Survival Strategies: hurricane preparedness

Posted: 05/07/2009 in Uncategorized
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To be completely honest, I’m not all that familiar with the intimacies of hurricanes. We just do not get the severity of the hurricanes up here in Maine as the southeastern region gets. But there are some strategies and tips that I am familiar with that relate to not only hurricanes, but to tornadoes and other high wind related storms as well.

Along with your regular survival kit, you should have a kit for storm damage as well. Here are some items that will help out in most wind related storm emergencies:

  • Plastic sheeting. I would recommend a heavy sheet, at least 4-6 mils in thickness, especially if you have large openings to cover.
  • Duct tape. Try to have a good sized roll, or rolls, of duct tape in the two inch width
  • Masking tape. Get a good quality tape, and not the painters variety. You’ll use this tape to X over all of your windows.
  • Poly tarps. These will provide temporary cover for your roof or sidewalls should a tree decide to visit the inside of your home, or maybe the storm rips part of your roof off.
  • Stapler, with assorted staple sizes. I prefer a stapler that takes the Arrow T50 size staples. Those are the most common sizes. 2/8 to ½ inch size staples will be the size most appropriate, but if you have soft wood, or thicker materials to staple, you’ll also want some 9/16 size staples as well.
  • Utility knife and blades. A good sturdy utility knife, and a package of quality blades will keep you cutting fast and safely when you are in a hurry. Plastic can do a number on a blade edge, and it will dull quickly. It is faster to simply switch blades than it is to sharpen a regular knifes blade.
  • Cell phone. Your cell phone may well be the only means of communication with the outside world. If the lines go down, you will not only lose you electricity, but your landline telephone service as well.
  • Emergency radio. This will allow you to tune in to any news related to the emergency, such as warnings and evacuation and assistance reports. Get one that uses batteries, obviously, but there are also units that can be powered by a hand crank as well.

That’s just a few suggestions, and your own situation may require additional needs as well. For my way of thinking, you can never be too ready for an emergency.

If I were to be living in the southeast, I would also have available pre cut sheets of plywood and screws to cover my window and door openings as well. These could be cut well in advance, and numbered so that you will know which sheet goes over what window. They should be pre-drilled for the screws to save time. Also, you may wish to preserve them with a stain or shellac so they do not rot while not in use. It seems funny that every time a hurricane does hit, we see videos on the news of people rushing to buy plywood, only to have none available because the stores were sold out. Hurricane season happens every year, and yet people never seem to be able to be ready for it.

In the Midwest, tornadoes are the bigger challenge, and as there really is no advance warning mechanism, it would be hard to justify the expense and maintenance of pre-cut plywood for the windows. By the time you realize you need them up, it’s already too late. A more important preparation would be to have some sort of structural unit to get into to be safe from the storm. Root cellars may be old fashioned, but they’ve saved many lives over the years. In urban settings a root cellar is impractical, and possibly not doable according to some local regulations and building codes. In that case an interior room should be built and fortified against an impending tornado that the family can all fit into. These storms are brief, so the room needn’t be fitted out for long term survival.

Here in the northern tier states, blizzards are the bigger wind related disaster. In these cases, it frequently means power and telephone/cable service is interrupted. It also means the roads are impassable, so you’ll need to be prepared to stay put. Most of the items in your kit will be useful to temporarily repair damage rather than prevent it. The bigger consideration in these storms is to stay warm and dry.

No matter where you are, plan ahead and make sure you have plenty of gas for your car and heating fuel for your home. I know, if the power goes out, how will my furnace work? We’ll cover all of that in a later post when I talk about keeping warm. But for today, we want to know what to do with all of the above products.

In the event that you don’t need, or have the sheets of plywood to cover your windows, the first thing you’ll want to do when a hurricane approaches is to tape you windows. This does not prevent your windows from breaking, but if they do break, it helps to prevent jagged shards of glass from flying around like a projectile from a cannon. Sounds like a funny picture, but if you are huddled around a heater, the last thing you want to worry about is having you family impaled by the picture window.

Take your masking tape, and as I said, do not use the blue colored painters tape. While that tape is great for painters, the reason it is great makes it useless in this scenario. Painters tape is great because of the low adhesion glue on the back of the tape. It doesn’t stick as well, and it leaves little to no residue because of that fact. What you want is tape that sticks well and doesn’t tear so easily. For this reason, avoid the crepe type of tape and stick to the traditional tan colored tape. If the windows do not break you can easily remove the residue after removing the tape with a razor blade scraper.

As I said, take your masking tape and make big Xs on all of your individual panes of glass. If you have a rely large window, such as a picture window, you may wish to put several Xs of tape on that window. You can also make some squares around the perimeter of the glass a few inches from the edge as well.

The sheets of plastic can also be used to cover your windows and other openings that may be prone to leakage in a heavy rainstorm. Make sure you cut the sheet a few inches oversize so that you will have ample coverage. Begin by putting 4 or 5 staples on the top edge, leaving a couple of inches overhang. Next, pull the sheet tight towards the bottom of the opening, placing another 4 or five staples, leaving the overhang here as well. Repeat for both sides of the opening, and make sure the plastic is tight enough so there is no slack in the middle of the sheet.

Next, double over the plastic on all four sides, inserting a staple every 5 to six inches on all four sides. Double the sheet over one more time along all four sides, stapling as before as you go along. This will give you a good solid fastening and will only pull out in incredibly high winds, provided you use staples that are long enough to hold sufficiently. Trim the excess plastic off with you utility knife. If you wish, place duct tape along all four sides to make the plastic covering edges water tight as well. This combination should give you a serviceable covering for any opening. For large openings you may want to add a 2″lath to add support. Do this by cutting the lath to length for the inner dimension of the opening, and then staple along the length of the lath. As a final step, place duct tape over those staples as well. The main purpose of making the plastic sheet tight is to prevent the wind from making it flap in the wind, eventually pulling the staples out and making your preparations useless.

The poly tarps have many uses, but here the intent is to use them as a stronger covering should you sustain a roof or wall breach to your home. Lay the tarp flat over the hole, and use lathing to secure it by either nailing or screwing the lathes to your wall or roof. This will prevent the weather from getting into your home causing even more damage.

An additional tool that comes in very handy in these situations is one of those battery powered drills with a screwdriver bit and a good supply of drywall screws in assorted sizes.

The cell phone and radio should be self explanatory, but remember to keep them both fully charged for good dependable service.

By the way, in case you are not aware, these posts are general hints and tips. they are shared just to give you some fuel for thought as you make your own preparedness plans. Keep on visiting as I add more hints and tips. And don’t forget to tune in to Maine Talk Radio at www.blogtalkradio.com/mainetalk as I will be starting an internet radio series on survival and preparedness tips later in July.

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