Be Prepared for Storms

These tips will help you plan for storms, floods, power outages and other emergencies.
By Heidi Hunt
May 8, 2008
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Severe weather brings with it the threat of high winds, rising water and power outages.

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Lightning and wind and rain – oh my! Severe storms, plus the blackouts and flooding that accompany them, can be life-threatening. But, with a bit of advanced planning, you can weather them with relative comfort and minimal anxiety.

Food and Water

For most short-term emergencies, when the power goes out, experts recommend that you have on hand 1 gallon of water for drinking and sanitation per person per day for at least three days.

Here’s how to do this: When storms threaten, fill jugs with drinking water and fill your bath tub to have water to flush the toilet. (If water pressure fails, you can still flush by pouring water into the tank and flipping the lever.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has information on disinfecting water for drinking and cooking.

Keep on hand some foods that can be eaten without being cooked and can be easily carried if you need to evacuate your home. Energy bars, jerky, dried fruit and nuts keep a long time, are easy to store and carry, and contain concentrated energy and protein.

If you have pets, you also will want to develop a plan for their care and safety, especially if you have to evacuate. Add water for pets to your stored supply and sealable bags of dry food, plus leashes, crates and bowls to eat and drink from, if you have to evacuate. It’s good to have your animals’ shots up to date and their records handy to take with you.

Some folks keep an evacuation backpack ready to go in case of an emergency. If you and your family have to leave the house in a hurry, having just the basic supplies listed below will make the situation more comfortable. Store the backpack in a location that is easily accessible and known by all members of the household. Ready America, a government Web site, has more information about emergency supplies.

Emergency Kit

Weather radio
Old cell phone
Cell phone car charger
First aid kit
Water bottles
Hand sanitizer
Sealable plastic bags for food
A rain parka for each member of the family
Spare batteries
Cash, including some change
Addresses and phone numbers of family members and emergency services
Local map
Deck of cards

Stay Informed

If the power goes out, you won’t have TV, radio or the Internet to provide you with up-to-date information. Battery-powered or crank weather radios, available from $9 to $90, will keep you informed of conditions during a weather emergency.

Even if the power goes out, a landline, non-electric phone may still work, so keep one around. And you can use your car to charge your cell phone using a cell phone car charger, which plugs into the 12 volt DC car power socket (cigarette lighter). And any charged cell phone that can receive a signal, even one without an active service account, can dial 911.

Have a Plan

Know where to go in case a tornado or high water threatens your home. If you don’t have a basement, go to the most interior room or go to the nearest storm shelter. In cases of high water threatening your property, you should know the safest escape route to high ground that will not take you through the flood waters. Practice these strategies with your family so everyone knows where to go in case of a weather emergency.

Unless your house has been damaged by high winds or is being threatened by flood waters, the safest place to be during a weather emergency is your own home. We all cope best during times of stress when we are in familiar surroundings. This is especially true for children, the elderly and pets.

First Aid

Having first aid knowledge is another valuable resource for your family and your community. The Red Cross and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) offer first aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes. The time to take these classes is now, before you need to use the skills.

Ready America also has a list of first aid kit supplies that includes the following, plus special supplies for at risk situations:

Two pairs of Latex, or other sterile gloves (if you are allergic to Latex)
Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect
Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
Aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever
Anti-diarrhea medication

With preparation and planning, you can make a short-term power outage relatively easy to deal with. You and your family might even be able to make it a fun experience, similar to camping out.

Heidi Hunt is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. She has been on the editorial staff since 2001 when Ogden Publications acquired the magazine. Heidi especially enjoys interacting with readers and answering the myriad of questions they throw her way. You can also follow Heidi on .

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Post a comment below.


Shawn Henry
6/12/2011 6:29:40 AM
Your also gonna need a pocket knife and some kind of twine or rope in your emergency kit. Never know when you got to cut something or tie it down.

6/11/2011 12:33:42 AM
BIBLE!?!?! ARE YOU SERIOUS? Survival is all about needs, not wants, and you do not need a bible to pray! I'd rather trade that weight for a decent hand gun and some rounds!!! You need water! You need food! You need shelter, heat, and more importantly, SAFETY! A bible would only serve as kindling to start a fire to keep you warm!

Nina Barnhart
6/8/2011 2:48:15 PM
You forgot to include a Bible in your list of needs!!!!

6/8/2011 12:53:48 PM
It is important to have emergency supplies at your work location also. You just might be there and unable to leave. I am a retired teacher and tried to be prepared in case I and my students had to remain in the classroom. It is not always weather that is the issue. In one case, we had a whole-campus lockdown, which meant not leaving the room for a few hours. There is something about a case like that when students suddenly want food or water. MyraSaidIt Visit me here to learn ways to have better health

6/8/2011 11:38:14 AM
NOTE: Just pouring the water into the commode's bowl until it flushes works fine. No need to two-step the process.

Arthur Roberts
4/28/2010 5:46:22 PM
One suggestion I'd like to make is to check with your local community and find out about the local emergency services. Many communities have various plans in place for a variety of possibilities knowing what the plans are for your area helps in times of disasters - and if you are a Ham operator you could fit right in and provide communications. In fact, getting a Ham license is not that difficult anymore (no morse code requirement). Many areas that have storms offer Sky Warn classes that train spotters (no, they don't chase storms, they watch them) and they are quite often open to the public if you ask.

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