By Alan Markoff
To prepare for hurricane season, each home should have an emergency supply kit. You will need to pack some essential items to help keep your family safe and healthy. Keep in mind a hurricane could cut off your power and water supply. You also may not be able to drive because of damage to your car. Roads may be flooded or blocked.
That’s why it’s best to be prepared – stock up on everything you might need now.
Ensure there are enough supplies to last at least three days for each person. Do not forget pets.
The following is a minimum suggested list of survival kit supplies, which you will need during and after the storm:
There is probably nothing more important that fresh water after a hurricane and it’s generally recommended that households have enough water on hand to supply every person with one gallon a day for three days.
However, half of the recommended supply is for food preparation and sanitation, leaving only eight cups of drinking water per person, per day. That’s probably not enough. First of all, it tends to be very hot after a hurricane because a) hurricanes usually happen in the months that are the hottest in Cayman; and b) the electricity supply is often interrupted and even if you have a portable generator at home, it probably isn’t powerful enough to operate an air conditioning unit.
Because of the heat, you’ll probably perspire more than usual, and it’s important to stay hydrated. It’s best then to allot a gallon a day per person just for drinking, so double the minimum recommendation – two gallons of water per person per day.
Water is also necessary for a variety of other things – bathing, food preparation, cleaning and flushing toilets. This water should be clean, but doesn’t necessarily have to be store-bought bottled water. Fill bathtubs and large jugs prior to a hurricane to have lots of water for a variety of purposes.
If the electricity goes out, the ATMs might not work and the banks might not be open. Merchants won’t have a way of running credit or debit cards, and many businesses will operate on a “cash-only” basis. Have some U.S. dollar cash on hand as well, just in case you need to leave the island quickly.
If the electricity goes out, as is the likely scenario during and after a hurricane, any food items that require refrigeration will become problematic. You can keep some items in a cooler, but then you’ll have to constantly buy ice – which can be difficult to source and expensive. Buying food after a severe hurricane strike can be difficult as well. After Hurricane Ivan in 2004, many of Grand Cayman’s grocery stores couldn’t open and those that did have limited supplies and restrictions on how much you could buy.
It’s best to have a supply of foods that don’t require refrigeration or cooking. Canned fish and meats are popular, but don’t overdo it: After just a couple days on canned corned beef, Spam, sardines and tuna, you’ll find they lose a lot of their appeal. Supplement canned meats with dry goods like dehydrated fruit, jerky, crackers with processed cheese products that don’t require refrigeration, granola or other dry cereals and a variety of snacks like nuts and pretzels.
If you feel confident you’ll have a way of cooking without electricity, dry pasta with tomato sauce from a can or jar can be an easy and satisfying meal. If you have canned goods, make sure they are of the pop-top variety or that you have a nonelectrical can opener.
Hurricanes tend to cause the electricity to go out and that means darkness after sunset, unless you have alternative lighting. Candles will do in a pinch, but they don’t put out very much light, they add heat to the room and are a fire hazard. Oil lamps are safer and even though they add some heat, they burn brighter.
Flashlights are indispensible for moving around inside a dark house, but they’re less useful for general room lighting. A battery powered fluorescent lantern or two are the best bet usage in kitchens, dining rooms and living areas after a storm. Don’t forget extra batteries!
FIRST AID KIT
There’s always a possibility of being injured during a hurricane, but even if you get through it unscathed, the effects of a hurricane outside will create numerous opportunities for a variety of cuts, gashes, scrapes or punctures. It’s easy to step on scattered nails or glass, to get cut by a sharp edge when clearing debris, or injure yourself when trying to conduct repairs to your home.
Conditions after a hurricane can be unsanitary so it’s very important to treat even the smallest wound. Having a first aid kit – either one you buy or one you put together yourself – is essential, with the most important components being a variety of different-sized bandages, antibiotic ointment, gauze pads and adhesive tape.
Also have waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your kit. Hurricanes are dirty, so it’s important to wash your hands, particularly when eating. Buy a couple of the large bottles, particularly if there are several people in your household.
Be sure to have at least a two-week – and preferably a full month – supply of any prescription medication. Your pharmacy may or may not survive the storm and your doctor may or may not be on the island immediately following a hurricane. Also, have a nonprescription pain reliever on hand.
A BATTERY-POWERED RADIO
It’s low-tech, but having a battery-powered electronic device capable of receiving local radio broadcasts is very important during and after a hurricane. The loss of electricity can prevent television and Internet reception, so radio might be your only way of hearing important notices, advisories and news. Don’t forget extra batteries.
NON-ELECTRICAL COOKING SOURCE
Not having any hot meals can get old very quickly, but many households only have electric ovens/ranges, which won’t work if the electricity goes out. If you have a gas range in your home, great, but just make sure the connection didn’t get damaged during the storm before you use it. Otherwise, a gas or charcoal grill, or a propane camp stove, will work, too. You’ll need to make sure you have full propane canisters of charcoal on hand and remember never to use those cooking methods indoors.
PAPER TOWELS AND TOILET TISSUE
You really don’t want to be without a good supply of either of these post-hurricane essentials. Paper towels can be used for a number of clean-up jobs, as napkins and for wiping hands and faces.
HEAVY-DUTY GARBAGE BAGS
These are useful for cleaning up debris, but also for household garbage, the collection of which could be disrupted.
PAPER PLATES, PLASTIC FORKS/KNIVES/SPOONS
The fewer dishes you have to wash after a hurricane, the better.
A SOLAR PHONE CHARGER
Keeping cell phones, tablets, notebooks and other important small electronic devices charged can be a challenge after a hurricane, especially for those without a generator (Note: generators are nice to have but aren’t considered “essential”). Adapters for charging in the car are handy, but cars – as we learned in Hurricane Ivan – can be destroyed during storms. A solar charger can be a vital posthurricane tool.