Following the Black Bag Resources method, we start with our threat assessment by defining the threat and it's related problems. What is a hurricane? A hurricane is a tropical storm with a low pressure center and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Some of the problems a hurricane may cause (and we will have to solve) include wind damage, water damage, power loss, and interruptions in the supply chain. Let's break down and solve each problem:
The Problems: Hurricanes bring high wind speed that can cause damage by knocking down trees, lifting roofing, and blowing loose items.
The Solution: Now is a good time to do some outdoors maintenance. Trim dead tree limbs, clean up the yard, check the roofing for any obvious issues, make sure storm doors and shutters are solid and secure, etc. If you are in an area where this is an extreme risk and you need to board up, now is the time to measure and cut boards so they will be ready for the storm. I recommend numbering them so you know which boards go to which windows to save time in the event you do have to board up. Now is a good time to stock up on duct tape for taping windows. (Taping windows is another way to keep broken glass from going everywhere should a window get broken.) Right before the storm, bring patio furniture and garbage cans inside to prevent them from becoming projectiles and causing damage. Generally speaking, if you can lift it, a storm can throw it. Also check rain gutters and awnings to make sure they are secured firmly. If you have solar panels, check the mounts, racks, and fittings and replace or repair them as needed.
The Problems: Hurricanes bring heavy rains which can cause top down water damage as well as bottom up water damage from flooding.
The Solutions: Address top down water damage by checking for leaks. Look for missing or damaged roofing, check the attic and ceilings for watermarks, check windows and weather stripping, and clean out rain gutters to ensure they move water as they should. Address minor bottom up water issues and flooding by checking sump pumps and french drains, and water proofing basements. If you know your home is prone to minor flooding issues (for example: 2-3" of water in the basement), move items out of low areas in your home to keep them from getting water logged or damaged. In areas prone to severe flooding like Manville and Bound Brook, review your evacuation plans. Plan primary and secondary evacuation routes and destinations. If you plan to go to a friend or family member's home, review and discuss the arrangements with them now, not when you are on the way there. Check your Bug Out Bags/Evacuation Kits/Get Home Kits and replace anything that's been consumed or used up. Flood waters can also move contaminents into the water supply. That means drinking water will need to be decontaminated, or replaced with clean, stored water. I recommend having both means to purify water AND storing water for drinking and brushing your teeth.
The Problems: Electrical power outages caused by hurricanes may be minor and temporary, or, as we saw with Sandy, may be severe and last for extended periods. Lack of power will cause many electronic devices to stop working.
The Solutions: Start by preparing for the short term. Make sure you have flash lights and candles staged where you might need or use them, including fresh and spare batteries for the lights and lighters or matches to light the candles. It's no fun hunting for things in the dark. Use caution with any open flame, and keep fire extinguishers handy as well. Now is a good time to tidy up inside your home, too. Is there anything that might become a trip and fall hazard if the lights suddenly went out? Keep in mind how many things use electricity both inside and outside your home. If the power is out, ATM machines, gas pumps, and credit card machines will not work. Street and traffic lights might be out. Have some cash and fuel (if possible) on hand. At minimum, fill your vehicle's gas tank prior to the storm. In addition to your vehicle's radio, have battery operated emergency radios on hand to stay informed. Prior to the storm, charge cell phones fully, but be prepared that they might not work if the cell towers go down. Once you have the basics covered, consider preparing for longer term outages with either a generator or battery bank to power larger appliances, sump and well pumps, and any necessary medical equipment in your home.
Interruptions in the Supply Chain
The Problems: Most retail locations, including grocery stores, only maintain about a three day supply of goods which is restocked by regular deliveries. In the event of a severe hurricane, that resupply might not come as scheduled. It could be days or even weeks late depending on various issues.
The Solutions: Stock up. Start by taking inventory of every consumable item in your home. Your first goal is to maintain a three day supply that would allow you to have everything you need with out going to the store. This should include food, water, medications, toiletries and hygene items, cleaning supplies, first aid items, fuel if possible, batteries, etc. Once you have a three day supply, extend to a week, then a month. Try to keep your food supply as close to your normal diet as possible by rotating what you store and including it in regular meals. I don't advocate storing lots of freeze dried or dehydrated foods if you aren't used to eating those things, but there are a few exceptions. (I like to keep dehydrated milk, for example, because milk, eggs, and bread all disappear from shelves pretty quickly. Milk does not have a long shelf life, so this provides a good back up.) Your specific dietary and medical needs should also be taken into consideration, and addressed accordingly. Be sure to include backup means of preparing your food in your plans. Small camp stoves are an option, but be sure to have adequate ventilation when using propane.
Your plans and preparedness items should give you an improved feeling of security. If you notice that you are feeling stressed in your efforts because you can't meet all your needs, consider working with friends and neighbors to bridge gaps in your respective plans and maximize effectiveness. Keep in mind that you are part of a community and that should not change in the event of a disaster. Conversely, if you feel that you are set up well but your neighbors are not, encourage them to take steps to be ready. Finally, sheltering in place is always my first choice, but when the time comes to evacuate- do it without hesitation. Be ready with your evacuation kit/Bug Out Bag and know your evacuation route and destination, as well as secondary routes and destinations.
This is in no way comprehensive of everything you should do to prepare for hurricanes. There is always more, but if you get started on the things we've discussed in this article, you will start to notice other action items and steps you can take to improve your specific situation. Feel free to comment here or on Facebook, or send emails with comments and questions to BlackBagResources@gmail.com.