Preparing for a Natural Disaster

By Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN
Woman buying water | Preparing for a Natural Disaster

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Disaster can strike without warning, but when there is notice, having an emergency plan and taking time to prepare is critical. While it’s difficult to predict the outcome of a hurricane or tropical storm, common consequences can include power outages, flooding and damage to the home or other personal belongings. Being prepared can help minimize the impact and stress of the storm.

Water

Stock up on non-perishable emergency supplies, including shelf-stable food that doesn't require refrigeration and bottled water. A three to five-day supply of food and water is recommended. Plan for at least five gallons of water per person (and pets). This is the equivalent of one gallon of water per day. Individuals who are pregnant, nursing, sick or living in hot climates should consider storing more than five gallons of water.

Purchase bottled water or set aside water in clean and sanitized containers that can be sealed tightly. Choose durable containers that are less likely to break. If you have a gas stove and bottled water is not available, boiling water is enough to kill most types of disease-causing organisms. If the water appears cloudy, let it settle and then filter it through a clean cloth or coffee filter. Then, bring the water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. Let it cool before storing in sanitized containers.

Another option for clean drinking water is using an unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to disinfect it – the label should specify that it contains between six percent or 8.25 percent of sodium hypochlorite. This can also be used for cleaning and sanitizing other surfaces after disaster hits.

Food

A three to five-day food supply is also recommended. Stock up on food that is non-perishable – meaning it will last a long time – or shelf-stable and doesn't require any cooking. If you plan on purchasing canned items, be sure you have a can opener or choose canned goods with a pop-top lid. Other shelf-stable and non-perishable foods to consider, include:

Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit and vegetable cups
  • Shelf-stable fruits and vegetables such as bananas, apples, carrots, tomatoes and oranges
  • Single-serving containers of applesauce
  • Single-serving containers of 100% fruit or vegetable juice

Dairy:

  • Individual milk boxes
  • Non-refrigerated pudding cups

Breads and Grains:

  • Granola bars
  • Crackers
  • Loaf of bread
  • Cereal
  • Granola
  • Pre-cooked packets of rice

Protein:

  • Canned meats such as tuna, salmon or chicken
  • Nut butters
  • Jerky, such as beef jerky
  • Nuts and seeds, such as almonds or sunflower seeds
  • Trail mix

Other Considerations

Individuals taking medications should ensure they have an adequate supply. If prescription medications are low, refill prescriptions before the storm hits. Households with babies and infants should ensure there is enough infant formula for at least five days. Don't forget about pets – have enough food for pets on hand for at least three to five days. Additionally, gather personal care items like toilet paper, toothpaste, feminine hygiene items and diapers.

Consider storing food on high (but easy-to-reach) surfaces in case flooding occurs. Gather other safety items such as a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, flashlights and battery-powered radio, so you can tune in to the local news station. Sign up for local weather alerts and local emergency alerts.

Talk with your family and loved ones about an emergency evacuation plan in case you need to leave on short notice. Be sure to have enough supplies for your vehicle as well.

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