South Florida has been lucky in recent years, with no major storms or power outages. Don’t let that make you complacent. While not a lot has changed since the last disruptive storm in 2005 (Hurricane Wilma), one thing remains the same: It is better to plan when there is not a cloud in the sky than to wait until a storm is approaching.
“When the hurricane’s coming, it’s probably too late,” said Dennis Feltgen, public affairs officer at the National Hurricane Center.
Despite the advances of technology since 2005, not much has changed in recommended hurricane supplies — except for televisions. The battery- powered TV you used during Wilma probably will not work. You can buy a battery-powered LCD digital TV (make sure there is an antenna) that will get local channels for $80 to $120, says Steve Greenberg, a Miami product scout and author of Gadget Nation.
“Prepare to lose power and have everything on hand for 72 hours,” advises John Cangialosi, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.
Here are the top 10 things you need to do before a hurricane. Most of them you need to do well before.
1. Know what risks your neighborhood faces. Are you in an evacuation zone? Will the streets flood? Will the neighborhood entrances and exits be blocked? Everyone should seek out this information at the beginning of hurricane season, says Cangialosi. You can find out your evacuation zone at http://www.miamidade.gov/fire/evacuation-zones.asp or at http://www.broward.org/Hurricane/Pages/EvacuationRoutes.aspx. If you’re new to the neighborhood, ask your neighbors what happened during the last big storm.
2. If you are in an evacuation zone, make a plan. Decide whether you’ll stay with a friend farther inland or drive to a hotel in another county. If someone in your family is elderly, handicapped or pregnant, a plan is even more important. Make a plan for your pets. Miami-Dade and Broward have pet-friendly shelters, (see story, page 7)but you need to reserve a space and have proof of vaccination.
3. Buy non-perishable food that you will eat (see story, page 4) . Don’t stock up on canned food you won’t eat if there isn’t a storm, but do have enough to feed your family for at least 72 hours. If you have a grill, make sure you have charcoal or gas so you can cook the food from your refrigerator. Fill plastic jugs with water and have an emergency supply of bottled water to drink after those jugs are gone. You need about a gallon per person per day. Don’t forget pet food. A tip: Hurricane season is not the best time to stock your freezer.
4. Have a portable radio, powerful flashlights or lanterns and plenty of the right size batteries. A portable radio will help you follow the storm’s path and get advice from emergency personnel once the power goes out. You won’t believe how dark it can be with no city lights. A battery-powered fan can help keep you cooler. If you have a generator, fire it up to make sure it works and get a supply of gasoline if needed.
5. Charge your cellphone, tablet, laptop and any other electronic devices. Then think about how you will make the charge last longer and recharge if the power stays out. Learn how to turn off apps so you can conserve your cellphone or tablet. When a storm is bearing down on us, it’s too late to look at tutorials. A car charger and a solar charger or back-up battery for your cellphone are inexpensive and useful even when there isn’t a storm. While you can get lots of more sophisticated equipment designed for camping that will charge your devices, you may not need it, Greenberg says. After Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast last fall, his brother sent him a photo of crowds charging their cellphones at a mall. “I think that’s what we’re going to do here, too,” he said.
6. Get cash. If there is a widespread power failure, you won’t be able to go to the bank or ATM. Stores that can open without electricity may not take credit cards. You may also need cash to pay people to cut up fallen tree limbs or clear debris.
7. Gas up your car. More gas stations have generators than they did in 2005, but you still may find long lines. Plus, you may end up having to drive long distances to find open stores and restaurants.
8. Refill prescriptions. Make sure you have basic over-the-counter drugs, too, including antihistamine, aspirin or antiseptic cream. If you have a baby, don’t forget diapers and formula.
9. Round up your old-school tools: manual can opener, matches, coffee filters and ground coffee if you have a gas stove or grill, paper plates and cups, hammer, screwdriver, pliers and duct tape. If you camp, dig out those cans of Sterno and your camp stove out. If you have a land line, make sure you have at least one phone that works without electricity.
10. Gather important documents and back up computer data. If your home is damaged, you may not be able to retrieve your insurance policy from a sodden file box. Prepare a file of important document you’ll take with you if you evacuate. Set up backups of your computer data (cloud storage is ideal) well ahead of a storm, so you can back up quickly if needed. You may want to put copies of important documents on a flash drive or in the cloud for easy retrieval.