Perhaps the fact that I have never lived in a hurricane state gives me a pass for thinking hurricane season had arrived early when more than 2 feet of rain soaked Fort Lauderdale, Florida, recently. Truth be told, hurricane season officially begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 1.
Being prepared to “weather the storm” is applicable to all of us regardless of where we live. Natural disasters can hit without warning. A few basic measures taken beforehand, otherwise known as emergency preparedness, could mean the difference between tolerable and misery — even if you are on a tight budget.
Experts recommend every household have at minimum a three-day supply of water for all who live therein. An easy way to determine the amount you need to keep on hand is 1 gallon of water per person, per day.
Three-days’ supply sounds easy, but what does that look like? First, it needs to be a supply of nonperishable food that doesn’t need refrigeration or cooking. Canned foods like baked beans, pasta and stews are great options, as they can be eaten cold if necessary, though the taste may not be as good. It’s important to store at least one manual can opener with your food supply and keep an eye on expiration dates. Other affordable food options that don’t require refrigeration include crackers, sandwich fillings like peanut butter, honey and single-serving jams, canned fruit or fruit cups, pudding cups, trail mix, dried fruit, granola or energy bars, summer sausage and meat jerky.
It’s possible you’ll be able to use your barbecue grill or a wood- or gas-powered camp stove to cook or heat up food outdoors. Never use these items inside a building like a house or garage. Even with all the windows open, dangerous fumes can build up and cause suffocation or other harmful effects. If it’s not possible to cook outside, another option is to use propane or ethanol gel cans also known as Sterno, or canned heat. While they don’t generate enough heat to cook or boil water, they can still warm up canned food items.
FIRST AID, MEDICINE
Every household, regardless of the weather conditions, needs a well-stocked, complete first aid kit. However, preparing for a storm requires additional supplies of at least three days’ worth of medication and medical equipment on hand in case of evacuation — items such as syringes, prescription drugs, hearing-aid batteries, contact lens solution and any other necessary medical supplies.
It is advisable to have at least one flashlight or lantern for every person in the house. Opting for LED lights with lithium-ion batteries is often more cost-effective in the short and long run, while those powered by more costly alkaline batteries tend to be brighter and more potent. Make certain that you have extra batteries for the lights and other battery-operated emergency devices, such as fans. Keep in mind that alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt) are highly susceptible to corrosion. That means you should never store emergency devices that are not in use with alkaline batteries inside.
My Patriot Supply sells a specialized hand-crank, solar weather radio plus flashlight and smartphone charger for about $40 at its online store. Of course there are other stores both walk-in and online where you can find this item, so take the time now to search if you do not already own a quality weather radio. Any emergency radio device should pick up weather radio frequencies from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in addition to the more common AM and FM stations.
When the electricity goes out in a big area, the machines that give us money and let us pay with cards don’t work. So it’s important to have some cash on hand, preferably in small bills. This will help you buy things you need until the power comes back. Saving one-dollar and five-dollar bills is also a good way to save up money for later, even if there’s no emergency.
Need a nudge to get started? You will find my simple list of emergency preparedness resources at EverydayCheapskate.com/emergencyprep.