Storm Prep Checklist: Have You Completed These 5 Steps?June 3, 2021 - Katie McCallum
Storms happen. Natural disasters happen.
It's not pleasant to think about how heavy rain or high winds might affect you, your family and your home, but it's important to be prepared for it nonetheless. Your health and safety may depend on it.
And prepping for a storm is more involved than stopping by the grocery store to stock up on water and canned goods, although this is an important step.
Here's a checklist of five steps you should consider taking to prepare for a storm or other natural disaster:
1. Sign up for alerts and warnings
This first step may sound obvious enough, but do you actually know where to turn for timely, accurate information during a storm or emergency?
Public officials use many different systems for warnings and alerts. Thankfully, messages from all of these systems are combined into the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) — the nation's alert and warning system that delivers important information via text message, radio, TV, digital road signs and sirens.
Make sure you're set up to receive important warnings and alerts by:
- Ensuring your mobile phone is receiving Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
- Signing up to receive text or email alerts from your city, town or county. (Opt-in to AlertHouston here)
- Considering purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio from a local retailer, which can be used to receive NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) radio — a 24/7 broadcast of weather events and national emergencies
- Opting in to receive alerts your from workplace, school or neighborhood
- Downloading an alert app, such as the FEMA, American Red Cross or Weather Channel app
2. Know the specific risks associated with common disasters in your area
There are many types of hazards and disasters.
It's good to be prepared for anything that can come your way, but it's critical to be prepared for disasters common to your region or area — which can vary.
If you're a Houstonian, here are five hazards you'll want to be sure you're knowledgeable about:
Familiarize yourself with the risks associated with any disasters common to your area, as well as how to prepare for and safely navigate these risks should you need to.
For instance, during a hurricane, be prepared to seek shelter from high winds and water, and do not attempt to walk, swim or drive through floodwater.
3. Make a plan, test your plan, share your plan
In some cases, you may have advance warning of a disaster and have already gathered with your family and prepared for the event.
In other cases, you may not. Do you have a plan?
Consider solving for these potential challenges ahead of time:
- How will you contact your family if mobile phones and computers become unreliable?
- Do your kids have access to the phone numbers needed to reach you in an emergency?
- Who will pick up your children from school if you can't? Make sure you kids know who to expect.
- Where are the safest places to seek shelter in your home during a disaster?
- Do you know what's a medical emergency and how to handle one during a natural disaster?
- How will you determine if/when you need to evacuate and where will you go?
- Does someone in your household rely on a medical device powered by electricity, and what might this mean for your planning?
- How does COVID-19 affect your evacuation plan?
- What is your plan for you pets? Do not leave animals behind.
- Where is a safe, accessible place for you and your family to reunite if separated?
- Who is an out-of-town, central point of contact your family can rely on if you need to reconnect with one another?
Next, document your plan, practice your plan with your family and share your plan with neighbors and out-of-town relatives or friends.
4. Build an emergency supplies kit
During or after a disaster or emergency, basic services — including power, water and grocery stores — may be interrupted and/or traveling on roads may be unsafe.
Make sure you have the supplies needed to survive on your own in your home for several days by building an emergency supplies kit.
- One gallon of water (per person) per day, for at least several days
- Plenty of non-perishable food (3-day supply recommended)*
- Battery-powered radio (consider buying a NOAA Weather Radio so you can receive NWR alerts)
- First-aid kit
- Flashlight for every person in your household
- Plenty of batteries
- Fire extinguisher
- Garbage bags
- Paper towels
- Can opener
- Disposable plates and utensils
- Personal hygiene items, including toilet paper, moist towelettes, tampons
- COVID-19 supplies (masks, soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes)
- Tarps and duct tape, in case you need to create temporary shelter
- Sleeping bag for each person in your household
- Wrench and/or pliers, to turn off water valves and other appliances
- A backup supply of any prescription medications (if applicable)
- Prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses and contact lens solution (if applicable)
- Infant supplies, including formula, diapers, wipes and bottles (if applicable)
- Pet supplies, including water, food, litter and waste bags (if applicable)
*If you lose power, be sure you understand how a power outage affects food safety
Pack your emergency supplies in air-tight plastic bags that fit into transportable plastic containers that are clearly labeled.
In addition, revisit and rethink your emergency supplies kit every year in case new supplies need to be added, expired supplies need to be replaced or unnecessary supplies can be removed.
5. Know how and where to safely evacuate
You may prefer to ride out a storm at home, but you might not have the option to do so.
Perhaps someone in your household relies on a medical device powered by electricity, making the risk of losing power life-threatening. Or maybe someone in your home has a disability that presents significant challenges to surviving in your home during a storm. Even still, if the storm is severe, local officials may order you to evacuate.
Whether you intend to or not, you still need an evacuation plan.
Get started on your evacuation plan using these tips:
- Fill your car with a full tank of gas
- Determine where you will evacuate to and how you plan to get there, as well as several alternative routes
- Move your emergency supplies kit into your car
- Ensure your car has the essentials for a long drive, such as jumper cables, spare tire, blankets, cellphone charger and a paper map or atlas
- Pack clothes and overnight supplies for several days
- Safeguard important documents and any prized possessions
- Shut off utilities: water, gas, electricity (if instructed to do so by local authorities)
- Unplug electronics