Another year, another hurricane season in Florida. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst is our motto here in central Florida!
Two years ago we compiled a list of Hurricane Preparation tips when Hurricane Irma was headed straight for Florida. While there are plenty of “hurricane supply kit” lists out there, this is more of a list of things to do to prepare your home for a possible hurricane. It was shared almost 1,000 times on Facebook, and so we decided to put our hurricane prep tips into an article as well.
Some of the tips below are to prepare for “worst case scenario,” but that is the whole point here. Hurricanes are unpredictable, and even a well built house can sustain unexpected roof and water damage from a falling tree or other debris.
WHERE TO GET INFORMATION
These websites and Facebook pages are a valuable source of information before, during, and after a Hurricane. Keep in mind that Facebook and Twitter are often the most timely sources of information.
▪️ Alert Polk – Sign up to receive vital updates when severe weather is threatening our county or about crime trends in your neighborhood. When you subscribe for emergency notifications, you’ll also have the option of receiving community informational alerts. Click to Sign Up Now.
(You don’t have to live in the county to register, alerts are sent based on any address you enter so it can be a vacation home, elderly parents home, child’s school, etc.)
▪️ Lakeland Electric – Facebook – Twitter – Website – Current Outage Map – 863-834-9535
Report a Power Outage – (863) 834-4248
Fallen Power Lines/Water Outages – 866-834-4248
Lakeland Electric Hurricane Guide (very helpful!)
▪️ Radio – WONN – 1230 AM & 107.1 FM, WPCV – 97.5 FM
Polk County Emergency Shelters – Not all public shelters are automatically activated for each emergency. They are opened as needed and are not pre-assigned by geographic area. During an emergency please monitor Polk County Government Television, other local television and radio stations for open shelter information. Have your 72-hour survival kit ready to take with you. Weapons and alcoholic beverages are not allowed at any public shelter. Pre-registration is is required for those needing transportation assistance to any shelter. Click here to see an Emergency Shelter Map.
Pet Friendly Shelters – Polk County has three pet-friendly shelters that allow residents who own pets to shelter with their pets. Dogs, cats and birds are the only types of animals allowed to shelter in Polk’s pet-friendly shelters and must be with their owners.
Polk County Special Needs Shelters – 3 Special Needs Shelters are available, these are emergency facilities capable of providing special medical or nursing care which does not necessitate an acute care hospital setting. Eligible persons desiring special needs sheltering or transportation should pre-register with Emergency Management – 863-298-7027.
Links below may be affiliate links, we receive a small commission if you purchase hurricane supplies through our links. These are items we genuinely own and use ourselves. Thank you for supporting Lakeland Mom.
TIPS FOR HURRICANE PREPARATION
▪️ Car tank full of gas! (We’ve seen gas stations run out every time a hurricane threatens the Lakeland area)
▪️ Water – bottled water to drink in case tap water is not safe. FEMA recommends at least one gallon of water per person (and pet) each day for hydrating and preparing certain foods. See below about filling tubs.
▪️ Food – non-perishable food and fruits that don’t require refrigeration (if you lose power you’ll want to avoid opening the fridge to save food as long as possible). Be sure you have a manual can opener. Suggested items include nuts, crackers, peanut butter, bread, granola and energy bars, bananas, apples, oranges, applesauce, raisins, trail mix. Wine also does not require refrigeration. 😉
▪️ Flashlight or lantern AND batteries – 1 per person, lanterns are helpful for lighting up a large space. (Remember if your power goes out the streetlights likely do to, making it extremely dark in your house at night) We ordered this set of 4 lanterns from Amazon for $6 each.
▪️ Battery Powered Fan – if you lose power, you will want one of these!! We found a 10″ fan on Amazon for $15, a fan/light combo dubbed the “Hurricane Survival Kit” for $15, and a variety of other options at other price points (take our advice and keep one of these stashed away at home – they were nowhere to be found locally after Hurricane Irma)
▪️ Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (be sure you know where to turn off the water and gas line if applicable)
▪️ Cash – if a business has no power, many online payment systems will not be working either
▪️ Find a full list of suggested supplies on Ready.gov
Check with Polk County Emergency Management for recommended evacuations. If a storm is impacting Polk County with wind and/or rain, mobile and manufactured home residents are always advised to evacuate to a shelter (see information above) or stay with a friend. Residents in areas prone to flooding are also advised to evacuate as roads may become impassable once they are flooded. Call 863-401-2234 for more information on shelters.
PERSONAL PREPARATION AT HOME
▪️ Charge all devices – Phones, tablets, laptops, video cameras, old phones (even if just to use as a light source).
▪️ Charge external batteries/portable power sources for your phone. (Hide them from the kids – you’ll want them for cell phones only if you have no power!) If you don’t own a portable charger, you can get one off Amazon starting at just $20 – I use mine on a weekly basis year round.
▪️ Take pictures or video of every room in your house. Open closets and drawers. If you have to file an insurance claim, this will help you remember what you need to list and show proof of items.
▪️ Gather up important papers and store in a waterproof container. Birth certificates, social security cards, passports, etc. Keep it with you in case you need to evacuate after the storm.
▪️ Text FLPrepares 888777 to get text updates on the storm. Send your zip code to get area specific info.
▪️ If you have an external hard drive to store photos or other computer files, locate it and keep in a waterproof container.
▪️ Know what you need to gather up before it is dark – if the power should go out early you don’t want to be scrambling to gather things up in the pitch black. Phone, portable radio, tablets, extra chargers, flashlights, batteries, water to drink, portable DVD players to entertain kids, snacks, pillows and blankets to get comfortable. Keep in mind you might be in one spot for HOURS while the storm comes through.
▪️ If you have noise canceling headphones get them out for small kids, the noise from a hurricane can be scary.
▪️ Take a shower just before the storm hits so you’re clean in case of interruption in water.
▪️ Gather valuables in one place in case you need to evacuate immediately after the storm. (Jewelry, watches, keepsakes, etc.)
▪️ Prep for your pets – be sure you have food and water for them inside the house. Figure out how/where they will go to the restroom during the storm when you can’t go outside. (We’ve seen suggestions to put a patch of fake grass or real grass in a baby pool?)
▪️ Make a list of what you would need to take with you if you have damage to your home or need to evacuate after the storm. Valuables, documents, clothing, kids items, pet needs, etc. Better yet, pack it up in advance and be prepared.
SECURING & PREPARING YOUR HOME
▪️ CLOSE ALL INTERIOR DOORS – From disastersafety.org – “closing interior doors in a hurricane helps compartmentalize the pressure inside the home into smaller areas reducing the overall force on the roof structure, which gives the roof a better chance of staying intact.” This can be done when the storm is closer.
▪️ Bring in ALL loose items outside your home. Furniture, plants, wreaths, hoses, small grills, flags, etc.
▪️ If you evacuate, shut off electric, gas, and water at the main panel(s).
▪️ Put keepsakes inside large plastic bins. Know which ones would come in the car if you have damage and need to evacuate after.
▪️ Do NOT put your keepsakes in the dishwasher as has been suggested on Facebook, the dishwasher is designed to keep water in but not out, so if your house floods your dishwasher will too.
▪️ Decide on the safest spot in your house to ride out the storm. Stay away from windows and exterior doors. The safest room is often a bathroom or walk-in closet near the center of the house with no exterior walls. Or a basement if you have one.
▪️ Do your laundry and wash your dishes in advance.
▪️ Clean your bathtubs and then fill them with water OR fit empty garbage cans with 2 liners (in case of a hole) and fill with water. If there is a water main break or a boil water notice issued you can use it to wash off or flush the toilet (To do this remove the cover from the tank, pour in water until it is approx. 1/2 inch below the top of the tall overflow tube, and flush). Fill up other buckets or large containers if you have them. Get a pitcher to scoop water from tub into the toilet.
▪️ Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings. If we lose power they will stay colder longer.
▪️ Fill plastic containers and Ziploc bags with water and freeze them. The less air in your freezer the longer it will stay cold. They can also be thawed if you need water or used as ice in a cooler.
▪️ If you’re worried about knowing whether freezer food has thawed, freeze a small cup of water and then set a quarter on top. If the quarter is frozen in the middle or bottom of the ice after a power outage you’ll know the food thawed as well.
▪️ Empty all garbage cans, litter boxes, and anything that could smell. If the A/C goes out and the house gets warm, smells get worse.
▪️ Line your windowsills and door frames with towels, even with a good seal the pressure and wind can cause water to come inside.
▪️ Close blinds and curtains – if windows break the covering can help keep glass from spreading. (Taping windows provides no protection and wastes time.)
▪️ Bring anything you might need during the storm in from the garage to avoid opening the door.
▪️ Consider lowering your A/C temp in advance to cool down the house – if the power goes it will stay cooler longer. Keep curtains closed to keep the house cooler.
▪️ Unplug appliances you don’t need in case of a power surge.
▪️ Have rags and mops handy to clean up any minor damage or water leaks after the storm.
▪️ If you have a basement, move furniture and electronic devices off the floor.
▪️ Know in advance how to manually open your garage door if you lose power. All electric garage door openers have manual releases or manual operators.
▪️ Be sure any generators are OUTSIDE THE HOUSE AND GARAGE and will not generate carbon monoxide fumes into your house. Also, allow your generator to cool off before refilling it with gas – splashing gas on hot generator components can lead to a fire. We repeat – DO NOT RUN A GENERATOR INSIDE!
DURING THE STORM
▪️ Stay calm – keep in mind that your kids take their cues from you.
▪️ Wait out the storm in a room or closet with no windows, or a room where you can stay far away from windows and potential breaking glass. In addition to storm force winds that can damage your home or send debris through windows, tornados can also be spawned by hurricanes.
▪️ Beware of lulls. This could mean that the eye of the storm is passing. Winds will calm and the rain will probably stop if the eye is over your area. Don’t be fooled.
AFTER THE STORM
▪️ Don’t drink tap water until you can confirm it is safe.
▪️ If you smell gas in your home or neighborhood, call 911.
▪️ Check on neighbors.
▪️ Travel with caution. Just because the storm is over doesn’t mean it is safe to travel. There may be flooding, damaged trees, and electrical wires to worry about. Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters.
▪️ Do not assume a fallen power line has no electricity; fallen power lines can be deadly.
▪️ If you are without power, call the Lakeland Electric Automated Reporting Line at 866-834-4248. Have patience, as soon as the storm has passed they will be working non-stop to restore power. Lakeland Electric has a very comprehensive Hurricane Guide that has preparation tips, information on power outages, and much more.
LEFTOVER HURRICANE SUPPLIES
We all hope that we don’t actually need to use our hurricane supplies! Hurricane season lasts through November 30, so keep your supplies handy until then. Do not return things you bought to prep for the hurricane (such as unopened water or food) to the store . They will most likely be thrown out based on the stores return policies, and can be put to good use in our community.
PLEASE DONATE your unwanted non-perishable items to a local food pantry or somewhere that can use them at the end of hurricane season.