Updated: December 18, 2020

How to Prepare for a Weather Emergency

by Charles Jasper

It used to be that you always needed to be prepared for bad weather to hit. The most reliable forecast came from people standing outside and staring up into the sky, but luckily that has changed. In today’s world, we often have up to a week’s notice when foul weather is approaching.

This time to prepare has saved countless lives and puts you in a position of greater control over your situation. Sometimes you will need to use the time that you are given to evacuate the area and find a safer place to stay. In most cases, though, the time is best used to prepare your home and family to weather the coming storm.

You will want to be sure that your property is secure, along with preparing all the supplies you’ll likely need. Be sure to have food and water along with first aid and safety items well-stocked. It is also a good idea to have an evacuation plan and supplies ready, just in case.

Securing Property

Wind Warnings

As soon as you know that a weather event is imminent, take the time to walk around your house and inspect your property. Look for any damage that can be quickly and easily corrected like loose screen doors or wobbly handrails. It’s better to take the time to make a few small repairs now and avoid much larger damage later.

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Once you’ve made any necessary small repairs, collect and secure all loose items. Move patio furniture into a shed or garage, if possible. When neither shelter is available, consider securing them to your freshly tightened railing using a bike chain. However you secure them, remember that high winds are often a large part of weather emergencies.

High winds can blow furniture across yards and into vehicles, windows, and small structures. In addition to damaging the furniture, it can harm the items (or people!) it crashes into. The same is true for children’s play equipment, bicycles, grills, and decorative lawn ornaments.

Should you try to protect your belongings by placing a tarp over them, remember that when the wind picks up speed, any loose edges will fill with air, rip free from where they’ve been tucked, and turn your tarp into a parachute. Moving items inside is best.

Planning for Rain, Sleet, Snow, and Hail

Of course, the wind isn't the only concern. Storms often bring precipitation as well. You will want to consider the risk of flooding in your specific area. Take the time to move items away from areas where water likes to pool.

If snow is part of the forecast, consider how much is expected to fall and what weight issues may arise. Remember, snow is heavy. Check the roofs of dog houses and sheds to be sure that they are angled so that snow won’t accumulate and collapse the structure.

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Consider any items in your yard that could be damaged by hail. Whenever possible, move them into a shed or garage or under another solidly built shelter. You’ll know you’re ready to move on to the next stage of preparing for a weather emergency when you look around and see the yard is clear and your belongings are properly stored.

Supplies

Food and Water

You will want to have several days’ worth of food and water on hand before the storm begins. No one wants to be forced to run out for milk in the middle of a blizzard or hurricane, but even more than that, you should be prepared to lose power.

While most power companies have gotten very good at getting the lights back quickly, there are times when it might take a while for them to be able to work safely. Having a supply of food and water that does not quire electricity can everyone happier during a time that can be very stressful.

Canned goods are often the first thing we think of, but fixin’s for sandwiches is often a simpler solution. Bread, nut butter, and an unopened jar of jelly don’t require anything more than a knife to turn into an easy-to-eat, no-mess meal, especially when you pair it bananas, apple slices, and baby carrots. You can even keep a cooler around to store lunch meat and condiments.

Having a cooler can save trips in and out of the fridge which will allow the food stored in there to stay colder, and safer to eat, longer. Of course, if you have a portable generator that can keep your refrigerator going, you won’t need to worry about this.

Having enough water on hand is vital. Generally speaking, plan for 1 gallon of water for each person, each day. That means a family of four will want 12 gallons of water to be prepared for 3 days without power. This is one of the most important parts of preparing for a weather emergency.

First Aid

The same way that a quick trip to the store becomes a really big deal during a storm, a forced visit to the doctor or emergency room is also best avoided during inclement weather. Start with prevention by paying attention to your surroundings and taking care with sharp objects, ladder & stepstools, and household appliances.

It is also a good idea to keep a first aid kit on hand. Include basic medicine like pain relievers and allergy medicine. Band-aids, burn cream, and something to clean a wound should also be included along with a wrap and a larger bandage or two. Keeping a pair of scissors and tweezers in the kit can also come in handy.

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If you aren’t sure what you need, a complete kit is easy to purchase and convenient to store. You never know when someone will have an allergic reaction or develop a blister. Having the basic supplies necessary prevent small incidents from turning into large disasters.

Safety

Candles and fireplaces are romantic, but space heaters and flashlights are safer and more practical. You will want to have extra flashlights kept in handy locations throughout your house in case the power goes out while you’re in the bathroom. Having plenty of extra batteries around can also life well-lit.

If the foul weather is showing up during the winter, you will need a heat source. If you plan to use your fireplace, be sure that your chimney has been cleaned recently. You’ll also need plenty of dry wood on hand. Remember that an unkempt chimney is a fire hazard.

Kerosene and propane heaters are great alternatives but have safety risks of their own. Whatever you choose, be sure to have carbon monoxide detectors throughout your house and keep ALL heater far from flammable items like curtains, furniture, clothing, and decorations.

Evacuation Preparedness

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Hopefully, your weather emergency will turn into fun family time spent playing board games, but in the event that you do have to evacuate, you will want to be ready. An evacuation order brings with it an adrenaline rush and level of stress that can make logical thinking more challenging.

Rather than relying on an already stressed brain to figure out what to do at the moment, have a plan and a bag ready in advance. Pack a change of clothes for each family member along with a few small snacks (especially if there are kids involved) and some basic toiletries. Agree on a family meeting place away from home just in case people get separated and take the time to memorize a couple of important phone numbers.

Consider what will happen to your pets and know ahead of time where you plan to go. If you have a solid plan in place and a bag already packed, then when the call to evacuate comes it’s as simple as a grab and go.

Summary

While modern advances have made advance notice of storms that norm, those weather emergencies still happen and can still be life-threatening. Making proper preparations in advance of the storm can turn an emergency into an adventure instead of a disaster.

Taking the time to secure your belongings will give you the peace of mind of knowing that those items will still be there when the weather passes. Remember to have food and water that is easy to prepare. Snacks like trail-mixes, fruit, and other items that keep at room temperature without needing to be cooked are best. You will also want to plan for 1 gallon of water for each person, each day.

Safety during a storm is a major concern. Be prepared for the small scrapes and strains with a complete first aid kit. Have carbon monoxide detectors around your house and keep your heat source away from items that can easily catch fire. Finally, have a bag packed and a plan in place in the event that you need to evacuate.

If you’re properly prepared, you’ll hopefully get to spend the storm playing cards or reading a good book. You’ll be able to relax knowing that you have everything you need, ready to go.