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Storm Preparedness Guide

Thursday, 12 September 2013 00:00 Written by 

Although most of us believe we are prepared for anything, or are working to reach that self-sustainability level, sometimes we are caught off guard. In the Spring of 2012, a wind storm left the D.C./Capital area helpless, as high winds and broken tree limbs crippled the electrical system. This violent, but brief storm, demonstrated how vulnerable our public infrastructure really is. Although I had a basement full of preparations, it took me nearly two hours before I had the situation under control. While this response time was better than most of my neighbors, I found it unacceptable. With several natural disasters ongoing across the US, and with Hurricane Season about to hit the US (remember Hurricane Sandy last October?), we need to be eliminate our complacency.  Using my lessons learned over the years I developed a Storm Preparedness Guide.

Before we get into the article, I must stress that now is the time to stock up on batteries and purchasing a generator. If you wait until the storm is about to hit, more than likely the shelves will be cleaned.

Hopefully, you will have a warning before hazardous weather strikes. You should pay close attention to the news beforehand, so that you can properly prepare for an upcoming storm. We have been through hundreds of storms before, so there is usually some reluctance to how we prepare for the warnings. People that reside in coastal areas and the tornado alley are familiar with storm preparedness, but as you move away from these danger zones, personal storm preparedness levels decrease.

The motivations to be prepared for what Mother Nature has in store for us should not be based upon fear mongering. Media outlets often use these tactics for ratings, and weather broadcasters are usually very off base. As most storms do not cause damage to our property, and the false warning from or media outlets continue to be broadcasted, we as a society have become complacent. But, your motivations should be to ensure your family remains safe and that you can continue to provide for them, no matter the situation or storm that crosses your path. 

Preparing For a Hurricane

It is best to leave your house before a hurricane hits. If you decide to stay, here are a few tips you can follow.

If you live in a flood or hurricane prone area, have empty sandbags on hand.

Install shutters to your windows.

Install hurricane impact windows and doors.

If you have tall trees around your property, reduce the chances of dead limbs damaging your property by cutting down trees, or pruning them.

Move outdoor furniture and other possessions inside, or attempt to secure it to the ground or other fixed object. 

Have a few sheets of plywood on hand to cover your windows before the hurricane. Additionally, have a few sheets available just in case you need to patch a window, door, or portion of your house. 

Stay inside.

Preparing for a Thunderstorm

Unplug unnecessary electronics and appliances, or use surge protectors for expensive electronics equipment; I have personally lost several computers to thunderstorm related electrical spikes. 

Do not handle any electrical equipment or hard wired telephone. 

If you home has metal pipes, do not take a bath, shower, or use your water faucets.

Since high winds can be involved with thunderstorms, move any light objects inside. 

Remain inside your home. 

If you are in your vehicle, stay inside. 

Preparing for Winter Storms

Make sure to have a means to heat your home. If you have a fireplace, have dry-seasoned wood stored. If you do not have a fireplace, use a propane heater

Anytime using fuels to generate heat ensure you have adequate air circulation. 

Be cautious of trees, as they can build up with ice which can cause branches to break. If you have a dead tree, have it removed, or prune the tree. 

Have a snow shovel.

Keep your driveway cleared of snow, so you can leave during an emergency. Additionally, if your streets are plowed, move your vehicle to a driveway so it will not be blocked in. 

Power

During a storm, power is usually the first thing to go, and so is the access to our modern conveniences. Portable and standby home generators can be used to power your refrigerator, freezer, lighting, and other appliances and electronics. Have a minimum of five gallons of fuel on hand to power your generator. If you have a gasoline generator, ensure you use a fuel stabilizer to extend the shelf life of your gasoline. If you have not already purchased a generator, consider a propane powered generator. Propane has an indefinite shelf life. 

Solar and wind power are great alternative energy options. You can purchase individual components and build the system yourself, or purchase a complete system. The latter is more expensive. The system can also be scaled for your individual needs. For instance, if all you need to do is power a few 12 volt devices, you can build a small solar system. Please read our Build a Small Solar Solution, With a Budget of $150

If purchasing a generator, solar, or wind system is not within your budget, invest in batteries. There is nothing wrong with having a large supply of batteries lying around. You should have several spare batteries for each electronic device you intend to power.

If you have a means to generate power your refrigerator and/or freezer should be first priority. 

If you do not have a means to generate power, invest in a quality cooler. If you have sufficient warning before the storm, fill up a cooler with ice. The Coleman Xtreme series of coolers can keep your items cold for over five days, even in 90 degree temperatures. For Xtreme series you will pay a premium, but with the premium comes added assurance that your food items will last for nearly a week. Just make sure to close the lid after each use.  I have personally used Coleman Xtreme coolers for extended camping trips and during power outages, both exceeding 5 days. The food remained cold, and the ice lasted longer than I needed it. 

If it is summer or temperatures are high, have a few fans on-hand to circulate air. 

If you house has a sump pump, have a means to power it if you are in a flood prone area.  

Water

FEMA recommends you should have a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person/day stored for emergencies. Most preppers believe that you should have a minimum of 3 gallons per person/day. A little math; if you have four family members, and expect the storm to last 3 days, then you will need to have between 12 gallons (FEMA) to 36 gallons (Preppers) stored for emergency use. 

For short term storage, you can purchase 1 gallon jugs of water. However, it is recommended that you build a bulk water storage plan. You can purchase 5-10 gallon water containers, or upgrade to food safe 55 gallon drums. Additionally, you can purchase an even larger water tank.  If you intend to store your water for long periods of time, use bleach or pool shock to treat the water.

You can use your bathtub to store water. A Water BOB and Aqua Pod are bladders that can be used to store water in your bathtub. These storage bladders can be filled prior to a storm, and will provide 65-100 gallons of water storage. If you are going the frugal route, you can simply fill up your bathtubs prior to a storm. One challenge here is the potential for sewage to back up during a storm, so having a container or bladder is the best option. 

Having a means to filter water should also be at the top of your list. For short periods, consider purchasing a LifeStraw. A LifeStraw can filter approximately 250 gallons of water. It is recommended to purchase a larger capacity water filter, such as a Katadyn Vario Microfilter or a Berkey Water filter. 

Food

It is recommended to have a minimum of two weeks of food in your house at all times. The average US household has less than one week of food. Your food reserve should include foods that do not have to be cooked. If you are using dehydrated foods, ensure to account for the additional water requirements.

To cook food, use your household grill. 

If you do not have a grill, purchase a portable propane stove / grill that uses 1lb propane tanks. 

Another option is purchasing a butane stove

These grills / stoves are common for campers, and will provide an effective means to cook during an extended power outage, and on a budget.  

Fuel

It is good practice to keep a half of a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times. This way you will not have to rush to the pumps whenever a storm approaches. 

If you have a gasoline or diesel generator, you have the option of keeping a full tank of gas in the generator. If you take this method, add a fuel stabilizer. 

It is recommended to have a minimum of 5 gallons of gasoline and/or diesel on hand. Again, apply a fuel stabilizer, or rotate the spare tank of fuel every few months. 

If you are using propane, have a spare tank on hand. Additionally, if you have a small propane grill / stove, have a minimum of 5 1lb tanks of propane. 

If you have a butane / propane stove, have a minimum of 5 canisters on hand. 

Lighting

Lighting plays an important role in comfort and security. At a minimum have emergency candles placed in the main living areas (living room, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom). 

Another good option is to have a flashlight for every member of your family. Flashlights do not have to be expensive, and you can purchase a budget battery powered flashlight.

Solar flashlights provide a green option, and you will not have to continue to replace batteries. However, most solar flashlights do not a long battery life.   

LED lanterns provide extended bright light. It is recommended to have two lanterns, one kept in the master bedroom and one in the living room or kitchen. Purchase rechargeable devices, and save money on batteries. I like the Coleman 4D CPS LD Duo Lantern. The lantern comes with a 4 D Cell battery container, but you can purchase an additional rechargeable battery pack. This way, I can use batteries after the charge is depleted.  

Solar powered LED lanterns also provide a great alternative for emergency lighting. We like the D.light S10, and have extensively tested it. 

First Aid / Medical

It is recommended to have a small medical kit in your house. During or after a storm, you do not want to travel to the local pharmacy for medical supplies. Please look at our SHTF Medical Kit and Checklist article. 

Additionally, ensure you an additional week of prescription medications or other required medical items on hand, if you are expecting a major storm. Call your doctor to see if they will call in an additional prescription before the storm. 

If you are pregnant, and are expecting soon, call your doctor to see if there is a contingency plan if a major storm hits your area. Ask your doctor if they will remain in the area, or recommend a different hospital and/or doctor. 

Conclusion

Hopefully this guide sheds some light on the requirements for storm preparedness. Please let us know if we left anything off of the list. Also, share some of your experiences and lessons learned. Be Prepared. Get Connected. 

Last modified on Thursday, 12 September 2013 08:15
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