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Hurricane season has been in full swing for a few weeks now, but thankfully it's been very quiet so far. Don't let the lack of named hurricanes lull you into a false sense of security. The season stretches all the way to November 30th, and the peak of it -- August to October -- is yet to come.

Don't assume you'll have time to make preparations "if the needs arises." Of course, we all remember the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. And in 2004, Hurricane Charley was expected to head into the Gulf of Mexico and collide with Tampa. At the last minute, it made a sharp right turn and landed substantially farther south, obliterating entire neighborhoods and barrier islands.

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, and haven't yet made preparations in case one heads your way, here are a few of the most important steps you can take to keep you and your family safe this summer. You may never need to activate the plans you have in place, but it's good to know they're there.

Make a plan

Spend a few minutes putting together some plans that address various scenarios in the event of a hurricane. Where will you go if you need to evacuate the area? Will you go to a local shelter, or head to a hotel in another part of the state?

Make plans that will take you in three different directions, depending on the predicted path of an approaching storm. For example, if you live on the Atlantic coast, don't just assume you'll "head north," because it may turn out that's what the hurricane is planning too.

In that case, it might be smarter to head, say, southwest. Once you make your plans, forward a copy to out-of-state relatives, so they have an idea of where you might be if you lose communication.

Make a hurricane preparedness kit

Get a large plastic tub with a lid, and fill it with everything you'd need in case you suddenly had to jump in the car and evacuate your home. Somethings to include:
  • ID, prescription, and medical insurance cards
  • Homeowner's insurance paperwork and proof of residency
  • Important phone numbers of people you may need to contact: physician, insurance agent, out-of-state relatives, etc.
  • Proof of rabies vaccinations, if you're traveling with pets
  • Cash, in the event ATMs are inaccessible
  • Non-perishable snacks and bottled water, in case you're stuck in traffic while evacuating (don't forget to bring something for your pets!)
  • Items you'll need to care for your children along the way: diapers, snacks, toys
See this comprehensive list for additional ideas.

Make a post-storm preparedness kit

To make a survival kit for your home, you'll need another large plastic tub with a fitted lid. If you opt not to evacuate, or if a nearby hurricane or tropical storm knocks out power or water in your area, there are some things you'll want to have on hand.

  • Bottled water: at least a gallon of water per person, per day
  • Waterproof matches and grill lighters
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • A device to recharge your mobile phone battery
  • Several flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Toilet paper
  • Boxes of re-sealable bags in various sizes

See this list provided by the National Hurricane Center for additional ideas. On a related note, kits like this one make excellent housewarming gifts for friends who are new to a hurricane-prone area.

What to eat

In case you're without power -- and the ability to use your kitchen -- for several days, you'll want to plan how you'll eat for the duration. Think of it as long-term camping.

Get a propane grill and several tanks of fuel to keep on hand. Inside the grill, store a couple of pans, a small griddle, and some grilling utensils.

If you're home when the power goes out, keep the fridge closed as much as possible to trap the cold air, and plan on eating whatever you can before it spoils. Once you've depleted your refrigerated food, you're not doomed to days of eating tinned meat and beef jerky. Try some of these ideas instead:

  • Stock up on StarKist pre-packaged marinated tuna and salmon fillets.
  • Serve pre-cooked rice and potatoes, such as Uncle Ben's Ready Rice and Country Crock mashed potatoes. Just dump the contents in a pan and heat on the grill.
  • Use your saucepan to heat canned vegetables and boil water right on the grill for tea, coffee, and instant oatmeal.
  • Add water to instant pancake mix, for flapjacks on the grill's griddle.
  • Boil some pasta, then top with Butter Buds and dried Italian seasoning.
  • Melt chocolate bars in a saucepan, for dipping graham crackers and granola bars.

Note: If you're returning home after evacuating the area and you expect to find damage or no power, shop for groceries before you head back. The closer you get to your home, the less likely it will be that your neighborhood stores will be open for business.

The Can Opener Gourmet and Apocalypse Chow are two great resources for additional ideas.

A special note about pets

Some hurricane shelters will allow you to bring pets, but there are special rules you must follow. As you make your hurricane preparedness plans, contact your local Red Cross for details exclusive to your area.

If your plans include evacuating to a motel, assemble a list of pet-friendly options ahead of time. Dolittler is a great place to start looking for more information, but if you can't find the answers you need, check with your local veterinarian for tips.

A special note about kids

Be sure to educate your children about the importance of preparing for a hurricane with some great resources from and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Let them pack a small bag or box with special items they'll want to take in the event of an evacuation. That pressed flower on your daughter's dresser may seem unimportant to you, but if it comforts her while you're in a motel 300 miles away, it's worth letting her take it.

In the event your family, neighborhood, or town is seriously impacted by a hurricane, contact the Red Cross for information about their special counseling programs for children.

For more information on hurricane awareness and planning:


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