This week, residents up and down the East Coast (including myself) are worrying about whether we’ll be impacted by Hurricane Earl, which right now is a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds. Different meteorological models have the storm swerving all over the Atlantic Ocean, but all agree it will come close enough to the coast to kick up at least gale-force winds and drop some rain during the beginning of Labor Day weekend.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve imagined the worst-case scenarios whenever a tropical storm or hurricane started to head our way:
What if a tree falls on the house?
Should I stay away from the windows in case they shatter?
What do we do when the basement floods?
How do I protect my stuff?!
It took some research, but there are things you can do to prepare for a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado or earthquake, depending on your region of the country.
Homeowners/Renters Insurance. You need to protect your home and its contents in the case of damage from flooding, earthquakes and bad storms. I have visions of one of the three 100-foot-tall oak trees in our yard falling on our home, but I’m comforted by the fact that our homeowners insurance will cover it. On many policies, earthquake or flood insurance riders are additional, so check with your insurer to find out exactly what your policy covers.
And if you rent, make sure you have renters insurance. It only covers your personal possessions, since the landlord should have his own insurance on the building. But imagine how much it would cost to replace all of your stuff. It’s worth the $100-$350 a year in insurance for peace of mind.
Emergency Kit. Make sure you have enough nonperishable food and water to survive a few days after a natural disaster. Canned foods, at least a gallon of clean water per person in the household, and a can opener are key. Other necessary supplies are flashlights and fresh batteries, a first aid kit, battery-powered radio or TV, personal hygiene items, matches and candles (use with care), cash, and any medications you might need. You could use a portable cooking device such as a charcoal grill if you want to prepare heated foods — just remember the charcoal, a pot/pan and utensils.
Not everyone will have an emergency preparedness kit set up at all times, but if you know there’s a major weather event coming your way, it’s important to gather these items as soon as you can. If you live in an earthquake- or tornado-prone area, I’d suggest creating a kit that’s accessible at any time — use a plastic bin to contain everything. And periodically check the expiration date on the food and bottled water. Remove and replace old/expired items every few months.
Weather-Appropriate Clothes. If you have to flee a hurricane or are stuck in a home without heat after a blizzard, be sure you have a few changes of clothes. In colder weather events, have blankets, sleeping bags, extra sweaters, jackets, longjohns, woolen socks and snow boots with you in case you don’t have heat for a few days.
Pet Safety. Don’t forget about your furry friends. Have cat or dog carriers on hand in case you need to evacuate your home. Prepare a few days worth of food and clean water for your pet, along with any other accessories such as a leash or a favorite toy.