Don't wait until a storm is in the Gulf of Mexico to think about the supplies you'll need at home or on the road. It is best to assemble your hurricane kit before there is a threat of bad weather and stores are filled with anxious shoppers grabbing large stores of water, batteries and plywood. The National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict a busy storm season with up to five hurricanes reaching Category 3 or higher. In all it forecasts as many as 10 hurricanes and up to 17 named tropical storms. Whether your hurricane kit accompanies you on the road in an evacuation or just makes life easier if your neighborhood experiences electricity outages and street flooding, assembling it ahead of time could save you angst -- and money. Gathering everything you need could take some time and be a little expensive, so start now and put together what you need a little at a time.
• Before the threat of a storm, install hurricane shutters or buy 1/2-inch-thick outdoor plywood cut to the dimensions of windows, garage doors or double-doors that could be in peril from wind. Pre-drill holes in the plywood and install anchors around the windows so you can put up the plywood quickly when needed. Taping your windows does not keep them from breaking and isn't recommended. You can cover your furniture with plastic drop cloths to protect it.
• Keep duct tape on hand for sealing and packaging.
• Remove diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
• Make sure tie-downs are secure if you live in a manufactured or trailer home.
• Stock a two-week supply of water for people and pets: 1-2 gallons of water per person per day and a 1/2 gallon per day for pets. Stock enough nonperishable foods to last two weeks as well as a can opener, plastic cups, disposable plates, napkins or paper towels and flatware. Avoid foods that are salty, dry or high in fat or protein; they will make you thirsty. Recommended foods include canned meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, soups, juices (or single-serve juice cartons), canned or powdered milk, cereal bars, candy, cereals, instant coffee and tea, and bread and crackers stored in moisture-proof containers. Don't forget extra baby formula and food if you have an infant and dry or canned foods for your pets.
• Keep flashlights or battery-charged lanterns on hand for each person in your family as well as extra batteries and bulbs. Avoid candles as they can be a fire hazard.
• Portable generators can be useful if the electricity goes out, but make sure you use them only when you are home and place them in a well-ventilated area to avoid harmful fumes. Follow manufacturer's directions on their use.
• Battery-operated television or radio.
• Wind-up or battery-operated clock.
• Trash bags and zip-lock bags of various sizes.
• Fire extinguishers.
• Matches in a zip-lock plastic bag.
• Maintain a list of phone and cellphone numbers for friends and relatives as well as email addresses. Put them in a folder with your insurance papers, bank documents, medical records, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, photocopies of prescriptions, photos and veterinary records for your pets, photo identification for family members, proof of residence (utility bills), tax records and disk backup of home computer files. Store them all in a waterproof/fire-proof container.
• A camp stove or similar cooking device can be useful, but for safety reasons use canned fuel instead of charcoal or gas. Put aluminum foil, oven mitts and cooking utensils such as tongs and a spatula nearby.
• Ice chests.
• You can devise an emergency toilet using a small can or garbage can that has a tight lid, garbage bags for lining it (and for making disposal of wastes easy). Put toilet paper in a waterproof bag and use bleach or disinfectant to sanitize the can after it is used. Placing deodorizer in the kit will make life more pleasant.
• Keep rain gear, boots and sleeping bags or bedding accessible as well as a change of clothes and shoes for each person.
• Assemble written instructions for how to turn off electricity, gas and water.
• Get a contraflow evacuation map, and maps of areas where you plan to evacuate. Contraflow maps are available from the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (www.ohsep.Louisiana.gov/evacinfo/no_contraflow.html or 225-925-7500).
• While things are calm, sit down with your family and plan where you will evacuate. You should have several options, depending on which direction a storm is headed. Include numbers of friends and hotels in areas where you plan to go; visit Web sites and write down numbers for hotels where you might need reservations. If you have pets, make sure you can find accommodations for them or arrange for kennel space outside the storm area.
• Assemble a first-aid/medical kit that includes medic alert tags, two weeks worth of your prescriptions, insect repellant, insect bite lotion, feminine hygiene products, contact lens or eyeglass products (have extra pairs if possible), sunscreen, soap, over-the-counter drugs (colds, allergies, diarrhea medication, pain reliever, antacid), first-aid handbook, triple antibiotic ointment, adhesive bandages, adhesive tape, sterile gauze, antiseptic solution, cotton swabs, cotton balls, tweezers, scissors, water purification tablets and eye drops. If someone in your family has special needs, stock the appropriate supplies. If you have a baby, include Ipecac, petroleum jelly, diaper-rash ointment, baby wipes, baby medications, medicine dropper and disposable diapers.
• Inventory your property with a camera in case you need documentation for insurance. Before a storm is on its way is a good time to review insurance policies with your agent.
• Make sure your car is properly maintained with an oil change and tune-up in case you have to evacuate. Keep your gas tank at least half full.
WHEN A STORM IS APPROACHING
• Listen for weather updates on local stations or on NOAA weather radio. Stay alert for tornado watches and warnings because tornadoes are spawned by hurricanes. If there is a warning, seek shelter in an interior bathroom or hallway.
• Board up your windows. Clear your yard of lawn furniture, plant pots, bicycles, trashcans and anything else that can blow around in high winds.
• Fill your car's gas tank.
• Fill any prescriptions you need.
• Store clean drinking/cooking water in clean bathtubs, jugs and cooking utensils in case the water supply becomes contaminated.
• If you have a boat, moor it securely or move it to a designated safe area.
• When the storm gets near, stay indoors away from windows until the danger passes.
• If officials recommend or require you to evacuate, do so immediately. Follow the pre-arranged evacuation plan you've made with your family and double-check that you have a place to stay, whether it is with relatives, friends or at a hotel. Available spaces will fill quickly. Make sure your planned destination is not in an evacuation area. Take maps of the area where you are going (in case you have to alter the route originally planned because of closed roads or heavy traffic congestion) and contact numbers for friends, hotels, motels or shelters in those areas.
• Make sure you have a full tank of gas, adequate antifreeze and proper oil levels in your car.
• Listen to local radio or television stations or the NOAA for the latest information about evacuation routes and other instructions.
• Take cell phones and chargers (remember it is possible to text-message even when the phones don't work).
• Clean out your refrigerator and unplug appliances.
• Pack clothes and personal toiletries for several days of evacuation.
• Take your disaster supplies, including water and food.
• Turn off electricity and gas if advised to do so by authorities (remember you will need a professional to turn them back on).
• Pack irreplaceable items such as wedding and baby photos, heirloom jewelry or whatever you have room to take with you.
• Take first-aid/medical kit prepared before the storm, sleeping bags, bedding and pillows, and any special items needed for babies and ill or disabled family members.
• Take the package of important papers assembled before the storm, including numbers of friends and relatives, driver's license, social security number, photo IDs, insurance papers, medical records, etc.
• Bottled water, snacks, flashlights and extra batteries.
• Do not leave your pets at home; take them with you or find a safe place outside the storm area to board them. Take pet carriers, food, water, collars, leashes and veterinary records.
• Entertainment for passengers, including books, music or movies, games, laptop computer, craft items.
• Return home only after officials have advised that it is safe to do so.
Easy Web Guide to Lodging Hotel/Motel Rooms
Bed and Breakfasts
(Many hotels require a security deposit or charge an extra fee for pets. Check the policy before you make a reservation.)
www.takeyourpet.com (requires $1.95 membership fee)