June 10, 2013

Hurricane Preparedness

Libby Carnahan, UF/IFAS Pinellas County
Sea Grant Extension Agent

Nan Jensen, UF/IFAS Pinellas County
Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent

June kicks off hurricane season and five days into the month Tropical Storm Andrea formed in the Gulf of Mexico, proving that it is never too early to review your hurricane plans. Below are some helpful tips.

Review your Disaster Plan
A predetermined hurricane plan takes the guesswork out of an already stressful situation. It is important to know your evacuation zone and designated shelter (In Pinellas County- Meet with your family and discuss what you will do if advised to evacuate. It is a good idea to designate an out-of-state friend as a contact for your family. Be aware of local resources including telephone numbers and websites; a useful list of local resources can be found at It is recommended that you talk with your neighbors about how you could work together after a tropical storm or hurricane-identify tools and skills of each neighbor, identify elderly neighbors with special needs, and make plans for childcare in case parents cannot get home. Keep the items that you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to carry container such as a large, covered trash container, a camping backpack, or a duffle bag.

Stock your Supply Kit
To be ready for a disaster, you need to stock six basics in your home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items.

A five to seven day supply of nonperishable foods and water is recommended. Also include items like a non-electric can opener, utility knife, plastic utensils and dishware, plastic wrap or tin foil to keep foods covered and hand sanitizer to lessen the risk of food contamination in your hurricane preparation kit. Before the storm, turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings. After a power outage, refrigerated food will stay cold longer if you keep the refrigerator door closed. Food in the refrigerator should generally be eaten within 4 hours; food in the freezer may remain safe for 1-2 days. But when in doubt if food is safe to eat, throw it out.

  • Ideal foods do not need refrigeration, are low in salt, and do not require cooking. Some examples are canned fruits, peanut butter, jam, low-salt crackers, cereals, dried fruit, canned soups or meats, juices, and non-fat dry milk. 
  • Clean drinking water may be unavailable for days. Aim to have one to two gallons of water per person per day for at least 5 to 7 days. 
  • Include any special foods for those with dietary restrictions, and baby food and formula if you have infants in the household. 
  • Include medications and special needs for babies or elderly. 
  • Don’t forget pet food and water.

It is also important to have key documents in order. Even if you do not need family records during an evacuation, you must prevent them from being destroyed by a disaster. Such records are difficult to replace and may delay an insurance claim or other important matters. Keep these records in a waterproof, fireproof, portable container:

  • Copies of will, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds • Passports, social security cards and immunization records 
  • Bank account numbers 
  • Credit card account numbers and companies 
  • Inventory of valuable household goods 
  • Important telephone numbers 
  • Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)

The University of Florida IFAS offers many great resources to help you prepare including the new Gulf of Mexico Alliance funded “Florida Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards,” and the “Disaster Handbook”, available online.

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