Hurricane season is here! I’m going to share my seasonal preparation list, this is the things I do at the beginning of the season. It’s a great feeling to know I’m ready when the warnings are given for this area, I don’t have to run around and scramble to find last minute supplies or hope the generator runs. Being prepared really doesn’t take much time or effort, just run through your list at the beginning of the season then a pre-storm list when warnings are given for your area. I’ll present the tasks I do as a numbered list with notes about each one. I’ve also got Amazon links to a lot of the products I use, I own and recommend every one of these with the exception of the cheap flashlights, as noted I get free ones from Harbor Freight tools.
1. Fill all gas cans
I actually don’t have to run out and fill a bunch of cans since I keep them topped off all the time, If you plan to do this then come up with a way to keep the fuel fresh. What I do is put a colored tie wrap (zip tie) around the handle of the gas can – a different color each year. 2018 is yellow, when I use the contents of a can then I fill it up, place it back in storage with a yellow tie wrap around the handle and pull out a can that has not been filled this year. If I haven’t changed all the fuel near the end of the year I put the remainder in the vehicles and refill the cans. For additional protection I add a fuel stabilizer, this one for gas and this one for diesel and have never had a problem with stale fuel.
2. Fill propane tanks
Just like with gas cans, I try to keep these full all year. Propane has the advantage of not going bad, it can be stored indefinitely as long as the container does not leak. If you have multiple tanks as I do you may want to be careful how you rotate them, the tanks can only be filled for 12 years beyond their inspection date. After 12 years you have to pay to have it re-certified which may be more than the tank is worth. I always have them filled, not exchanged, as it is a cheaper and the tank will be filled all the way. The exception is if a tank is getting close to expiration I’ll do an exchange. One more tip, remove the plastic wrap your tank has one, it will cause the tank to rust very quickly. If you don’t have caps for the valves and you want a good way to track which are full then look in to using safety plugs.
Here’s my overkill method for storing fuel:
It’s a propane storage rack I got off Craigslist.
3. Fill and test generator
I’ve actually got two generators now, one I bought in 2004 and a larger one that was on clearance at Sams club a couple of years ago. The older one has a Subaru engine and has worked flawlessly every year. I’ve used it for more than just power outages, when my house was being built it came in handy for running power tools.
When I saw the clearance deal at Sams it was a no-brainer – a 5.5 Kw generator that also had a Subaru engine for around $200 (the old generator is actually 3.7 Kw, not 4.5 as the label says). At the beginning of hurricane season I take the generator out, fill it with gas, and run it under load for around half an hour. It’s nice to have a spare to loan out but even nicer knowing I’ve got a backup.
Up until last year I used a 20 amp circuit to backfeed electric to the house, last week I finished installing a generator hookup panel. This installation will be shown step by step in a future post, as well as the pros and cons of each method.
4. Test 12v battery / charger / inverter
A generator is great once the storm has passed but what do you do when the lights go out and it’s too windy go outside? I keep a spare 12 volt deep cycle battery for this purpose, it’s mounted in this trolling motor case to make it somewhat portable. I use this 600 watt inverter with it to power the TV and a few lights, we avoid opening the refrigerator until the storm has passed (drinks have been staged into a cooler).
5. Check battery stock
This is simply making sure there is enough fresh batteries for the flashlights and radios. These are kept separate from the everyday supply to ensure they are there when needed. After hurricane season passes they are moved to the everyday use bin.
6. Stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, cups, plasticware, foil
There is a possibility we will be providing refuge for 10+ people so I really don’t want to have to be washing dishes on top of everything else. Paper for everyone! And who wants to run out of toilet paper? I keep a case of each of these off to the side, after the season passes we return them to everyday use. Sams club is a great place for this (or Costco if you have one nearby).
7. Check tarp stock
Tarps do go bad! At least the cheap ones do, I still like to make sure I’ve got a decent variety of sizes available and that they are in good condition. Sometimes they get loaned out and not returned, when the roof is leaking that is not the best time to find out.
8. Stock up on food
I’ve got a shopping list for this plus some long term stores that can be used if needed. For the items that are replaced annually, be sure to buy stuff you like and will eat. I’ve refined my list over the years to include things that keep well and that will get used up post season.
9. Trim trees
Three main goals here. One, cut down branches that could damage structures or property. Two, remove branches or trees that could fall on power lines and three, cut down dead or dying trees or limbs that could become flying debris.
10. Check radios
This includes weather radios, Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios. This is just a quick functional check of these radios. The FMR and GMRS radios are great for keeping in touch with friends or family members, if you go this route then I’d suggest making a laminated card with instructions for whoever else may be using it. FMR radios are pretty simple but also limited, GMRS are a lot more usable but require a license (easy to get) and a higher learning curve. You could also look into an phone app such as Zello for keeping in touch but it does require an internet connection.
11. Check first aid kit and expiration of medications
To me this is one of the most important things. Last year I cut my foot pretty bad during a hurricane, this came in very handy. If you keep medications, even the over the counter variety, make sure they have not expired and replace if so.
12. Trash bags
I keep a full box of the heavy duty contractor bags on hand. These aren’t just handy for post hurricane cleanup, if you have a large group like we may then the trash can pile up pretty quickly. Remember all those paper plates we stocked? The link provided is an example but you can probably get them cheaper locally at Home Depot or Lowes.
13. Check emergency lights
This is more an inventory exercise to make sure all lights are present and accounted for. I remove batteries from most after the season so there shouldn’t be any corrosion issues. My lighting plan is simple, a portable flashlight for each group (couple, family, etc) and a stationary light for each room (one per bedroom, bathroom, great room, and kitchen). For portable flashlights I like these Dorcy lights since each group can have their own color and they are extremely durable. You don’t need an insanely high powered light for walking around the house and yard and the batteries last a lot longer.
I keep one other primary light, this Streamlight is a powerful spotlight that does double duty on the boat when we take it out at night. This is a very bright spotlight so I only need one. In addition to all the lights mentioned, I keep a supply of cheap lights around such as these (or use the free Harbor Freight ones, that’s what I do). I consider them throwaways but it’s good to have extras for kids or to just leave around.
The Brief List
I hope this list is helpful, here it is in a condensed form:
- Fill spare gas tanks
- Fill propane tanks
- Fill and test generator
- Test 12v battery / charger / inverter
- Stock batteries
- Stock TP, PT, paper plates, cups, plasticware, foil
- Check tarp stock
- Food stock – see shopping list
- Trim trees
- Check radios – weather, walkie’s
- Check first aid kit, check expirations of meds
- Trash bags
- Check emergency lights
One other thing to note, I keep a lot of nails, screws, ropes, wood, and other building supplies on hand at all times so those are not included in my checklist but may be something for you to add if they aren’t readily available. Also, I’ve got pre-made metal hurricane shutters so those are ready to go at any time and don’t need to be inventoried.
Next post I’ll run through my pre-storm list, this is the one I go through if it looks like we are actually in the path of a storm. This list will be more specific to my property but the goal here is to give you some ideas, not necessarily provide a ready to use list for your own use. After that I’ll get back to some plant updates 🙂