Hurricane Preparedness, by MFA

I’d like to share a couple of things I’ve learned through the recent hurricane seasons in Florida, being hit directly by one, indirectly by three or four more (I’ve lost count). The following assumes you’re staying put, not bugging out. Typically my wife will take the kids and bug out, while I stay home for security and damage control if needed. This can also apply to some of the severe storms that other parts of the country experience throughout the year.
1. Water – In Florida, I travel with a case of water in the back of my car. You never know. In the off season, we use up the stored bottled water from the last year, and right about now [–May–], do a replenish. Our typical storage water “in season” is about the size of a pallet, four feet high. Off season we may get down to three or four cases. We also have a “Big Berkey” to filter the water from the lake behind our house if things are down for more than a week or so.
2. Food – Freeze dried long term storage food (Mountain House or equivalent) is absolutely required. The stores will be cleaned out in the two or three days before the storm arrives, and the grocers stop shipping food in at the last minute to cut their losses in case the buildings are knocked down. Immediately after the storm passes you’re a fool to go out on the roads with the trees and downed power lines and by the time they are cleared, the stores open on a cash basis because the power is out, and it’s dry goods only. All frozen and refrigerated food is discarded so they won’t get sued for selling spoiled food. In your house, at the start of the hurricane season it’s prudent to work down your refrigerated foods and fill the space in the freezers with gallon milk jugs full of water. This will keep the remaining food from spoiling if the power is only out for a few days.
3. Cooking – We have several stoves that work when nothing else does. The best one for indoors is a butane stove that I picked up at a gun show for about twenty bucks. Butane cans are available, and they store indefinitely. I’d not use any combustion appliance indoors without ventilation, but after the storm the windows can be opened, and there is plenty of breeze coming in around the corrugated storm shutters, which still provide some measure of security. We also have a couple of Coleman stoves that run on either propane or coleman fuel, but those are strictly outdoor units.
4. Cash – Have a few hundred bucks cash on hand in the beginning of the season, and increase it to a thousand or more if you can once things are in full swing. There is usually a run on the ATMs when the storm is bearing down on the area, and when the power is out, it’s done.
5. Fuel – If there is even a hint of a storm, top off all vehicles and keep them full until the threat has passed. It can take two weeks to get gasoline into the area and replenish the empty stations after the run on gas that happens when the storm is bearing down. Also, keep up on maintenance of your vehicles. It would truly suck to blow a radiator hose in traffic while trying to evacuate. (I’ve seen that happen – I think it was [Hurricane] Wilma, a guy from Miami was evacuating through the Fort Myers area and had [his engine] overheated with his small child in the car. I stopped with my work truck and we filled up his radiator with my drinking water supply, and I left him with a half case of bottled water, which was what I had left. His terror at being at the mercy of both the weather and his unwillingness to prepare was obvious).
6. Shelter – You need to buy the stuff to watertight your house before the storm, not after. Buy enough tarps to completely cover your roof – do the math and figure it out. In the off season the tarps are on clearance, pick up a few spares. They don’t go bad [if kept out of sunlight] – stick them on a shelf in your garage.
7. Storm shutters – either cut and number plywood to cover the glass or install the mounting tracks and have the corrugated metal panels ready to go. Do this on the off season, not the day before, as you want to do the initial exercise once and be done with it We put our shutters up about a day before the storm is supposed to hit – sometimes at the last minute. Our family can do the job in about 40 minutes in the pouring rain.
8. Tools and batteries – Charge everything at the first indication that your area is targeted, then keep them on trickle charge to maintain full capacity. I’ve got a battery powered Sawzall, but with two discharged batteries I might as well use a hand saw. The same goes for battery powered drills – a dead battery renders them useless.
9. Lighting – As for wind up lights, check them pre-season. I bought a wind up light a year ago and while it still lights up, the battery is shot – only lights when I crank it. I only paid ten or twelve bucks for it, but it’s junk. April is the month where the battery powered lights are checked to make sure they work, and a fresh supply of batteries are stocked.
10. Security – If you think you might need force to defend yourself, get your concealed carry license (CCL), get your practice in and buy your rifles, handguns and ammunition well before season. The state has been known to declare a state of emergency and suspend the sales of guns and ammo when a storm is coming. Also, the gun dealers will cut a deal in the off season, but “sticker [price] is sticker [price]” when a storm is coming. Not gouging, just no breaks. Gun shows are your friend, as you can really shop and compare.
This will get you through the storm and the immediate aftermath.