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Hurricane Harvey was one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, inundating Houston and surrounding areas with massive amounts of flood water, displacing thousands from their homes, and causing billions of dollars in damage. Due to the mass devastation, experts believe repair costs will far exceed $180 billion.
But as bad as Harvey was, it’s no anomaly. In 2005, New Orleans residents experienced similar devastation when Hurricane Katrina struck The Big Easy and other surrounding areas. Those along the East Coast could experience similar perils as Hurricane Irma, now a Category 5 hurricane, makes its way through the Caribbean for South Florida.
These are eerie and uncertain times for anyone living near the Gulf of Mexico and a startling reminder of the importance of preparedness. While you can’t stop a hurricane, tornado or earthquake from hitting your home, you can be prepared to protect your family during the worst of circumstances.
Here are several things you can do before disaster strikes so that you and your family can (quite literally) weather the next storm.
Stocking Up on Essential Food and Water
Power is usually the first thing to go during a natural disaster — and the food in your refrigerator likely won’t last more than a few hours when it does. Storing non-perishable food and plastic jugs of water is the first step to outlast the next natural disaster. This isn’t the movies, so you don’t need to build a bomb shelter; instead, stock up on the essentials that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to keep your family nourished, including:
- Dry pasta
- Canned fruit, soups and vegetables
- Canned juice
- Peanut butter
- Ready-to-eat cereal
- Boxed potatoes
- Dried fruit
- Plastic jugs of distilled water
Furthermore, you’ll want to dedicate a space in your garage or basement and keep these items elevated in case of immediate flooding.
Finding Adequate Power and Shelter
A small generator will keep your electronic essentials running, including smartphones, floor lamps, space heaters and a CB radio for when the power goes out. A quality generator starts around $500 and will power most of what you need for hours on a single tank of gas. Note: You’ll want to keep an extra can of gasoline in the garage, but just be sure the generator is outside or in a place with good ventilation when it’s running.
If it’s wintertime and the power goes out, your home will get cold — quickly. With that in mind, stock your home with extra warm clothes, blankets, and hand warmers to prepare for potentially multiple days without heat.
Formulating an Exit Strategy
During natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey, staying in your home just isn’t an option. Indeed, these are times when you and your family must develop an exit strategy. There are two pieces to this plan: what you plan to bring and how you intend to skip town. The former requires what doomsday preppers call a “bugout bag,” or a backpack, duffel bag or suitcase full of the bare essentials you’ll need away from the comforts of home. Some of these items include:
- Bottled water and portable, non-perishable food
- A good amount of cash
- Warm clothes and blankets
- A first-aid kit
- Rain gear
As for getting out of dodge, that will largely depend on the area in which you live and the weather conditions impacting the surrounding areas. However, typically, your best and most convenient exit strategy will be your vehicle. While sedans have their limitations, a sports utility vehicle, truck or minivan will likely provide you and your family more room and comfort — for you and all your belongings — as you look to evacuate town. You’ll also want to make sure to have:
- A quality, dependable set of all-terrain tires to handle any floods, or rainy or snowy conditions (along with a full-size spare)
- Recovery gear like a tow strap in case you’re stuck and need to be pulled out; after all, you won’t be able to rely on a tow truck in these situations
- A roof rack to transport your gear or anything that wouldn’t fit inside your vehicle
Sticking to Your Family’s Original Plan
The most important thing is to have a plan — and to stick to it. Sit down with your family and plan for some good fortune, but ultimately prepare for the worst-case scenarios. Make sure everyone’s fears and questions are addressed, and you’ll have done everything possible to prepare for the next natural disaster.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.