(Note: this page is being rebuilt. If you have tips from a 2017 or 2018 version, please e-mail them to me at [email protected] so I can rebuild quicker.)
Do not wait for the last minute.
1. Are you in an evacuation zone? This is a life-or-death decision.
If yes, have an evacuation plan (shelter at a safe elevation, with friends, in hotel, at a public shelter).
2. Have a Plan. Make a list for prep: this helps prioritize and ensure you don’t overlook anything. Delegate tasks clearly.
3. Get prep started early. This is not a sprint, you need endurance.
Use this document to start building or add to your Plan and Lists.
This State of Florida link has a tool to develop a plan (I have not used it).
This is a very stressful time, so take some common-sense steps to minimize your stress.
1. TV: Turn it Off. Leaving it on will raise your stress and waste your time. Turn it on once an hour when you need a break from prep… and then turn it off.
2. Be organized. Have a Plan. Taking control of your family’s safety and wellbeing is the greatest peace of mind.
3. Keep your voice down. Shouting increases stress for everyone.
4. Be kind. Whether it is family, friends, pets or total strangers… be kind. In traffic, let them in… We are all in the same boat, so make it the best one possible.
5. Smile. It feels good, and brightens others’ world.
6. Mental Health Breaks: Do something that feels good. Listen to music, read a book, pet your cat, take yourself away from the emergency for a few minutes.
7. Hosting. If you are safe, invite friends who evacuate to shelter with you.
9. Kid-Friendly: Depending on age and capability, provide kids with activities that keep them occupied. It could be homework, playing games, helping with a prep task. For older kids, doing prep helps them feel productive and part of the solution.
PREP Steps: Pets
Your pets depend on you, so have a plan and checklist.
1. Safe Pet Management: How will you control your pet if you evacuate? Cats and small dogs may need carriers, dogs need leashes, others may need mobile cages.
2. Outdoor pets: Your cats may be impossible to find, so collect them at feeding time, before they run and hide.
3. Food and Water: Have the basics on hand for 3-7 days.
4. Medicine: Have a supply for 3-7 days.
5. Evacuation: Have a pet evac plan. Some shelters and hotels allow pets, but most do not.
Help Your Neighbors
. Before the storm: Get to know those around you. Knock on a few doors. Help with their prep. Share this info/link. As if they have special needs, like elders alone, single parents, health conditions…
Money: Get Cash
If power goes down, so do many ATMs and retail Credit Card machines.
Be sure to have at least $200 cash on hand to last several days.
Smaller bills like $20s are best, since you can’t count on making change.
You need water for drinking, washing and flushing.
You probably don’t need to buy water: as long as you live in an area with a dependable water supply, you will never lose your water.
Only areas where there are frequent “boil water orders” are at risk.
DRINKING WATER TIPS:
Your water heater is full of clean water! If you lose pressure, know where the drain valve is, and have a plan to harvest from it.
Keep a stash of bottles and containers for drinking water for the next hurricane. Gallon jugs, 2 liter bottles, 5 gallon buckets or carboys…
Store them dry, and fill them up before the storm.
FLUSHING & WASHING TIPS:
Fill your bathtub up, and have a bucket handy to flush with.
Conserve: Yellow is mellow, but flush brown down.
Documents & Insurance
Take a video of your valuables to document what you have.
After you are done putting up shutters and taking steps to protect your family, turn on all lights. Then shoot video(s) as you walk through every room and around your house.
Store the video in the Cloud, Drop Box or similar.
If you can, store all your important papers in a bank safety deposit box.
You can also use water-proof storage in many homes: Washing Machine and Dish Washer are both sealed. Be sure to latch firmly. If your roof leaks, they will be safe.
Heat, Light & Power
When power goes out (it probably will) the night is blacker than we ever see in the city. Everything changes. It can be scary. It is also hot as hell.
HEAT: FANS & Windows
Our modern homes assume you have AC and power. Without it, they become dangerous solar ovens.
The humble box fan is a life-saver. It will run on very little power, and can keep you and yours from sweltering. Smaller fans can be great too.
Battery powered fans are good, as long as you have the batteries.
Windows & Ventilation:
Leave one window un-shuttered on each side of the house, if you can. This will allow some cross-ventilation. Opening windows on the up- and down-wind sides can make a house livable. Put shutters up before the storm, of course.
You may be able to crack windows covered with shutters.
Screens: Protect yourself from mosquitoes. Check screens for damage. If you need to open a window, and the screen is damaged, swap it with a good screen from a closed window.
Solar lights are awesome. Charge them in the sun.
Flashlights are good for all-around use, but they take up a hand.
Headlights are super: you will have both hands free for whatever.
Lanterns are great for general light, like cooking, eating and family activities.
Batteries are essential.
Rechargeables are good… if you have power.
Get an inverter with a 12volt “cigarette lighter” plug so you can charge in your car.
Candles and Open Flames
These are dangerous, and should never be left unattended or with children.
They are also hot.
Assume you will lose power.
Don’t expect to power your whole house. Get one that will run basic fans, lights, fridge, laptops and modems, and charge batteries.
Noise Matters. Most generators are so loud that they can drive you nuts. If possible, get a quiet one. They are more expensive, but worth it. I recommend Honda’s EU2000i.
Loud generators are easier for thieves to find.
NEVER run generators INSIDE. They will kill you with Carbon Monoxide.
Only run them where they are will ventilated: open porch, outside… far from open windows.
Place Genny for safety, cord reach, weather protection and anti-theft.
Take care for electrical hazards. Cords should be inspected for damage, and not run through puddles. Connectors should be elevated off the ground.
Lock up your Genny, or it may disappear. A bike cable to the base of a fence post is often good.
Pro-Tip: Genny Lean-To: Use your shutters or plywood (when you take them down). Lean them up against a wall or fence to make a lean-to shelter.
Before you put your Genny away, either run the tank empty or add fuel stablizer (bad fuel can kill your Genny later).
If you are in an evacuation zone, you must have a plan.
(When considering a new home or business, go through these steps.)
Why does it matter?
This is a life-or-death question. More people die from drowning than by wind damage. You can not protect your home from flooding. Other conditions can trigger evacuation. Protect yourself and your family.
There are numerous reasons to evacuate.
Low elevation, coastal exposure or evac zone (Storm Surge)
History of flooding
Hill country: you are in a valley or low-lying area. (Rain / Flash Flooding)
Tall building without generators (older people should not get trapped without elevators).
Health Needs: if you need special care, or medical devices require power and you don’t have a generator, you should go to a shelter with the needed care facilities.
EVAC: Don’t know yet?
Check your county government website.
In Miami, you can find out here: https://www8.miamidade.gov/global/service.page?Mduid_service=ser1477583540306215
Is there an evacuation order for my home? Input your address here:
In an evac area? Have an evac plan and checklist. Know and prepare:
* where you are going, and how long it will take to get there (assume there will be a traffic jam).
* how long it will take you to prep for departure.
* what you need to bring.
* any special needs.
* what tasks can be delegated to helpers.
WHERE TO GO?
Friends: Ask friends, families, co-workers, friends-of-friends about sheltering with them, or for referrals. Them knowing you personally can assure possible hosts that you are a good person.
Public Shelter: These are typically bare-bones, and have virtually zero privacy. Bring bedding, air mattresses, sleeping bags, sheets, blankets, pillows, etc.
Churches & Private Shelters: Comfy to spartan.
Hotels: Book Early.
Get Out of Town: see below.
Pets can impact your options (some hotels and shelters accept them, some friends are OK with them).
WHO TO ASK?
Most families shelter together, but if you are splitting up, have a plan for drop off and pick up (assume cell service will be down).
Consider your hosts, and who may need the most help… and what evacuee is the best match.
You can post your need on social media.
The kindness of strangers can be beautiful… but be careful.
Wherever you end up, try to be cheerful and helpful, and fit into your new site. This will make life easier on you and your hosts/neighbors.
Leave that behind when you drive away from home.
You will meet people with very different views, and you may have to work with them and even depend on them for your safety. Being trapped with someone who uses their captive audience to abuse them is just unacceptable. Don’t be that person.
Be neat, tidy and quiet. Offer to volunteer with the shelter manager.
If someone needs help, offer (in a low-key, non-critical way).
Respect privacy as much as possible.
Got kids? Start a play group. Read to them.
Shelter with Friends or Strangers
If they are keeping your family safe, you should basically worship the ground they walk on. Be grateful in all your actions.
* Ask if you can help with their prep.
* If you see something specific that needs doing… ask (in a non-critical way).
* Wash your dishes, and theirs.
* Offer to cook.
* Bring food and beverages.
* Walk their dog.
* Enjoy their entertainment choices (or pretend to).
* Ask them what you can bring (beforehand).
* Bring air mattress in case you end up on the floor.
Get Out of Town
Don’t get stuck on the highway with a Cane chasing you and a million others. You could die.
If you are going to GOT, do it very early. Check traffic before you leave on Google or a traffic app.
Avoid exposed routes, like right along the coast or a river, or along major lakes or through swamps. Tall bridges can become dangerous in high winds.
What to Bring
Personal Items: 3 days worth of clothing, plus 3 extra shirts (you may sweat a lot). Toiletries, medicines, toilet paper roll, empty trash bags for laundry and keeping stuff dry.
Bedding: You will need everything in a shelter, or ask your host.
Water: 1gallon per person for 3 days (and refill when you can).
Food: Pack a cooler with frozen food in the bottom and perishables on top. Ice is best if kept in frozen jugs (water can damage food). Have easy meals and snacks you can eat from the package with no prep (cans, tear-open packages). Store must-cook food together.
Lighting: Flashlight and lantern, see “Heat, Power, Light” above.
If you are a camper, you probably already know what you’re doing.
Stove and fuel
Tent and tarps
Flashlight and lantern
Need Gas? Check Availability.
Just input Zip. A map displays for your area.
Cooking Without Power
If your power goes down, you must be prepared to feed your family.
* Foods you can eat without cooking are easy: cans and bags of ready-to-eat are easy.
* Got a gas stove? You can cook as usual (but that’s fracked gas).
* Coleman-type stoves (white gas or LP)
* Sterno can be purchased at many stores and used at a moment’s notice
* Remember to have matches or lighters.
* BBQ Grilles can be used creatively. Example: You can cook a defrosted pizza!
* Engine Block: Wrap food securely in foil an place on the hot engine block of a vehicle. Mythbusters cooked a whole Thanksgiving meal this way. Really. Results may vary!
* Hot pavement that feel like you could fry an egg on it… can fry an egg. Results may vary!
USDA Food Safety Link has good standards. https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/food-and-water-safety-during-power-outages-and-floods
You can use your freezer creatively to make life better.
Keep It Closed:
If you lose power temporarily, keep the doors sealed to hold the cold in.
Place jugs of water in the freezer. Fill up 90%, and then squeeze the air out before capping. Gallon and Half-Gallons are best. This allows space for water to expand. Once they are frozen, you can:
Leave them in the freezer for power outages.
Move to the fridge or cooler to keep it cold (without leaking water into the bottom). Block ice lasts a VERY long time and will get you through outages.
Keep freezing more water if you remove jugs.
After melting, you can consider drinking the water (though plastic may release PCBs into water during freezing – not sure if this is still an issue).
Ziplocks can be frozen, but they are easily damaged. When they are damaged, they leak. Jugs are better if you have them (see above).
Freeze Bowls for Water Coolers
You can freeze water in open bowls. After frozen, remove them and hold upside down under running water (and be ready to catch them when they release. Place in a water cooler to chill it. Repeat.
Freezer Defrost Monitor
Freeze a cup or small bottle of water, then add a little water and a coin or pebble on top. Be sure it is kept vertical in the freezer when you move stuff around.
How to use it: If your freezer loses power and defrosts, the water will melt and allow the coin/pebble to sink. This will alert you that food defrosted, how much, and if you should toss your food.
Lost Power BBQ/ Cookout
If you lose power and you have a bunch of food that has defrosted… have a BBQ! Cook it before you lose it. If you have more than you can eat… invite friends and neighbors! Don’t use grilles inside – they can kill you.
Defrost, Cook & Chill
When your food has defrosted, you can cook it and then chill it in a cooler. Seal or close the pot or tupperware before chilling to keep out microbes that spoil food.
Personal Clean Up Before Storm
If you lose power, you will lose your dishwasher, clothes washer, hot water heat… you don’t want to be stuck with stinky stuff!
Do yourself a favor:
* Run your dishwasher
* Wash your clothes
* Take a shower
This is extra important if you are evacuating.
Returning to rotting food and roaches in the sink is no fun.
Understanding DEADLY STORM SURGE
Far more people are killed by Storm Surge than by the winds directly, so please take all necessary steps to protect yourself. If you are in an evacuation zone, get to a safe shelter on high ground. See Evacuation above.
This was created for South Florida, but can be applied to any coastal area (see your County Gov’t website).
KING TIDES are naturally occurring “super-high tides” that happen due to lunar and solar cycles. They can be 24″ higher than normal tides.
If a hurricane strikes during King Tides, this will boost the Storm Surge to a higher level.
NOTE: Hurricane Dorian is arriving during a King Tide period. This has probably contributed to drownings in the Bahamas. Take this seriously.
Your area may experience Storm Surge (where and how much depends on where the eye comes ashore).
INLAND IS NOT SAFE Most of Miami’s interior is low, sometimes less that 5′ elevation. The high ground of the Rock Ridge acts as a natural levee, but it has rivers and creeks that flow through it. There are huge breaks around Princeton in the south.
SCENARIOS If the eye hits Miami, water will be pushed up against the shoreline. Coastal Barrier Islands will be submerged (Miami Beach, Key Biscayne).
Worst Case: If the NE quadrant of the eye (the strongest part of the storm) hits along the Miami Mainland, it will push water up into northern Biscayne Bay.
If the Surge + Tide is high enough, it will enter the mainland through the rivers. Then it will enter the interior. How far it will go depends on storm duration, intensity, and placement.
Please see the scenarios. I added yellow arrows to show where the water could enter the mainland. Notice how the inland areas turn blue as they submerge, and the difference between 6′ and 8′. Remember that the County says there is a 10% chance that Surge could be greater than 10′.
I invite you to use this tool. Look at the 10′ Surge. https://ss2.climatecentral.org/#10/25.8184/-80.2491?show=satellite&projections=0-RCP85-SLR&level=5&unit=feet&pois=hide
IMPORTANT TIDE NOTE: Tides will be about 12″ higher when Irma comes to visit, which might be near High Tide. This will BOOST the Hurricane Storm-Surge by up to 12″. This is caused by Lunar High Tides (about 6″ higher than usual) and “El Nino Bulge” causing tides to be around 6″ higher than forecast.
STEPS TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY
1. Know if you are in an evacuation area (A&B, parts of C). http://www.miamidade.gov/hurricane/library/evacuation-zone-map-2013.pdf 2. If you are told to evacuate, get out. My recommendation is that if you are anywhere in evacuation areas A, B or C, get out. Shelters and other info: http://www.miamidade.gov/hurricane/
3. Additional Prep and Planning: the UPG Guide
I have compiled a bunch of Hurricane Prep Tips, many learned “the hard way”, and added great links to Miami-Dade County and tips from NWS. +++++++++++++++++++
Big THANK YOU to NOAA Climate.Gov NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center. Anyone who wants to cut their funding should shut up and go away. We need National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
NOAA Update: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at1+shtml/002047.shtml?cone#contents
NOAA Surge Map http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at1+shtml/215356.shtml?inundation#contents
If you are Flood Trapped in a House
If you are trapped in a structure and the water is rising, be prepared to make tough decisions. You may have to choose the “least bad” option.
Here are some options:
Climb up into the upper stories, attic or rafters. If rising water traps you there it will probably drown you, so…
Be sure to bring tools like claw hammers, axes, sledge hammers, crow bars and drills in case you have to bust through a roof and climb out on top.
Bring rope to tie yourself and have something to hold on to.
Bring supplies, signalling devices, flash lights, flares, paint, food, water, phone. Have a knapsack or gym bag for gear, and ziplocks to keep important stuff dry.
If your structure is not trustworthy, or…
If the water will soon make survival impossible, or…
If the water can be walked through now, but not later…
You may have to leave the temporary shelter of the structure for somewhere much safer.
Be sure to bring floatation. Coolers can support one or several swimmers and carry food and water, and keep cell phones and ID dry-ish. Tied or strap them shut if possible so they don’t pop open. Gallon jugs can be emptied and strung on a belt or rope around the upper chest. Avoid clothing that will become heavy with water, like sweatshirts.
If you have a boat, be aware that strong wind may make it hard or impossible to control.
AFTER the STORM
Don’t leave safety until the storm has fully passed.
The eye is not safe. You could die.
After the storm, your world may be turned upside down. Trees are down, structures damaged, vehicles crushed, and everything coated with shredded leaves and plant fiber. Flood waters may still fill your neighborhood.
Many deaths occur after the storm has passed, so safety still matters. If roads are closed or 911 is down, a crisis that is normally survivable can become a tragedy if you can’t get to a hospital. Be extra safe.
Downed Power Lines: Stay Away at least 50′, more if in standing water. They may still be energized, and there is no way to tell if they are safe.
If removing downed trees and limbs, look for power lines before going to work.
Flood Water: Avoid if possible. It may be contain raw sewage, industrial contamination. If you are exposed, don’t touch your eyes or mouth. Wash with soapy water ASAP.
Chainsaws: These are very dangerous tools, and not for casual users. Kickback happens when the running saw’s chain contacts unexpected objects, propelling it suddenly backward with potentially fatal results.
Dehydration: Most people are accustomed to air conditioning, and many “modern” homes don’t enable cross-ventilation. Structures can become solar ovens. The young, elders and infirm are especially vulnerable.
Check with your county. Google “cooling shelters near me X County” and you may find places where they can chill out.
Heat Stroke: This can be dangerous, and is especially so for people working in the heat. Feeling dizzy, dry skin (not sweaty), headaches… Get in the shade, in a breeze, with chilled water… More here: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/heat-stroke-symptoms-and-treatment#1
Boil Water Order: It is very rare to lose water pressure. Sometimes pipes get damaged, and a Boil Water Order is issues. If they do, follow directions to avoid contamination.
Safety Tips from M-D County: Electrical & Water Hazards
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and the Office of Emergency Management urges residents to heed the following information due to debris caused by Hurricane Irma.
• RESIDENTS SHOULD NOT CALL 911 EXCEPT IN CASE OF ACTUAL EMERGENCIES.
• Flooded Areas-
o DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH A FLOODED AREA: Do not drive around road barriers, or through large puddles. Hidden debris may be just under the surface that could disable your car.
• Debris on Roads-
o Miami-Dade County Solid Waste Management has begun clearing on major access roads leading to emergency health care facilities.
o Availability of emergency medical treatment subsequent to the storm is of utmost importance. Clearing of arterial roads and residential streets will not begin until these priority roads have been cleared.
• Electrical Safety-
o Miami-Dade residents are warned to stay away from fallen electrical wiring. Do not touch fallen or low-hanging wires of any kind under any circumstances. A wire that appears harmless could be crossed with a live wire and could be deadly. Whether on the ground, hanging free, or attached to an object – do not touch it.
o Stay away from puddles because they could be in contact with fallen wires.
o Do not cut trees or limbs that are touching or even near power lines. When reinstalling a radio, TV or satellite antenna, first check in all directions and make certain that no power lines are nearby.
o Keep anyone, especially children and pets, far away from power lines, trees in contact with power lines, and repair crews. The work they are doing is very dangerous to everyone but trained, properly equipped repair crews.
o FPL is in the process of restoring service as quickly as possible.
o Turn off lights and appliance switches until power is restored in your neighborhood. This will avoid power system overloads that may further delay electric service. Please be patient.
• Generator Safety-
o Do not to use an electrical generator inside a house or other enclosed structure. Carbon monoxide fumes emitted from the generator are toxic and can be lethal.
o Ground your generator according to the instructions provided.
o Do not connect your generator directly into your home’s wiring system. It is a fire hazard and poses a risk to FPL personnel restoring power to your area.
Residents may access official Miami-Dade County emergency information at www.miamidade.gov/emergency, call the 311 Contact Center or follow us @MiamiDadeCounty on Twitter and Facebook.