Patricia Skinner, Merrill, Thomas A.
When a hurricane season approaches, LSU AgCenter experts say stocking up on supplies makes sense.
"Don’t wait until a storm is approaching to get batteries, flashlights, nonperishable food and other things you’ll need if the power goes out," says Paul Coreil, vice chancellor of the LSU AgCenter. "Start now. It will be a lot easier if you shop for supplies early rather than getting caught up in the last-minute rush at the stores."
LSU AgCenter experts point out you will need some basic supplies just to survive during and after a storm, and depending on the severity of the storm, you may need supplies that will last for several days.
"After a hurricane, you could be housebound for as much as a week or longer, probably with no electricity," LSU AgCenter disaster preparedness associate Pat Skinner says. "Water may be off or contaminated. Stores may be closed. Gas stations may not be in operation. Restaurants may not be open."
The same types of rules apply if you have to evacuate. You’ll still need some basic supplies, since an evacuation more than likely will mean spending hours in the car and nights away from home.
"Either way, you’ll need some nonperishable food and enough water for everyone," Skinner says. "You’ll also want to have some other basic supplies, and you can shop for most of those now and store them until they’re needed."
Some of the supplies you may need include flashlights and extra batteries; hurricane lamps or lanterns (avoid candles); a portable radio and extra batteries; first-aid kit; insect repellent; matches; ice chest; disposable cups, plates and utensils; disposable towelettes; and prescription medications.
The experts also say you should have at least a three-day supply of food and water for each person. That means at least 2 quarts of water – a gallon is preferable – per person each day. As for food, choose foods that require little or no cooking and no refrigeration, and buy them in sizes appropriate for one meal with no leftovers. You also can keep low-volume, high-energy foods, such as granola bars, raisins and peanut butter, on hand.
"Don’t forget to have a manual can opener on hand. Otherwise, you won’t be able to open canned foods when the power is out," Skinner cautions.
LSU AgCenter experts also say to consider any special dietary needs and to be sure to have items such as baby food and diapers on hand, if you need them.
"Keep your pets in mind, too, because they’ll also need to be fed and to have water," Skinner says.
Although they aren’t necessities, you also may want to consider buying an electric generator to meet your emergency power needs. "This is particularly important if you must operate medical equipment continuously," Skinner says, adding, "It also is a way you can protect your investment in frozen foods."
Camp stoves or barbecue grills also can help with cooking, according to the experts. Just be sure you have enough fuel on hand – and use them outdoors only.
"Most of the items you’ll need have a long shelf life, but they disappear from stores quickly when hurricane warnings are issued," Skinner says. "That’s why it’s important to gather these supplies now – before a storm is approaching.
"Doing so also allows you to concentrate on the other preparations you’ll need to be making as the storm approaches."
LSU AgCenter experts point out that until the 2005 experience with hurricanes Katrina and Rita, most Louisiana residents had been sideswiped but not hit head-on by a major hurricane. As a result, many people didn’t prepare or heed warnings.
"Much of the damage and loss of life associated with hurricanes can be prevented or reduced by planning, preparation and evacuation," Coreil points out. "Planning may save your life or your pet’s life or help you to salvage something else you hold dear.
"At any rate, it definitely will help you to sleep easier through the hurricane season. And it probably will help to reduce damage to your home, help you cope during the storm and help you recover more easily after a storm."