Get Organized: If a hurricane is coming, here is what you need to do now
No matter where you live, when it comes to natural disasters — forest fires, hurricanes, tornados, flooding, tsunamis or earthquakes — the consequences are guaranteed to be both physically and emotionally devastating.
Living in Florida, it’s not a matter of if, but when disaster will hit. Hurricanes are our worst potential enemy, but the impact is even worse if complacency keeps you from being ready to deal with them.
This two-part downloadable Hurricane Checklist was developed to help you get organized — as far in advance as possible — for a hurricane.
Hurricane preparedness is not a joke. I encourage you to start preparing today.
1 WEEK BEFORE THE STORM:
» Put your shutters up! Do NOT wait until the day before the storm
» Go to the recycling center to drop off any unwanted hazardous materials. http://www.colliergov.net/recycles
» Remove fan blades from all exterior ceiling fans
» Remove or tightly tie down exterior hanging light fixtures
» Remove decorative knickknacks, pots, statutes and doormats, etc. from outside your home
» Purchase boxed milk (Parmalat), as well as oranges, grapefruits and apples, which are nutritious and don’t need to be refrigerated
» On your smartphone, turn Government Alerts “on”
» Set aside blankets, pillows & inflatable mattresses
» Set aside rain gear, including rubber boots and a rain jacket w/ hood
» Start making ice and filling as many zip-close bags as possible. If the power goes out, these prepacked bags of ice should keep everything cold in your freezer. Be sure to make enough to fill your coolers as well
» Start emptying your freezer and refrigerator of perishable items
» Fill your cars’ gas tanks and top off all automobile liquids — limit driving thereafter
» Inspect your cars’ tires and make sure tire pressure is correct
» Fill 5-gallon spill-proof gas cans and store in garage or shed
» Make sure you have plenty of propane, gas, batteries and other essentials
» If you decide to evacuate, do it now — don’t wait until it’s too late
THREE DAYS BEFORE THE HURRICANE:
» Wash ALL dirty laundry, including sheets & towels
» Completely clean your home
» Change bed linens on all beds
» Balance your bank statement(s) in advance to ensure you have sufficient funds
» Pay credit card bills, utility bills and 1040 estimated taxes in advance
» Be sure everyone in your family, from young children to aging parents, has detailed identification, including medical information, on them at all times
» Keep a current photo of every family member and pet in case of an emergency
» Pack one suitcase per person and be ready to evacuate (I suggest preparing a packing list in advance, which will speed up the process when you’re under pressure)
» Store all prescription medicines; spare contact lenses and eyeglasses; checkbooks, passports & identification papers, insurance policies (hard copies), HUD statements, title insurance (home), car titles, medical records and pet licenses & vaccination records in a watertight container. Scan copies of the above items to a flash drive
» Keep plenty of prescription medicine on hand. If you have any medicines that need to be refrigerated, store them in a hard-sided, watertight insulated cooler with 1 or 2 ice packs
» Keep plenty of old towels on hand in case of leaks (Note: layer 3 or 4 wet towels on top of your cooler for extra insulation)
24 HOURS BEFORE THE STORM:
» Turn icemaker “off” & empty ice tray
» Pre-cook ALL meat, fish and poultry
» Crank up freezer & refrigerator settings to coldest setting
» Crank up air conditioning to get your home as cold as possible.
» Double-check to ensure all doors & windows are securely LOCKED
» Pull all window blinds down to keep your home cool
» Fill bathtubs with water (cover drain w/ silicone pot lid). THIS WATER IS NOT FOR DRINKING!
» Fill several gallon jugs with water for toilet flushing. Limit waste water use until given the “all-clear” by local utility company
» Run the dishwasher and washer/dryer one last time
» Charge all small electronic devices (laptops, mobile phones, tablets and external battery packs)
» Back up computer files to the cloud or to an external hard drive (store in watertight container)
» Store computer/laptop in the dishwasher. This appliance, when closed and locked, is supposed to be watertight. (Note: I have heard some comments to the contrary.)
» Fill several thermoses with coffee or buy cold-brewed coffee
» Tell your out-of-town friends & family where you will be during the hurricane, as well as what your backup plans are should you need to evacuate
» Remind family and friends to limit calls and texts. Mobile phone battery life is a valuable commodity before, during and after a hurricane
» Clear all voicemail messages, as well as all “deleted voicemails” from your mobile phone to ensure friends & family won’t get a “voicemail full” message when leaving a message
» Put all hurricane supplies in one easily accessible location — off the floor
DAY OF THE STORM:
» Pull your car into the garage as far as possible
» Lock garage from the inside by closing safety latch & put lift on “manual”
» Turn off hot water heater and corresponding circuits
» Unplug all small appliances. (Toaster ovens, coffeemakers, hair dryers, televisions, computers and printers, etc.)
» Put dry towels & bath mats on the floor surrounding all windows & doors
» Close all interior doors tightly
» Put all mobile devices on “low battery” mode
» Leave your mobile devices ON at all times during the storm. After the storm, as long as there’s an internet or cell connection, your family will be able the track your location
» Everyone should pick a place in the home where he/she will remain for the duration of the storm
» Have a “backup” room where everyone goes in case the windows blow (ex: garage)
» If you do move into the “backup” room, take a headcount
» Securely lock all exterior doors and put the key in close proximity to the door (possibly in a cooler for safe-keeping). Make sure everyone knows where the key is
» Have a plan and discuss evacuation routes in advance. Make sure everyone understands
» Be ready to evacuate immediately in case of flying debris
» Wear long pants, sneakers and socks during the hurricane and afterward. (NO shorts and NO flip-flops) Surviving a hurricane is not a fashion show!
» Everyone should have a raincoat w/ hood handy and keep a headlamp or flashlight in the pocket (besides shielding you from the rain, the hood and coat could protect you from flying glass)
» Keep passport, driver’s license/identification, cash and credit/debit/ATM cards together in a handbag or zip-closed bag and place next to your raincoat for quick retrieval should you need to evacuate
» Turn the television “off” and keep off until power is stable
» The moment you lose power, turn your air conditioner & corresponding circuits OFF. (Air handler first, followed by condenser)
AFTER THE STORM:
» If you didn’t turn your AC off before the storm, it’s important you reset your HVAC system(s) by turning the air conditioner & corresponding circuits (air handler & condenser) OFF. After 10 minutes, turn the circuits back on (one at a time) followed by the HVAC
» Change AC air filters & return temperature settings back to normal
» Run two cycles in both clothes washer and dishwasher to ensure the water is clean
» Return refrigerator/freezer settings back to normal
» Run 2 or 3 full ice maker cycles before using the ice
» Photograph and report any/all damage to your insurance company as soon as possible.
» Replenish all supplies, including batteries, gas and propane, immediately after a storm
» Remove batteries from all flashlights, radios & fans when not in use
Celebrate the end of hurricane season by donating all of the canned foods purchased for your emergency kit, as well as all of the unspoiled perishable items in your fridge, to your local soup kitchen: St. Matthews House in Naples, 239-774-0500, www.StMatthewsHouse.org or Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers, 239-334-7007, www.HarryChapinFoodBank.org.
OPEN FLAMED CANDLES VERSUS LED LANTERNS:
LED lanterns and flashlights are the best source of light before, during and after a natural disaster. Following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, nine of the 22 post-impact deaths were a direct result of smoke inhalation and/or burns caused by five house fires; the fires were attributed to the use of candles during power outages.
Naplesnews.com has your printable PDF of the complete Hurricane Checklist.
Naples’ Premier Professional Organizer Marla Ottenstein offers expert organizing, decluttering, downsizing and moving, packing/unpacking and time management services for residential and corporate clients. Licensed & insured. Member: National Association of Professional Organizers. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit: www.ProfessionalOrganizerFlorida.com. Her column runs the first Friday of each month.