Hurricane season started June 1. For residents of the U.S. eastern seaboard, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico, the next several months — until November 30 — will be marked by heightened vigilance. Terms like “eye,” “band,” “depression,” and “surge” will take on new meaning. Every eastern Atlantic-born tropical disturbance is sure to spark a flurry of speculation.
But now is not the time for idle anticipation. Instead, it’s best to prepare by identifying evacuation routes, revisiting emergency plans, and stocking up on supplies.
In this post, we’ll focus on the critical task of shopping for said supplies — something that should never be left for the last minute. “If you wait until a storm is headed your way, you risk having to stand in long lines, and you may not be able to get what you need,” says Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.
So without further ado, here are a few tips to consider.
Plan accordingly to minimize your expenses
Besides avoiding painfully long waits and empty shelves, shopping for supplies now gives you time to plan — and take advantage of deals. “Several grocery stores offer regular buy-one-get-one deals, which come in handy when purchasing large quantities of a particular item,” Feltgen says. Our tip: Make a list of everything you need, and then look for coupons.
Be sure you’re set on emergency equipment
According to NOAA’s Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide, your stockpile of emergency equipment should include the following at a minimum:
- Three-day supply of drinking water (one gallon per person, per day)
- Three-day supply of non-perishable food
- One change of clothing and shoes per person
- One blanket or sleeping bag per person
- First-aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Emergency tools
- Battery-powered weather radio and a portable radio
- Extra set of car keys
- Credit card and cash
- Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members
- Prescription and non-prescription medicines
A few thoughts on emergency supplies: When it comes to a flashlight, something durable and waterproof, such as this crank-powered rainproof lantern, is always a good choice. You may also want to consider a generator for keeping large appliances like your fridge running; both gas- and solar-powered models are available. (Regardless of the generator you choose, learn how to operate it well before the winds start to howl!) And when it comes to food and water, be sure you have an ample supply for your pets, too.
Don’t forget about powering your phone
If you were to lose power during a storm, keep in mind you’ll also lose the ability to charge your cell phone. For this reason, Feltgen recommends having a battery-powered cell-phone charger on hand. It’s a good idea even if you have a generator: a small, battery-powered charger is easily portable, which means you can take it along if you’re forced to evacuate.
Preparation is key
Perhaps the most important thing to remember while shopping is this sage advice from Feltgen: “Regardless of the seasonal outlook, you should prepare for this season — and every season — as if you’re going to experience a direct hit.” So while it’s tempting to put off shopping for supplies until next week’s outing, it’s better to be prepared.
After all, hurricanes and tropical storms are known to cause widespread flooding, spawn deadly tornadoes, and produce damaging winds — even in areas far inland from the coast. Having the right plan and supplies in place is critical. It may even save your life!