Following is an email I wrote August 20, 2008 during a hurricane episode. I’m including it to give a sense of what it is like to have a hurricane near your doorstep.
“The feeding and care of your pet tropical storm”
Or- “The storm that came for breakfast and never left”
How to keep your pet in good health-let it play all over Florida and dance in the water along the coast and
do make sure that it gets plenty of warm water to keep it healthy. Oh yes, and teach it to go as slow as an old turtle to make sure that everyone gets thoroughly soaked.
Actually, seriously-The storm is now north of our area but it is on the opposite coast, just in the water, and going up along the coast at about 3 miles per hour. I can walk around 3 miles in under an hour (It came ashore in South Florida around Naples at around 5am Tue, over 36 hours ago, so, that’s slow, and is forecast to cut across the state just above our area, instead of waiting until Orlando and possibly going across the panhandle and either going along another coastline, or going out into the Gulf and becoming a hurricane and
going only God knows where.
The contrast between the west and east coasts is stark. The west coast looks like a typical summer, light rainy, day. The east coast, from the newscasts looks like we did in 04-05 after the 6 storms that hit us directly, roofs rolled back or damaged, fences destroyed, trees uprooted and blocking the roads, houses turned into piles of matchsticks, roads ripped up,a lot of standing water and flooding.”
We live on the west coast of Florida. We often wait-out more hurricanes, than any other state, in the hurricane zone, because of our unique location and geography. We are adjacent to the Caribbean and we are bound by both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico and near the Yucatan Peninsula, where some Pacific hurricanes have been known to cross over to our side. The majority of the hurricanes come from or through these areas from either Africa, the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.
The most important first step in being prepared, is to listen to your favorite weather channel, get their latest hurricane guide and read it. The hurricane guides are updated and issued yearly with the latest information, after the annual hurricane conferences take place and assessments have been announced on what kind of hurricane season to expect.
The guides can be found online, are included in the Sunday paper, or can be found at certain local retail outlets, which are usually announced on tv.This is free.
After studying the guide, make a to do list of what you need to do. Some things may already be done as a part of what you normally do for your family. Though it would be a good idea to review all necessary steps, to just refresh your memory of where everything is and what you will do. Because unless it is a part of your career or a part of your life to regularly go through emergencies, or you have been down this road before, you just don’t know how you will react when that first storm emergency hits you. If you live in a hurricane zone, at some point, you will encounter a need for at least one emergency decision.
The second step, is to determine whether you are in what is called an evacuation zone, and which level of evacuation is required for your area. The zones are categorized from A to E. The A area being the most
vulnerable to flooding and or storm surge, and the E designation is usually either the highest elevation and or the furthest inland. The TWO exceptions to this are 1-Mobile Homes are all mandatory A level evacuation, and 2-When a certain area regardless of it’s location away from known vulnerabilities is in the forecast direct path of the storm.
If you are in an evacuation zone, then the third step would be to determine the designated shelters in your area, what they will and will not accommodate, if you have special needs, such as pets or medical needs. If you are taking your pets with you, they need to have up-to-date vet records with current vaccinations noted down.
Then you need to mapout multiple escape routes, in case one is not usable when the pressure is on and everyone is racing around in a panic. Then, you need to put an emergency plan in place, so that you and your
family know what to do when the time arrives. Texas and Florida have both found themselves with evacuation problems, when too may people were caught on the road near the time of the storm landing.
If you are staying in your home, then you also need to plan for that particular situation, what needs to be done, in what order and what each member in the family will be doing and how you will be spending the time while waiting out the storm. You also need to determine where the safest parts of your house are and to locate your family members in those areas for the duration of the storm. If your home was built in Florida, 2002, or later, the new codes were in place at that time and it is required for a home to be hurricane resistant, up to 120 MPH.
You need to be aware of what your household insurance will cover and what it will not cover and either adjust the coverage or prepare for the limitations. For example, since we had to build a new house in 2002 and we are not in a flood or storm surge zone, we had a wooden house built up on four feet of concrete blocks instead of the popular block home that is built on a slab of concrete, right on the ground. Flood insurance can be very expensive or impossible to get, especially in Florida. By building our home up off the ground, we avoided the flooding that did happen in ’04-’05 without the expense of the insurance. Another suggestion, would be to move all valuables to the attic if you have one. Personal note- After we built our home, we kept being asked why we built a wooden home, or stick built as the builders call it, instead of a block home. After the storms of 2004-2005, no one has asked why.
Make an inventory of your household contents in case of storm damage,or looting in the case of evacuation, so that you have a record to present to your insurer, if you have that kind of coverage. If you don’t, at least the looted part could be used for a police report. Sometimes, storm damage has also been claimed as a part of the FEMA process, when it came time to take account of damages. But the regulations get changed often and aren’t always applied equally in all storm zones or in different seasons.
If you or anyone in your family have any serious medical needs, they should be reported to the authorities in charge of evacuations, at the beginning of the hurricane season, so that they can be aware of your situation in case a need arises. The appropriate contact numbers are usually in the hurricane guide.
None of these preparations cost anything, except the time taken to do them.
The next items will cost some money, and how much depends upon where, when and how you shop. If you start putting your survival kit together in early spring, you can take advantage of coupons, sales and special buys. the best places can be discount and dollar stores, unless you shop the sales at some stores where their sales can beat out the discounters. But this requires taking the time and the planning to take advantage of the savings.
Next, You need to stock up on two weeks worth of canned food or any nonperishable food that requires little preparation,for every occupant in your household, including pets. We usually use up the previous year’s
supply during the winter and restock it in early spring before the new season and during the season, in between storms. We find it works better to avoid the last minute crowds and empty shelves. This is a necessary expense, which you won’t regret. But you can minimise it by shopping at discount stores, and a little at a time in the early spring. Just pick a up few items on each shopping trip and mark them off your to do list as you get them.
You need to store one gallon of water per individual, per daily use including pets, two weeks worth. This allows for any unexpected situations. If you buy bottled juice or pop, save the bottles and store the water in them. They are reusable and tougher than the gallons of bottled water you can get at the store, which tend to be flimsy and can fall in on themselves,leaking out their contents before you can use them. This wouldn’t cost very much, especially if you use tap water. We find it works better if we store the water year round, and just check that we have enough and restock when needed. It’s one thing we don’t have to spend last minute time doing, and we often have power outages though out the year, and it just makes sense to already have the water available.
You also need to have at least one, decent, flashlight, kept in a safe and easy to find place. It will be one of the first things you will want to use, especially if the power goes out at night.
A major brand model tends to be more dependable for a longer period of time than nonbranded models.
The flashlight usually will last for several seasons. These will also, often be packaged with the first set of batteries. Major brands often have a variety of choices that range from inexpensive to not so inexpensive. The inexpensive choice will still have the major brand’s workmanship and can often be found for very good prices. You can usually find good deals at a discount store.
You will need to check what kind of batteries you need. Get enough for every electronic item that you will be using during an emergency, for as long as two weeks. Check out both dollar and discount stores. The price may be less per package in one store. But the quantity may be more in the other. Unless you are really strapped for funds, shopping for the value on this particular item is more important than shopping for the price, alone.
It’s important to have a dependable radio that needs to both be plugged into the wall and operated on batteries, so that while the power is still on you can save the batteries, and when the power goes out, the
radio can still work. These can last for several years, if you get a decent brand. Keep it where you can find it, easily. Because it could be one of your only lifelines in an emergency. A good place to get this would be at a discount store. A good time to get one would be before or after Christmas, with holiday specials and clearance, or when your nearby store is running specials on these items. This would require keeping an eye on the weekly sales.
Another necessary item is a landline, corded phone, in case of power outages or cell tower disruptions. At a discount store, these don’t cost very much, and can last for years. This just needs to be a basic model, nothing fancy. These have also been known to be put on special.
You might need a sterno stove and a supply of sterno. These can be found in the camping section. The stove lasts indefinitely. The sterno burns for around two and one half hours for a standard can and usually comes in a pack of two.These come in handy just in case you need to heat something up or to sterilise water if your water supply is contaminated. These don’t cost very much and are easy to store.
Placing kerosene lamps and votive candles in every room of your house, located so that they can to be easily found and used in the dark can be a lifesaver. The matches and refill kerosene are inexpensive. A good,
inexpensive source for these would be discount and dollar stores, also, secondhand stores for the lamps.
We use sheetmetal panels to cover our windows. They are cheaper than storm shutters and plywood, and don’t need to be replaced as often as the plywood. They are as tough as the plywood or the shutters. When not in use, we store them under the house for easy accessibility and nail them on the windows when we need to. We salvaged ours for free. But a good place to get these would be at a home improvement store. Even
though it would cost a bit to begin with, through reuse, they will pay for themselves and would still be cheaper than the shutters and the plywood. That would also be one more thing you would not have to get every year. However, you would need to replace the nails or screws every year, to make sure that you have enough on hand. You can get these at a home improvement or some discount stores, in the hardware section. On this item, as with the batteries, shop for value, not for price. Because the better quality and the better quantity on price per piece could be important to your surviving the storm and helping your budget. (Screws are a better choice, since they will not come out as easily as nails when under pressure.)
You can make your own first aid kit for less than buying one,unless you get one from a dollar store. But it may not have much in it. You can get the individual supplies for less at a discount or dollar store, than a complete first aid kit purchased from a discount store. This way, you can also customise it for your own needs. Some suggestions for supplies, would be a variety of bandaids, antibiotic cream, and individually wrapped sterile wipes(These would be better than cotton balls and alcohol in a bottle.). This would be the basic. You could add an epinephrine pen for allergic reactions,also Benedryl ointment and/or capsules, an ace bandage for sprains and larger, self adhesive gauze bandaids. This would also be the area where you would add any prescription or prescribed, over-the-counter medicines. Most of these items are available in generic brands, and when bought at a discount store, you can get their in store brands for a considerable savings. This needs to be kept in a safe and easily accessible location.
For most of these hurricane items, it might be wise to get them before or after the hurricane season, December-May, not just to be prepared or because of the availability and/or to avoid the crowds, but also because the prices could be better outside of the hurricane season.
Note, this is last year’s guide, because this year’s isn’t out yet.