In my part of the world, the end of May is time to prepare for hurricane season. That means stocking the pantry with non-perishable staples, bottled water, fresh batteries and other necessities needed to survive for days should the worse happen. It also means reviewing evacuation routes, updating contact information and making sure that the “bug-out” bag has everything we’ll need if we have to evacuate.
In my lifetime, we’ve only evacuated twice and two other times we’ve been without power for more than a day – actually a full week both times. We’ve been lucky. We also know it only takes one storm to change everything. So, each May we get ready.
There are a lot of things about hurricane season that have changed significantly since I was a child. First, instead of a static-prone transistor radio, we now have a NOAA Weather Alert radio that also has a light and can be used to recharge mobile devices. Ours has a hand crank for charging the radio – the option of last resort in our house. I also keep Hurricane Tracker for iPad on my iPad throughout the season although I don’t need a special app to receive storm updates. The National Hurricane Center distributes their scheduled forecast information via RSS and they have several Twitter accounts (@NHC_Atlantic, @NHC_Pacific and @NHC_Surge) for immediate updates.
We use Vonage as our phone service and they have a very nice roll-over feature that we put to good use. Go to your Vonage settings online and set up your mobile phone number as an alternative should your Vonage connection be cut. When that happens, calls will automatically be re-routed to your alternate mobile phone. In addition, because thunderstorms are an almost daily occurrence during the summer, we have two uninterruptible power supply (UPS) devices that protect the computer equipment from power surges and outages. In case of a lengthy power outage, everything is shut down except the modem and router and we use our mobile devices to keep up with the news and connect to family. The router and modem use a lot less energy than our other equipment and can last quite a while on the UPS’s batteries.
The last time we had a serious power outage was from Frances in 2004. We were one of the last neighborhoods brought back online so we went a week without power. It was then that I learned our disaster plan was missing one important component – entertainment. We didn’t even have a deck of cards in the house. Now there are cards, dominos and a travel Scrabble game plus the Kindle readers – with 3G for easy access to additional books.
Speaking of books, several months after that last storm, I stumbled upon The Storm Gourmet: A Guide to Creating Extraordinary Meals Without Electricity. You’d be surprised what you can do with a can of chicken! It’s made me re-think my list of pantry staples.
Severe weather in some form or another is a fact of life wherever you live. Being prepared can help make dealing with it a lot easier. And, as we’ve seen in the last few days, your preparations for disaster can help save your life. And, when the unthinkable happens, there are a lot of “neighbors” who offer their time and money to help.