Volunteer Jason Harris writes today’s blog post. Jason, a new volunteer with the Red Cross, is putting some of his personal experience with hurricanes and his interest to good use in suggesting some basic ideas for personal preparedness.

Hurricane season began June 1. Are you ready? Have you made a Hurricane Preparedness List? Everyone should have a plan, no matter if you live on the coast or inland, because power outages can happen anywhere. I know it can seem a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve done it and will give you some tips to prepare based on my personal experiences. For details, I will provide links to online resources, because if I write about everything this blog post will start looking like a college term paper.

Check and organize your supplies in a space where they're easy to reach.
Check and organize supplies in an easy to reach space.

To get started, I thought about how I had prepared for storms in the past. I had gotten my water, batteries and non-perishable items together, but really not anything else. I know I didn’t get enough water to sustain me, my wife and our two cats. You don’t want to forget about your animals. They will need food and water as well. Before doing research for this post, I didn’t know you should have a three-day supply of water on-hand. This means a gallon of water per day per family member. During Hurricane Irene, my wife and I were without power for nine days. I used water from our bathtub, which we filled before losing power, to flush the toilet. I also retrieved water from the creek down the street to sustain our water supply. I didn’t drink the water from the creek, but it did come in handy for toilet water, stretching our drinking water supply. Remember also that you don’t have to purchase bottled water. You can easily fill empty containers or soda bottles before a storm.

Disaster Mitigation
Take time to know your risks and make a plan.

When you put together your non-perishable food items such as ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, make sure you have a manual can opener to open those cans since electric ones won’t work without power.

Another good device to have on hand is a multi-tool. The tool’s name says it all. These multi-tools can include a can opener, knife, pliers and a screwdriver to name just a few of the items you can find in this one awesome tool. If MacGyver was still airing on television, he would have replaced his Swiss Army knife with a modern multi-tool.

You will also need flashlights, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and an extra supply of batteries for the flashlights and radio. If you have rechargeable batteries, make sure they are charged up before the storm hits. Make sure cell phones are charged as well. You may want to invest in a portable power station, the kind advertised for jumping car batteries. Many of these units come with an LED work light and USB power port, and can be useful for charging cell phones and tablet computers. I have used mine more to charge my cellphone and my wife’s phone more than to jump my car battery.

And here’s another tip that can easily be overlooked. Make sure to have cash on hand because if the power goes out, credit cards and ATMs will be useless.

My wife and I weathered our nine days after Hurricane Irene with a lot of books, flashlights and trips to our families’ houses, as they owned generators. We learned a lot, and will be better prepared next time.

If you want to make a plan, check out redcross.org for more information. The Red Cross web page on Hurricanes will provide information to help you prepare for and cope with a hurricane. And there are lots of links to other resources like the Red Cross Hurricane App for your phone.