Get Prepped: Hurricane Sandy Edition

FEMA billboards help spread the preparedness message. (Image: FEMA)

Hurricane Sandy (aka “Frankenstorm”) an enormous Category One hurricane is on its way to the eastern seaboard with the potential to be one of the most devastating storms on record. (See also: Hurricane Sandy Could Be One of Most Destructive Storms.)

Sandy is a huge: As of this writing, the storm’s strongest hurricane-force winds extend 105 miles from the center and the weaker tropical storm-force winds reach 700 miles. The hurricane’s sheer size is causing tremendous concern for huge swath of territory in eastern North America.

NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured an overhead view of massive Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 28, 2012. (Credit: NASA GOES Project)

Sustained winds, heavy rains, storm surges, and even snow are predicted for parts of the eastern United States and Canada over the next few days as the storm makes its way north. Power outages and flooding are likely, but proper preparation can know what to do in an emergency. These tips, taken from the National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers Complete Survival Manual, can help you ride out a hurricane and other natural disasters.

Tune in. Listen to the radio or television for hurricane progress reports. Have a battery-operated radio (and extra batteries) or a crank radio on hand in case of power outages. Heed all warnings from local officials and emergency managers.

Go online. Monitor websites when possible for storm updates and information. In the United States: The National Weather Service, The National Hurricane Center, and Federal Emergency Management Agency: Hurricanes. In Canada: WeatherOffice: Hurricane Conditions and the Canadian Hurricane Centre.

Protect important documents. Put passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, and other difficult-to-replace documents in a safe, waterproof place.

Cash is key. During power outages, cash machines may not work, and stores might not be able to take debit and credit cards. Have a few days worth of cash on hand.

Write it down. If the power goes out or if cellular networks go down, access to maps and emergency information can be lost. Write down all the emergency contact information you might need. Have up-to-date paper maps for possible evacuations.

Avoid communication breakdowns. Charge your mobile phones and laptops. And if you have one, plug in a traditional landline phone (non-broadband or VOIP) because it will work even if you lose power.

Prepare your property. Secure or bring inside things that might become windborne, such as lawn furniture, bird feeders, toys, and garden tools. Clean your gutters, and rake up leaves to keep storm drains free and clear of debris.

Assess your first aid kit. A basic first aid kit should include a variety of bandages and tape, antiseptic wipes, topical antihistamines, painkillers, scissors, and safety pins. Include any personal items, medications, and emergency contacts.

Pack it up.  If your area is prone to flooding, be ready to evacuate. Have a full tank of gas, paper maps, and several planned evacuation routes. Pack a “bug-out bag” ahead of time. According to the the Doomsday Preppers Complete Survival Manual, a well-stocked bag should contain 72 hours’ worth of food and water, a first aid kit, a change of clothing, and several days’ worth of any prescription medications.

Have water, water everywhere. A minimum 3-day emergency water supply for all household members is about 1 gallon per day per person. If you’re concerned about the local supply becoming tainted, fill up bathtubs and sinks with water before the storm.

Stock up. Keep a 3-day supply of non-perishable food such as canned foods (and a manual can opener), granola bars, baby food, dried fruit and nuts, and other foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking. If you have pets, make sure you have enough food and water for them.

Keep cool. Set your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings and refrain from opening the doors. The contents will stay colder for longer.  If unopened, a refrigerator will keep food safely (at or below 40° F) for about 4 hours, and a full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full). To be sure a particular food is cold enough, use a food thermometer. Never taste food to determine its safety.

Let there be light. If the power goes out, use battery-operated flashlights for lighting. Avoid using candles, as they can cause fires.

Unplug them. Turn off major appliances and unplug smaller ones if the power goes out to minimize the chances of losing power again through a power surge and to protect the equipment when power returns.

Stay inside. Do not go outside as flying debris from high winds is a danger. Take shelter inside your house, preferably in interior rooms without windows.

This list was created using materials from National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers Complete Survival Manual, available wherever books are sold. Thinking ahead is key to successfully navigating emergency situations. If you’re interested in learning more about preparing for everyday (and not-so-everyday) disasters, check out the Doomsday Preppers Complete Survival Manual, which contains tips not only for hurricanes, but also prepper strategies for blizzards, volcanoes, superquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and more.

The new season of Doomsday Preppers will air November 13, 2012, on the National Geographic Channel. Check your local listings.

 

Changing Planet

Focusing on content that entertains, astounds, and informs, Amy Briggs is freelance writer and former senior editor with National Geographic Books . The author of National Geographic Angry Birds Space, Briggs worked closely with National Geographic NewsWatch's David Braun on National Geographic Tales of the Weird. Excited by all things trivial, odd, and just unusual, she lives in Virginia with her family.