Everything you've always wanted to know about hurricanes but were afraid to ask: Disaster kits

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Victoria Porto
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is part two in a five-part series on hurricane preparedness.

Watching the weather and learning about hurricane conditions can help you prepare for hurricane season, but only if you and your family take action to create a family disaster plan and kit.

If you haven't already done so, the time to develop that plan and kit is now, not when the wing commander issues a mandatory evacuation order.

"Sometimes these storms brew up quick," said Randy Frederick, Emergency Management flight chief. "You never know. The earlier you plan, the better."

So where do you begin?

A family disaster plan covers your vulnerabilities, evacuation plans and routes, and emergency contacts to ensure accountability. More specifically, the 1st Special Operations Wing Readiness and Emergency Management flight suggests the following topics:
  • How will your home be affected by storm surges, flooding, or extreme winds? How can you mitigate those risks?
  • What insurance coverage do you have? Is it sufficient? Note that flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.
  • What are your escape and evacuation routes? Where will family members meet if they are separated?
  • Does your car have sufficient gas to be ready to evacuate at any time?
  • What will you do with your pets if you need to evacuate? Have you located pet-friendly hotels or shelters?
  • What is the safest area in your home or community if you cannot evacuate before a storm hits?
  • Do you have an emergency contact number, preferably someone out of state who will act as a single point of contact for your family?
  • Do you have a disaster kit? Does it include important documents such as birth certificates, powers of attorney, wills, etc.?
Mr. Frederick highlighted power outages as an often forgotten issue in disaster plans.

"The power is going to go out," he said. "I know from experience that you'll lose a lot of stuff like perishable food. If you don't have time to get rid of that before you evacuate, you'll come back to a really nasty situation."

Pets can also be a part of your family that may require special attention during the planning process. Hurlburt Field's on-base shelters do not allow pets, but there are various pet-friendly shelters and hotels throughout the nation that you can identify and include in your evacuation plan if necessary.

Another key element of any family plan is the disaster kit. It includes non-perishable items that can be useful whether you're riding out a storm or evacuating and need to be able to grab important items in a hurry. The American Red Cross recommends including items such as:
  • At least a three-day supply of water for drinking and sanitation (one gallon per person per day)
  • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food items, and manual can-opener if necessary
  • Cash
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radios
  • Flashlights
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription and non-prescription medicines
  • Tools such as extra batteries, utensils, and hygiene items
  • At least one change of clothes per person
  • Important family documents and records
Master Sgt. Natalie Sockman, Airman and Family Readiness Center, Personal and Family Readiness NCO in charge, emphasized putting your kit together as soon as possible as these items can become a hot commodity during hurricane season.

"If everyone waits until the last minute, then there won't be anything left to purchase. You'll go to the store and there won't be anything left," she said.

Of course, having a family disaster plan and kit does no good if you don't practice it and keep it updated. Mr. Frederick stressed the importance of adjusting your plan as needed and considering various scenarios.

"You've got to look at it two ways," he said. "If there's a mandatory evacuation, that's a whole different plan than if you're going to ride-out the storm."

Additionally, according to the American Red Cross, stored water and food should be changed or rotated every six months, and batteries, clothes and other supplies should be replaced as needed. The kit itself should be updated at least once a year, and every time your family situation changes.

"We are in a hurricane area, and they're expecting an above-average hurricane season," Mr. Frederick said. "You have to be ready."

For more information on family disaster plans or kits, as well as local and pet-friendly shelter locations, visit http://www.hurlburt.af.mil/library/hurricane/index.asp.