As Hurricane Florence made landfall on the east coast of the United States, we’ve been reminded that hurricane preparedness is a must.
On average, about five hurricanes strike the United States coastline every three years. In fact, there were 17 named storms in 2017—an above-average year in many respects.
Eight damaging hurricanes have hit the U.S. since 2016.
This is worrisome for several reasons.
From 1970 to 2010, the population of counties on U.S. shorelines increased by almost 40% and is projected to increase by an additional 10 million people or 8% by 2020.
From Maine and North Carolina to Florida and Texas—and even Hawaii—our coastlines have a growing number of new homes, commercial properties, and cities that are at risk for significant damage and fatal hazards.
Ironically, Florida, where hurricanes are most frequent, leads the nation in new residents.
If you or your family lives in a hurricane-prone zone, it’s important to be aware of the dangers.
When it comes to hurricanes, taking a page out of history and hearing stories of survival are helpful ways to understand how to prepare for the future.
Read on to discover five hurricane preparedness lessons that will come in handy if you live in the danger zone...
#1: Prepare for Loss of Refrigeration
Living daily life in the modern world can make it easy to take certain things for granted—such as storing perishable food.
As of September 19, 2018, the seventh day after Florence hit North Carolina, the statewide power outage due to Hurricane Florence was still 200,044.
During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, roughly 300,000 were left without power for several days. Many for more than a week.
In the case that your home loses power during a hurricane, one of the biggest concerns will be the loss of refrigeration.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, keeping refrigerated foods at or below 41°F and frozen food at or below 0°F will be the most significant food safety challenge.
And it’s not necessarily the quality of the food that will suffer. Consuming perishable foods that haven’t been properly refrigerated or frozen can result in illness—even if they’ve been cooked.
In the case of a potential loss of refrigeration, keep the following hurricane preparedness tips in mind…
Rarely open your fridge and freezer doors: In order to keep the temperature in your fridge and freezer as cold as possible, don’t open the doors unless you need to.
A fridge can keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours or 24 hours if it is half full.
Stock up on dry or block ice: Ice will come in handy when it comes to keeping your fridge cold for a longer period of time. For example, fifty pounds of dry ice will hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for two days.
However, if you plan to use dry ice, be sure to ventilate indoor areas to avoid dangerous carbon dioxide concentrations.
Shop for nonperishable foods: At the end of the day, you won’t want to rely on perishable foods—even if you manage to prolong the cold temperatures in your fridge or freezer.
A month after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, 80 percent of the U.S. territory was still without electricity, and, even today, parts are still without power.
Stock up on nonperishable foods that last in storage for a long time (up to 25 years) so they are ready for you when these emergencies inevitably strike.
Food is one thing, but water is another. Which brings me to my next point…
#2: Know Where to Access Shelter
Knowing where to seek shelter during a hurricane is key.
If you live in an area that doesn’t require a full evacuation, but is still at-risk for intense winds, you may want to consider creating a hurricane-proof shelter at home.
For example, 65-year-old Michael Benson was living in St. John in the U.S.Virgin Islands when Hurricane Irma struck in 2017.
However, Benson had taken measures to prepare for a storm like Irma long before it hit.
After Hurricane Marilyn struck the islands in 1995, he decided to reinforce a standalone shower structure separated from his house to serve as a shelter.
"I told (the man who installed the shower), 'If the hurricane takes the rest of my house, I want this shower sticking up out of that slab like the last tooth in the mouth of a bum,'" Benson said. "And sure enough, that's what's left. That one shower sticking up."
Despite listening to almost 200-mile-per-hour winds, Benson and his wife survived the storm.
Like Benson, it’s wise to designate or construct a reinforced shelter in or near your home, especially if you live in an at-risk area.
#3: Prepare to Lose Access to Safe Drinking Water
Humans can’t survive without clean and safe drinking water for more than about three days, maybe a week at most.
In the case that your power gets knocked out and you’re stranded during a hurricane, you’ll want to have a solution to access clean and purified drinking water.
During Hurricane Irma in 2017, there were issues for the drinking water supply in South Florida.
Several cities in Broward County issued boil orders due to flooding and compromised water supplies.
Essentially, a boil order advises residents to boil their water before drinking it or using it for cooking.
Of course, this can be difficult without power.
We recommend you have an Alexapure Pro® gravity-powered water filtration system handy to purify even flood waters for drinking.
The unit is easy to assemble. It’s a low-maintenance water purification system that outperforms others for a fraction of the cost. And it doesn’t rely on a power supply.
Knowing that it reduces up to 99.9999% of 206 contaminants from your water supply will give you and your loved ones peace of mind in the event that you lose access to your main water source. Many folks even use it for everyday purposes!
#4: Prepare for High Temperatures with No Working AC
In certain climates and seasons, air conditioning is key in keeping people comfortable and healthy despite soaring temperatures.
Unfortunately, without power, you won’t have AC.
One Tampa Bay resident named Bruce discovered a few creative ways to stay cool after losing power during Hurricane Irma.
“I froze tap water in several 2-liter bottles. I also froze bottles of bottled water (16–20 oz size preferred),” he explained. “When I went to bed the second and third night, I took two frozen bottles of water and put each in a ziplock bag (to collect condensation) and put each bottle in a sock.”
He then placed a bottle on each side of him to help keep his body temperature down. Upon waking, the ice had become water, which he could drink.
Bruce also poured cold water onto a towel and wrapped it around his neck. Every now and then he would wring it out and repeat.
Keep solutions like these in mind, especially during hotter times of the year.
As Bruce put it, there is “no reason old people should be dying of heat stroke” during hurricanes and storms.
#5: Prepare for Decreased Access to Prescription Medication
During hurricanes, you won’t be able to expect your local pharmacy to remain open before, during, and after the storm.
Additionally, as we’ve seen with Hurricane Florence, there is a risk of prescription drug shortages due to at-risk pharmaceutical factories along the coast shutting down temporarily.
From diabetes to asthma, if you suffer from a chronic illness or condition that requires a prescription, you don’t want to be in a situation where you run out of your medication.
Make sure that you are stocked up on any prescription drugs that you or your family takes on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, some insurers will not cover refills until the last refill is nearly used up.
In this case, you may need to purchase drugs without insurance. It will be worth the cost, especially in the case that you live in an at-risk area for disasters such as hurricanes.
That said, if you live in Florida, there is some good news.
During Hurricane Irma, all health insurers, managed care organizations, and other health entities were obliged to allow Florida residents to refill their prescriptions early in all 67 counties as designated by the governor’s executive order.
Be sure to pay attention to news updates—and if your pharmacy has a text notification program, be sure to sign up so you can be alerted to refill prescriptions before a storm hits.
As we’ve seen with Hurricanes Florence, Irma, Harvey, and others, there will always be limited access to basic needs such as food, water, and medication.
Taking the time and attention to study up on hurricane preparedness lessons is an imperative—and will enable you to feel a bit more at ease, even when disaster strikes.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply