A few weeks ago, we were hit by Hurricane Irma here in Orlando. For some storms, you’ll have up to a week to do all of your hurricane preparation, but it could be drastically less for other disasters. Recently hearing about the fires in California, and the sudden evacuation some faced, caused me to reflect on what our evacuation plan would look like. What are we prepared for today?
Preparing for an extended period living in your house and escaping it are very different things. As a Floridian of 35 years, I’ve been lucky enough to never lose water after a hurricane — not even a boil water advisory. We’ve lost power after a few, but never for longer than a few days – and usually the very next day. It’s easy for me to use this past luck to assume all storms will be like this.
This year we decided to take preparation seriously. It was looking like Irma was going to be a category 3 (or even 4) when it hit us – which was unlike anything we’d ever experienced. Rather than crossing our fingers and hoping for the best, we realized now was the time things were getting real and we needed to be ready.
Making a List of Non-Perishables
Lucky for me Mrs. Minafi is much more prepared for this. The Red Cross Hurricane Safety List is a good starting point. We broke things up and decided to buy a bunch of things online ahead of time (well, mostly Mrs. Minafi did). One of the goals of making this list was to find items that would be useful to us outside of hurricane preparedness. This is the reason why we opted to not go all in and buy a generator for the house.
Many of the non-perishables were able to be ordered online a week ahead of time. Closer to the time a hurricane hits, it’s a madhouse out there for most things on this list. If you can order them ahead of time online once, then that’ll save you a lot of calling around to local stores to find something.
|Portable Lanterns||Online||This illuminates an entire room. We picked up a 4-pack from Amazon for our rooms.|
|Flashlights||Online||In addition to the lanterns, it's nice to have something directed for light.|
|Radio Alarm Clock w/Battery Power||Online||Having a radio alarm clock that can also be powered by a battery is 2 devices in one.|
|Extra batteries||Online or in person||At least a few days extra batteries for radios and lighting.|
|Propane or butane stove||Online||With power & gas out, this will come in handy. Order something small and portable that you could use later on a camping trip.|
|Tarp||Online or in person||If something does happen to your roof after the storm, having a tarp handy will help protect you.|
|Tools||Online or in person||A handy set of tools in the house for whatever happens.|
|Portable Battery||Online or in person||Something to recharge phones and other electronics is extremely handy if you don't have a generator. We each have one that we use whenever we travel.|
|Cash||In Person||Take out some cash in case credit card systems are down locally. We took out about $200.|
|Speaker (and cable)||Online||Your house is going to be quiet after a storm. We use a portable speaker that can be used over bluetooth or with an audio jack to get some music in the house.|
One of the most useful items from this list to me is the stove, which will serve us well camping in the future. We picked up a tiny one that’ll allow us to do important things – like making coffee.
Another that comes in handy in many other cases is the portable battery pack. I use a 10,000 mAh Mophie, which is just the right size for my daypack when traveling. It’s saved me from having a drained phone more than once when traveling.
Making a List of Perishables
The Red Cross recommends water and food for 3 days for each person. Within a city in Florida, this should be plenty. In every storm I’ve been in, the roads have opened up, and the stores and (some) restaurants have started serving in this time period. Unless you’re in a remote location this will likely be enough to get by, and if not you can buy more.
A few months ago I wrote about how I had been accidentally accumulating water bottles. Well, it turned out these were perfect for the storm. Between those and a few Ikea Korken’s, we had plenty of water on hand without needing to buy any.
In case water does go out, we always fill the bathtub up beforehand as well. This won’t be drinking water, but it will come in handy for washing hands and flushing toilets.
Our perishables list didn’t end up being too long. One time we lost power and only had whole bean coffee – it was a good reminder that we weren’t as prepared as we thought (it’s the small things that can make me happy after a storm!).
- 3 days of water for each person
- 3 days of food for each person
- Canned goods and some apples are a nice start
- Refills of any medications
- Pet food
- First Aid Kit
- Instant Coffee – it’ll just be easier to prepare
- Something sweet for dessert (just don’t get something frozen).
An Exit Strategy
If things go downhill and you need to evacuate, have an exit strategy. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- If the roof was blown off your house, or a tornado hit, where would you go while the storm is still raging?
- Could you put together everything you would want to save from your house in 5 minutes?
- If you have a garage door, do you know how to open it if power is out?
- Do you have all important documents you’d want to save in one place?
- Do you have all local computer files backed up to the cloud somewhere?
I prefer Dropbox for backing up files and have over 600gb of photos stored in the cloud. As much of an inconvenience as it would be, I know if I lost all digital drives here at home, I wouldn’t lose any important files. Some of these questions I don’t have a good answer for myself (I need to get on some of these).
Read About Others Strategies
A number of others have also written about their emergency plans. If you’re curious to see other ways you can prepare, they’re worth checking out.
- DadsDollarsDebt – Tubb’s Fire – A Sudden Evacuation
- Chief Mom Officer – A Harrowing Escape Inspires The Personal Finance Community – Beyond The Emergency Fund
- OthalaFehu – Cool As A Cucumber
- The Retirement Manifesto – Am I A Prepper?
- Mrs. Retire to Roots – In Case Of Emergency Follow The Plan
- The Lady In Black – Emergency Preparedness
- The Green Swan – Preparing For The Worst
- A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness
- The Financial Journeyman – Emergency Preparation: Be Proactive
- John And Jane Doe – Thinking the Worst: Emergency Planning or Fighting the Last War?
- Adventure Rich – Emergency Preparation Up North
- Money Beagle – How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?
- Crispy Doc – Fighting Fire With FI/RE
- She Picks Up Pennies – How Can A Planner Be Unprepared?
- Chronicles Of A Father-Getting Ready for a Natural Disaster
- Rogue Dad MD- Disrupting the Equilibrium
- Unique Gifter-10 Ways To Help Disaster Victims
- SomeRandomGuyOnline-Friday Blog Roundup – Emergency Preparedness Edition
- 99 to 1 Percent: 15 Frugal Ways To Prepare For An Emergency
- I Dream Of FIRE – Your house is burning and you can only save 10 things – what do you choose?
- Full Time Finance – Emergency Preparedness in Place
- Thinking of Someday – Are You Prepared For When An Emergency Occurs?
- The Money Wizard – Are You Mentally (and Financially) Prepared to Lose Everything?
What about you? What did you do to prepare for the last storm that hit? Or the next one?