate the need to “brave the madness” in the days leading up to a storm. Of course no list is truly comprehensive — your personal situation may dictate other needs than what is listed here. Be wary of companies on eBay or Amazon selling all-in-one kits. Although they seem like the least amount of hassle, many of them are filled with the cheapest possible supplies. Alleviate any feelings of unpreparedness with these essential disaster-prep recommendations:
Potable Water: In addition to bottled water, check out the WaterBOB on Amazon. It’s basically a bag that you place in your tub, fill with water, and then use a filtered pump to get water from it as needed. With a 100-gallon capacity, it can provide sufficient water for a family of four for at least 25 days.
Food: For most, loading up on canned goods from your grocery store is the easiest method. Obviously, eat perishable food from your refrigerator first before moving to canned food. And don’t forget a few old-school can openers! For true peace of mind, consider a small supply of long-term food storage, similar to camping food that is dehydrated, it has a 25-year shelf life and only requires water to prepare.
Multi-Purpose First-Aid Kit: Target and Walmart have larger-sized kits; REI also has some. If you’re an Amazon customer, there is a huge assortment there.
Flashlights: Consider several, at least one for each family member, as well as lantern flashlights, propane lanterns and candles.
Batteries: Consider a mixture of bulk packs of batteries as well as rechargeable batteries and a charger. Consider getting a few portable power banks. Many of these can be recharged with 12v DC (your car) or even small solar panels.
Battery-Powered Radio: Get one that has weather bands as well as weather alerts.
550 Cord or Duct Tape: 550 Cord is a very strong, general-purpose cord that has a million uses, as does duct tape. Useful for tying things together (think French door handles and pool furniture), impromptu repairs, securing loose things, etc.
Personal Hygiene Items: Toilet paper, paper towels, soap, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, etc. One of the biggest health issues following a disaster comes from hygiene issues.
Extra Propane Tanks: Without electricity, you’ll potentially need your grill to cook with. Some generators can also use propane as well as gasoline.
Large Storage Crate or Utility Bin: You need something tough to keep most of these supplies together in; we use the 27-gallon yellow and black one from Costco.
Basic Supplies to Address Leaks: If your house is damaged, either from debris breaking a window or leaks in your roof, purchase several high-quality tarps of various sizes (10×10 and up). Planks (1×2) can be used to secure the tarp with nails and a hammer.
Documentation of Household Goods: If you haven’t done it yet, take your cell phone and video your entire house, with narration. If things get damaged, this video proof is essential to ensure that you get as much consideration from your insurance company.
Hard Copies and PDFs of Important Documents: In addition to hard copies of all your important documents in some form of waterproof container, we also have PDF versions on a memory stick (encrypted) and stored on Google Drive.
Cash: Following a storm, stores may be open but credit card machines and networks may still be down. Make sure to get small bills as well.
Communication: Although cell towers may continue to work, service could be intermittent and towers could be overloaded. If you have neighbors or family in very close range (less than 10 miles), consider GMRS/FRS radios or even portable HAM radios for longer range (available at some sporting goods stores or Amazon).
Portable Generator: An entire article could be written on this! There are so many different options. If you have medicine that needs to be kept refrigerated or have a family member that requires a CPAP machine or oxygen, it is imperative. Smaller generators can power lights, fans, chargers, and perhaps a refrigerator. Powering your HVAC can only be done with a large standby generator. With a portable generator, you would be limited to portable or window ACs or fans.
This list is by no means comprehensive; there are a ton of other things that could be added. These items should cover basic necessities. Make your list, get your supplies and store it someplace safe and hope you never need to use it! Make sure to check it annually and update it as needed. Good luck!
Scott Loudenback is a retired Naval Flight Officer enjoying his second career as a Sales Manager for a large medical company focusing on women’s health. He first moved to Jacksonville in 1995 and is a loving husband to Meredith Loudenback (a JMB Contributor) as well as partner-in-crime to their 8-year-old son, Matthew. After living in London and Boston, they relocated back to Jacksonville in 2010.
An avid hiker and backpacker, Scott completed the Navy’s Survival, Resistance, Evasion and Escape (SERE) training as well as various civilian survival courses. He has had a long interest in disaster preparedness and recently started North Florida Tactical with the goal of educating, consulting, and helping people develop a personal or family preparedness plan.