Preparing for a hurricane primarily involves ensuring the safety of food, water, and medical supplies. Take precautions for storing water and ensuring the safety of your food and medical supplies for you and your pets.
It is important to have a plan in place for emergency medication and medical supplies for both people and animals. This is especially true for those with health concerns, particularly if the power goes out (plan on it).
Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and ends November 30th. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15th and also ends November 30th.
• Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water, which is a high probability during a hurricane if you are in low lying areas near the shore. If in doubt, throw it out.
• Do not eat food packed in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth and similar containers that have been water-damaged.
• Discard food and beverage containers with screw-caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda bottles), twist caps, and flip tops, if they have come in contact with flood water. These containers cannot be disinfected.
• Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
• If you must open the refrigerator, check to ensure that the freezer temperature is at or below 0 °F and the refrigerator is at or below 40 °F. Have a refrigerator thermometer (also in freezer).
• Keep on hand a few days worth (at minimum!) of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling, which depend on electricity.
• Note that most canned foods do not need to be re-heated to eat safely, cold. Keep a manual can opener.
• Store ahead of time, bottled water, or tap water stored in water-safe containers. If near a flood prone area, store above anticipated water line.
• If in a hurricane flooded area, assume that the local tap water is contaminated until told otherwise. If the water cannot be used or is questionable, and bottled water is not available, then use the directions in the next bullet to purify it.
• Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool and store it in clean containers with covers.
• If you can’t boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
• A good quality drinking water filter will make most water safe to drink. Remember when choosing one, “you get what you pay for”.
• If you have a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede.
• If you have to leave your home either before or after a hurricane event, take your pet with you if at all possible. You are the best person to take care of your pet.
• Pets should be contained in a carrier or on a leash.
• Emergencies can make pets display unexpected or uncharacteristic behaviors. It may take several weeks before your pet’s behavior is back to normal.
• Allow your pet plenty of time to rest and get used to new surroundings. Provide familiar toys, if possible.
• Store a supply of easy-to-carry (dry?) pet food or a supply of what they normally eat.
• Be aware of the water that they drink, just like you they can get very sick from contaminated water.
• For lifesaving drugs exposed to water, when replacements may not be readily available, if the container is contaminated but the contents appear unaffected (if the pills are dry) the pills may be used until a replacement can be obtained. However, if the pill is wet it is contaminated and should be discarded.
• Other drug products (pills, oral liquids, drugs for injections, inhalers, skin medications) even those in their original containers, should be discarded if they have come into contact with flood or contaminated water.
• As a general rule, insulin loses its potency according to the temperature it is exposed to and length of that exposure. Under emergency conditions, you might still need to use insulin that has been stored above 86 °F. Such extreme temperatures may cause insulin to lose potency. In any case, you should try to keep insulin as cool as possible. Try to keep insulin away from direct heat and out of direct sunlight, but if you are using ice, also avoid freezing the insulin.
• If you have a “life-supporting” or “life-sustaining” device that depends on electricity, you should contact your healthcare provider for information on how to maintain function in the event of a loss of power. It’s your life… backup power could save it.
The bottom line regarding food, water, and medical supplies with regards to hurricane preparedness, is to have enough, and to keep it from contamination. If you are prone to flooding or water damage (near the shore, etc.) then store some of your supplies on the 2nd floor. Plan on the power going out. A wise choice may be to evacuate the area BEFORE everyone else. Have a plan. Know where you will go.