Itís that time of year againÖ Hurricane Season has arrived. So now what, sit and wait for a storm to develop? NO!!! If you wait till the storm has already developed you may not have time to be prepared by the time it gets here.
So, what should I do now? Now is the time to make preparations. First of all determine which room of your house is the strongest and most likely to still be intact after the storm. If you have not had a house specially built that has a "hard" room or the entire building you will usually find that either a bathroom or closet is the strongest room you have. What makes a room strong? First of all small rooms are stronger than large rooms. This is obvious by the fact that the upright walls are closer together giving more support to the roof and ceiling. Bathrooms also have plumbing in the walls that lends a little more strength. Tiled walls and shower stalls lend yet more strength. Bathrooms that are in the middle of a building and not on an outside wall have the advantage of no windows, a possible weak spot. In any case bathroom windows tend to be small and therefore less of a hazard than a full sized window.
After you have determined what room is your strongest you need to start putting in supplies. If you have chosen a bathroom you have at your disposal cabinets and drawers that you may not have in a closet. Take your bathroom supplies to a hall closet or nearby credenza or chest of drawers. Of course you need to keep some emergency supplies (extra roll of toilet paper, a razor, etc.) in the bathroom. If you have a large family designate 2 or 3 rooms and spread your supplies throughout the rooms. If only you, you only need the one room. Now you need to stock up the available area with supplies. Keep in mind that you want to have room for people in the room when in use. If the building you are in starts coming apart or you hear pieces of other buildings hitting the outside of your building it is time to go into the strong room. If it is getting really bad it may be advisable to take a mattress with you, not to sleep on (though after the storm it may be handy) but to hide under. Back to the supplies. Stock the cabinets (or start stacking boxes on the closet floor) with canned foods. Figure out how much food you will need for you, your family, your group for a 2 week minimum. AGAIN that is a two week MINIMUM! When stocking up consider what foods can be eaten cold out of the can. You may be spending as much as a day or possibly even more in this room. Also, in your cabinets you should have a stove for cooking food and fuel for the stove to prepare food and boil water AFTER the storm has past OUTSIDE the strong room.
Along with the food you will need 2 weeks of water for you or your group. I store what many consider excessive amounts of water in that I try to keep 2 gallons per person per day. If for some reason room is limited you can cut back on the water and include a backpacking style water filter to acquire water after the storm. Many backpacking foods need heat and water for preparation, use them after you are out of the room. The stove can be a small backpacking stove or a full sized camping stove.
A first aid kit is a necessity. This is usually a bag or large briefcase sized kit and is packed with all the necessary supplies to maintain an injured person until medical assistance is available. Also in the kit should be a first aid book or manual. However, ALL persons in the group should be trained in itís use and location. Even if alone a well trained individual with NO kit at all may be able to save his own life while waiting for help with just the knowledge of first aid. Contact your local Red Cross for class information and schedules.
Also, you should consider armament. Again, as I have stated before, this is a moral judgment that you will have to make, especially if there are children in your group. If you are going to keep armament then EVERYONE in the group should be trained in its use and care. It should be noted that Andrew had a period of a week or more that the public was on itís own, no military and very little local police protection. AND when the military was brought in they were given orders NOT to load their guns. It took the gangs and scavengers about an hour to figure this out. They even surrounded the troops on patrol and demanded they turn over their weapons to them. Luckily reinforcements arrived before the weapons were taken. Weapons should be well hidden. The last thing you need is a burglar or visitor in you home to open a bathroom drawer and find a 9mm handgun and a few boxes of ammo. So, where to put them? In my caching articles I left a few clues. Also, many bathrooms, kitchens, and other constructed areas of the home have never thought about "extra" storage areas. Places such as behind the kick plates on the floor. The area between the wall and the back of the drawers (sometimes more room than you would expect). And donít forget many houses have suspended ceilings an sofets or other wall pockets of fair size that are there for aesthetics only.
One of the drawers in your strong room should have a couple of GOOD flashlights and a large supply of batteries and maybe a spare bulb or two. If there is room in the drawer you could also keep a HT (Handy Talky) for short-wave (if you are so licensed) or CB. Spare batteries should also be in the room and charged. If you have a cell phone perhaps you should keep it and the charger in your storage area when not in use as an alternate means of communication.
Your car or other vehicles should be kept ĺ or more full of fuel in hurricane season. When a storm is "in the slot" everyone will be in the stations fueling up. When a storm hits gas in the ground stays there till all systems are restored. Also, cash on hand is important. The ATM machines will be as popular as the gas pumps. And ATM machines have been known to run out of cash. After the storm they make nice anchors till all communications lines and electricity are restored. NO ONE will be accepting checks or credit cards because there is no way to verify that they are good for days or weeks.
Storm shutters should be purchased and ready to install in an hours notice. I prefer the type that stay in place and are then lowered to cover the windows quickly. Why so quick? It is not unlikely to go to bed at night with a weather forecast saying no storm warnings and overnight a weather system that was being "watched" has turned into a hurricane. This may be just a couple of hours away when it develops. Or a hurricane that was passing us has turned toward us. One hurricane many years ago grazed the coastline and proceeded north. An all clear was sounded but the storm, after turning out to sea made a big loop and ran right back over Ft. Lauderdale a second, unsuspected time. So, yes, storm shutters should be securable in an hours time. If your shutters can not be deployed this quickly possibly they should be installed and left in place till the season passes.
If you are planning to evacuate (bugout) then you should still have supplies laid in as before so that you can stay at your home to protect it from looters after the storm has passed and you have returned. The evacuation route should be well planned, even if just across town to a storm shelter. If for some reason you or one of your group do not show up at the retreat site (or mustering point) then the trail can be backtracked to attempt to find you. All in the family or group should know the plan exactly and rendezvous at the determined location.
Good luck. I have been preaching preparedness so long that this year I have given up. I am not trying to make anyone prepare. I am posting this recommendation and other than preparing myself am staying quite. I am tired of being looked at like some kind of "chicken little" and wonít even be able to say "I told you so" this year if it happens.