Before the hurricanes of 2004 Hurricane Katrina, I was lackadaisical about preparing for hurricanes. Like many others, I would buy food and water when a threat was imminent. Because of all the hurricanes that had hit in Florida in 2004, I started preparing a head of time. At the start of the hurricane season, I would buy extra canned goods and water to have on hand. After my experience with Hurricane Katrina, my list has been expanded and refined. Here are some of the items that proved to be critical in the wake of Hurricane Katrina:
Food-5-7 days supply and don't forget about your pets. Also, a hand can-opener is essential.
Water-5-7 days, also fill up your bathtub and other containers. This can be used for cleaning, pets, flushing the toilet, etc
Money!!!-It will be a cash economy after a hurricane
Gas!-Fill all of your cars up and don't go sight-seeing after the hurricane
Medicine-make sure all of your prescriptions are filled and have a first aid kit
Flashlights-there are many that are now available which do not use batteries
Radio-The ones I have have three power options: batteries, wind-up, or solar
Candles and oil lamps
Lighters and matches
TV-a small one that can run on batteries or plug into your car
Cell phone-be prepared that it may not work at all immediately after a hurricane.
A basic plug-in phone is also essential. Cordless phones, etc will not work.
Hand sanitizer-if water is working, chances are it will be contaminated
Bleach-can be used to purify water, to wash clothes and dishes(with no electricity, there will be no hot water), to put in garbage containers when refrigerators have to be emptied, etc
Hair mousse-this will keep gnats, mosquitoes, etc out of your hair
Propane camp stove or grill(Charcoal grills need up to three bags a day for cooking. If power is out a week or more, that is a lot of charcoal to store.)
Basic set of tools-Saw, hammers, pry bar, an ax, a chainsaw, etc
Rope-Very useful for making clothes line! I ended up using packaging twine to make a clothes line because I didn't have rope
Save plastic grocery bags. There are many uses for them
Many recommend generators. Alas, for many on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, they proved ineffective. The biggest reason: No gas!!! Some had to travel 400 miles to Memphis just to get gas. I would recommend a solar-powered or a propane generator.
Keep in mind, these recommendations are for those, like me, who do not have to evacuate. I did go to my sister's for Hurricane Katrina to be with my family. I took 3 days food, essential papers, photographs, 3 days clothing, etc.
Most hurricane preparedness guides recommend 3-5 days supply of food and water. Based on my experiences with Katrina, I would recommend more. Even though water, ice, and food were trucked in to the Mississippi Gulf Coast 3 days after Katrina, the problems with available gas, blocked roads, and long lines of people, make it prudent to have more supplies on hand. And even though I recommend 5-7 days of food and water, I actually have a three week supply. Even after power is restored, grocery and supply stores will not have very much to offer. It took almost a month for the grocery stores to be able to keep a steady supply.
Hurricane Katrina tore away all the trappings of civilization. In an instant, the Mississippi Gulf Coast was thrown back to the time of its earliest settlers, 1699. We take for granted that when we flip a switch, we'll have light. We take for granted that when we turn the tap on, we'll have clean running water. We take for granted that when we flush the toilet, it will not be a hazard elsewhere. We take for granted that roads will be unencumbered. We take for granted when we go to a store, food, water, cleaning supplies, and medicine will be at hand. We take for granted that available gas is just down the road. We take for granted that emergency officials will be able to meet all of our needs. Hurricane Katrina proved that you have to rely on yourself and that you must help out your neighbor.