SFP mom here today. We take emergency planning pretty seriously around here. So we thought we'd share some of our tips.
Given that we started hurricane season early with Alberto and Beryl, the time is now to prepare for emergencies. No matter what the hurricane outlook says, it only takes one storm to do some damage. And it might not even be a hurricane!
So here are some tips that I’ve found helpful.
- Stock up on toys, bones, and chews to keep your dogs occupied. If they are active dogs who play outside a lot, they are going to be out of luck during a storm. To keep them from driving you nuts, make sure you have lots to keep them busy. Bully sticks are a favorite here.
- Get potty pads and teach your dog to use them now. During Irene, the wind was blowing so hard that my pugs couldn’t even go outside for hours. You can’t ask a dog to hold it forever, and potty pads will save your floors and sanity! Most dogs figure them out right away, but some dogs will need to learn how to use them. Especially those dogs who are so well potty trained that they never go in the house. (Not mine :D) Teach your dog to use them by taking a potty pad outside first. Lay it on the ground near a favorite potty spot. Reward your dog when they use it (cheerios are a fave). Eventually bring the pad inside, again rewarding them when they use it. Keep their memory fresh once a month or so by breaking one out. Your dog will thank you.
- Remember to have water and food for them, too. Big dogs will probably need the same amount of water as a human (1 gal per day), small dogs less. Grab some extra food before the storm comes so you won’t have to worry about running out. It’s not like you won’t eventually use it, just keep an extra bag on hand.
- Stock up on kitty litter, too. Or bunny litter or hamster bedding, etc. The last thing you want to be worrying about after a storm is having to go to the store for litter. And if your power goes out, your AC goes with it. Hot, humid, dirty kitty litter is not pleasant so you’ll probably change it more often.
- After the storm, the first time you get ready to take your dogs outside, do a little recon of your yard first. Don’t just open your door and let them run. During Irene, part of my fence came down and a nest of baby squirrels landed on my deck. So I knew that I would need to put my dogs on leashes before I let them out. Who knows what will land in your yard. You don’t want to have to make a dash to the ER vet on top of everything else. Check for the obvious stuff like a fence falling down, but look for other things like broken glass (flower pots or bottles or windows) or debris from buildings that could have nails sticking out or even critters that may have taken shelter in your yard.
- Identify your pet! Get them micro-chipped already. Keep that micro-chip information up to date. Have you moved, changed phone numbers? Update. Use your cell phone number instead of your house number (if you even still have one) on the contact info. If you have to evacuate, calling your house will do no good. Put tags on your pet’s collar with your name and cell phone number. You can get collars with that info embroidered on if jingling tags bug your pet. Do this for all your pets. My cats are strictly indoor, but what happens if a window breaks and kitty runs outside? Identification like micro-chips, collars and tags will go a long way in getting your baby back home.
- Many cities still do not have a pet shelter. So if you must evacuate, you will need to find a place for your pet. Those pet friendly hotels fill up fast, too. Use an app like DogGoes to find pet friendly hotels, then call ahead to double check and make a reservation!
Water for drinking and for cleaning
- FEMA says to have 1 gallon of water per person, per day. (Don’t forget your pets!) But some people need more. Kids, nursing moms, and people who are out in hot temps all need more water. Have a minimum of a gallon, but think about more if you need it. You can always use the water later if you need to.
- And have water on hand for cleaning. If the water goes out, how are you going to clean yourself? Or flush the toilet? Have some extra water on hand for that. Fill your bathtub or washing machine with water to help flush. If you think the dirty kitty litter is bad, wait for the unflushed toilet.
Kids (and adults honestly)
- Have some non-electronic activities on hand. What happens if the power or cable or internet goes out? When the battery on the iPad runs out, what are you going to do with that kid? Break out an old-fashioned book or crayons or a board game. Have something that doesn’t require electricity or internet. Card games are fun but can you remember the rules for rummy without googling? Yeah, me either. Days get really long without electricity and you can only nap so much. Have something for the adults to do, too. Sew up that pile of ripped up stuffies!
- Take pictures of your house (or car or apartment) before the storm. These will be helpful if there is damage later, you can show that yes, you did have a second story! Upload your pictures to a photo storage website like Flickr or Photobucket. That way, if your camera or computer are damaged, you’ll still have a record. That will make your insurance claims easier.
- Use cloud storage for other important info, too. Insurance documents, all those important papers you need. Make sure you check the security and privacy settings on your storage system though. You don’t want to upload your birth certificate to Flickr and make it public. Don’t forget your pet’s papers, too. Last year in North Carolina, pets were evacuated to a shelter (that turned out to be bat infested!) but some owners couldn’t prove that they had the rabies vaccine. Those poor animals stayed in quarantine in a shelter for months.
- Use cloud storage to store stuff like serial numbers on that plasma TV or spendy computer. If you’re a nerd like me, you have a spreadsheet with data and scanned receipts attached. If you aren’t a nerd, scan the receipt and serial number, upload it to DropBox and relax. Seriously, no insurance company will even start to reimburse you without proof of purchase.
- Take cleaned out milk jugs, water or soda bottles and fill ½ to 2/3 with water and freeze. The more cold stuff in your freezer, the longer it will take for food to thaw if your power goes out. Plus when the water thaws, you have more drinking water. You can also fill Ziploc plastic bags with ice cubes. When they melt, no mess.
- If you’re super prepared, take the time now to check your kit. Did you buy that peanut butter and tuna last year? Maybe it’s time to rotate that out and get some fresh stuff.
- Haul the generator out of the shed and start it. Don’t wait until right before the storm. Check your gas, too. Add fuel stabilizers like Sta-bil or Sea Foam to keep the gas from going bad.
Food you can eat without power
- Peanut butter
- Tuna or other canned meat
- Crackers and bread (don’t get the salty kind)
- Granola, cereal or protein bars
- Canned fruits and vegetables (make sure you have a hand held can opener, too!)
- Dried fruits
- Fruits don’t require refrigeration usually but they will go bad eventually. Apples and pears last longer than bananas.
- Canned juices
- Drink mixes (like Gatorade or Pedialyte for the kids)
- Shelf stable milk (milk that doesn’t require refrigeration)
Other stuff it’s good to have
- Baby wipes for hygiene
- Charcoal and lighter fluid for grilling
- Extra paper towels and toilet paper
- Disposable products for eating (paper plates, plastic utensils and cups)
- Extra trash bags for all those disposable products
- Camp stove (powered by propane)
- Camping coffee pot (you do not want to be uncaffeinated!)
- Crank radio (the kind you crank to provide power. Bonus, get the kids to crank it!) My radio has a solar charging cell, cell phone charger, NOAA weather radar (the emergency alerts), AM/FM and a flashlight.
- Flashlights and battery operated lanterns- flashlights are a pain to try to read with. A lantern is much easier to use when you need both hands for cooking, playing a game, etc. And don’t count on that flashlight app on your phone. Save your phone battery for calls, texts, updating your Facebook status.
- Be careful with propane lanterns inside. It’s one thing to use them when you’re camping outdoors, and another to use them inside a shut up house. Stick with battery or crank ones for safety.
- Sturdy shoes- you may live in flops all summer, but you really need something sturdier after a storm.
Don’t be overwhelmed with prepping for an emergency. Figure out what you want to stock in your kit, then buy a little every week. An extra bag of kitty litter here, an extra jar of peanut butter there. Shop sales for batteries, bottled water and other supplies. Start working on your plan now and you won’t be one of those crazy people in the stores right before the storm.
Most important, make friends with your neighbors now. You know, the ones who will have the generator or chain saw. The ones you will need when the power is out or a giant tree fell in your yard. Your neighbors will be more inclined to share and be helpful if you start building a relationship now. And that relationship will bring you more rewards than just some help during a storm.
Let's hope you never need these supplies, but man, will you be grateful to have them if you do need them.