What to Put in a Hurricane Preparedness Kit
In areas of the US located near the Atlantic hurricane basin, hurricanes are a fact of life. Residents of states like Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, and even New York know that for a few months each year, their weather can turn deadly—so they have to be prepared, both physically and mentally.
Anyone who’s survived a hurricane can tell you that a hurricane preparedness kit can be—quite literally—a life saver. These grab-and-go kits contain everything your family needs in case of an emergency evacuation. From clean water to clean clothes to pet supplies, a hurricane preparedness kit brings together all of the major must-haves into one convenient package.
It’s easy and fairly quick to make your own hurricane preparedness kit. In this article, we’ll talk about the essential steps you’ll need to take for assembling your hurricane preparedness kit, as well as how to store and protect it efficiently. To get started, let’s think about the basics of why and how to build a hurricane preparedness kit.
Why Have a Hurricane Preparedness Kit?
When a hurricane is threatening your area, you’ll have to make quick decisions about safety and evacuation. In severe cases, local authorities may order you to evacuate on short notice.
The decision to evacuate is always a tough one, so you don’t want to complicate the process by having to frantically pack the essentials. Something almost always gets left behind, and during an evacuation, it can cause big problems if your family lacks any of the essentials.
That’s because once you’re on the road, your options for buying supplies may be limited. Fundamentals like fresh water and non-perishable food are often in short supply in disaster areas, especially before relief efforts arrive. Plus, it’s always better to eliminate all unnecessary stops when evacuating.
A hurricane preparedness kit is also useful in a wide variety of situations. The essentials you’ll need in a hurricane are relatively similar to earthquake emergency kits and other preparedness kits and can stand in when needed. The bottom line: It’s always better to have one and not need it.
Who Needs a Hurricane Preparedness Kit?
Residents of Southeastern US states with coastlines are most at risk for hurricane danger and should always have a hurricane preparedness kit on hand, even if they don’t live directly on the coast. The following US states are most prone to destructive hurricanes:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
However, as Hurricane Sandy proved, hurricanes can also strike farther north. Residents of other eastern seaboard states like Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey can find themselves in harm’s way from hurricanes, so residents of any coastal state are advised to create an emergency kit appropriate for their location.
Finally, if you’re in a completely landlocked state, hurricanes probably aren’t a significant concern for you. However, disasters like tornadoes and wildfires can still pose a significant threat and require quick evacuation. As previously mentioned, a preparedness kit can serve you well in any circumstance that requires supplies for rapid relocation.
Hurricane Preparedness Kits: The Basics
When you’re putting together your hurricane kit, it’s important to tackle the basic necessities first. The following items are the key essentials that are most critical for keeping you and your family safe during a hurricane:
- Water: Water is the single most urgent biological need of human beings. You need a minimum of one gallon of fresh, clean water per day per person.
- Food: Pack at least a three-day supply of non-perishable packaged food. Prioritize foods that don’t require cooking but provide plenty of nutrients such as granola bars and beef jerky.
- First Aid Kit: You need the ability to handle basic cuts, scrapes, and burns in an emergency, so include a compact first aid kit in your hurricane survival kit.
- Flashlight: A flashlight is useful in all kinds of scenarios, and you don’t want to find yourself without one when it’s most needed. A durable LED flashlight like the Pelican 1920 is a great option. Make sure to pack some extra batteries as well.
- Radio: It might seem old-school, but a battery-powered or hand crank radio is actually crucial for keeping up with weather updates from NOAA. If you’re using a battery-powered model, pack extra batteries.
- Multi-Tool with Wrench and Pliers: These tools can be necessary for turning off utilities such as water and gas systems. You don’t want to have to hunt for them when you’re trying to evacuate.
- Chargers: Keeping your phone charged allows you to communicate with emergency services when it matters most. You’ll need both car chargers and wall chargers, and a “power block” backup charger can make a big difference.
- Change of Clothes: Having to stay in wet clothes can cause hypothermia, so make sure to have at least one change of clean clothes for every family member.
- Can Opener: If you’re packing canned food, make sure to have a can opener available.
- Signal Whistle: A simple plastic whistle can help rescuers find your family if you get trapped, so always keep on one hand.
- Local Maps: In an emergency where your phone isn’t available, you’ll need paper maps of the local and surrounding area for navigation. Waterproof maps are a big plus.
- Emergency Contact Information: In the same vein as maps, the contacts list in your phone may not always be available. Make a hard copy list of key phone numbers and keep it in a waterproof sleeve or bag.
- Blankets/Sleeping Bags: These are essential for keeping your family members warm and safe—remember that hurricane weather can be quite cold.
- Important Documents: You’ll also want to make sure to keep copies of your most critical documents with you. Some documents you might need include personal IDs, home insurance papers, and bank account records. Make sure to put these documents inside a waterproof container.
- Gasoline: Gasoline shortages are common during hurricanes as everyone rushes to fill up their vehicles, so it’s important to have a full gas can ready to go. However, remember that gasoline goes “stale” when stored for too long, so make sure to add some fuel stabilizer to your gas to keep it fresh.
- Cash: A properly prepared hurricane preparedness kit should help you avoid the immediate need to buy supplies, but cash can come in handy in all kinds of circumstances. If you’re not packing your own gasoline, cash is even more necessary, since gas stations may not be able to accept card payments if power or phone lines are out and ATMs may be inoperable. Try to have a few hundred dollars available.
Some items are essentials for your kit depending on the makeup of your family and each family member’s personal and medical needs:
- Baby Formula/Food and Diapers: If you have very young children, these are an obvious must-have. Try to stockpile at least three days’ supply.
- Medication: Make sure to have a backup supply of any prescription medications you or someone in your family takes. Basic OTC medications such as pain relievers, antacids, and cold medicine can also be useful.
- Corrective Lenses: If someone in your family wears glasses or contacts and needs them for basic tasks like operating a vehicle, they should have a backup supply of their corrective lenses.
- Feminine Hygiene Products: Tampons and/or pads are must-haves if anyone in your family menstruates.
Hurricane Preparedness Kits: Next Steps
Once you’ve assembled the essentials, it’s time to start thinking about the additional items that can make your kit more complete. These items will make your experience more comfortable and less stressful in an emergency scenario. Some of these additional items include:
- Towels: Towels are useful and versatile—they can clean things up, dry things off, or keep people warm, so it’s always good to have one on hand. Travel towels take up less space than regular ones (and dry more quickly).
- Disposable Dining Ware: Paper plates and plasticware can make eating on the road a much more comfortable and convenient experience.
- Kids’ Entertainment: Packing a few small toys, books, and games can help make a scary experience like a hurricane evacuation easier on kids.
- Books: Adults can get bored and need entertainment while under evacuation as well, so think about bringing some light reading to keep your mind occupied.
- Paper and Pens: Useful in all kinds of scenarios and take up minimal space.
Hurricane Preparedness Kits: Sheltering in Place
In some cases, local authorities may ask your family to shelter in place during a hurricane. Sheltering in place means staying put in your home and riding out the storm until it’s safe to come out again. Thus, for a shelter in place kit, you’ll need the supplies that will make your home a resilient and sustainable environment until help arrives or the storm ceases.
A shelter in place kit should contain at least two weeks’ worth of water and food per family member. Other consumable supplies such as medications should also have two-week allocations prepared. Here are some other things you’ll need to add to your kit to be prepared for sheltering in place:
- Plastic Sheeting and Duct Tape: Necessary for sealing off windows and doors to prevent water from entering.
- Newspapers: If it’s not safe for a pet to use the bathroom outside, they’ll need to use newspapers for sanitation.
- Moist Towelettes and Plastic Garbage Bags: In a worst-case scenario, you may need to use these items for personal sanitation.
- Fire Extinguisher: Critical for protecting your family and home if a fire starts while sheltering in place.
- Cleaning Supplies: For cleaning up spills, pet messes, and bathroom waste if necessary.
For more tips on how to prepare for sheltering in place, see the emergency kit guide from ready.gov.
Protecting Your Preparedness Kit
It’s a good idea to stash your hurricane preparedness kit in a protective container that will keep your kit safe and make it a snap to grab it and go. What kind of container you need is up to you—some families like the lightness and portability of a duffel bag, while others prefer more rugged options like a hardshell polymer protective case.
Your hurricane kit may or may not fit inside a single case. If you’re carrying larger amounts of water or bringing your own supply of gas, you’ll probably need separate containers for these items. Otherwise, it’s best to choose the most compact supplies that you can and to find a protective case that fits them all comfortably.
No matter what your kit looks like, Pelican offers options that will make it easy to store and transport. Our cases are used by the military and first responders who help protect and rescue people during natural disasters, and our innovative products offer the same level of protection for your family.
- Pelican Protector: Our original Protector line is still the gold standard for rugged travel cases. These watertight, crushproof, and dustproof cases are equipped with durable locking latches and open cell foam to keep your kit safe and sound. A retractable extension handle and a set of four polyurethane wheels with stainless steel bearings make the case easy to wheel behind you. Recommended Model: Pelican 1600 Protector Case
- Pelican Air: Our Pelican Air cases are ultra-lightweight performance travel cases that are easy to grab in a “go time” situation. These cases are crafted from our super-light proprietary HPX²™ polymer that makes them up to 40 percent lighter than comparable cases while maintaining a high level of waterproof and crushproof protection. Recommended Model: Pelican 1626 Air Case
- Pelican Duffel Bags: For the lightest option of all, Pelican duffel bags are designed to provide a step up in performance from a normal duffel bag. Our bags are made from an incredibly tough waterproof nylon outer shell and feature compression molded EVA impact zones to protect the bag’s corners. Recommended Model: Pelican MPD100 Mobile Protect Duffel Bag
See our full range of protective cases for more options that will keep your hurricane preparedness kit safe.