Hurricane Preparation for College Students

In the matter of 24 hours a lot of people's lives changed forever, and if you live in Florida you know exactly what I am talking about. For the last week Hurricane Irma, the strongest hurricane to come out of the Atlantic had been brewing in the Atlantic ocean. It wreaked havoc on the islands in the Atlantic before making landfall on the western side of Florida in the keys. 

Leading up to the days of landfall there was a great sense of urgency and people either evacuated or prepared to wait out the storm in place. This is not my first time facing a hurricane, but all the for all the previous ones I lived at my parents house so I did not have to worry about hurricane preparedness. This is vastly different now that I live away in my college town. This was the first time a lot of my friends experienced a hurricane, especially since most of them grew up outside of Florida. Thus, I decided to do a post on 5 Hurricane Preparedness Tips for College students. 

1. Stock up on water.

Whether you are staying or evacuating it is vital that you have water. The majority of people are dehydrated to begin with. During a natural disaster it is extremely vital that you have plenty of water. It is recommended that you have at least one gallon of water per person for three days (3 gallons of water per person). There is a high risk that when a hurricane hits that it will tamper your typical water that comes out of the kitchen facet, shower, bathroom sinks, etc making it unsafe to drink, cook with, or even bathe in. So you will need a couple of sources of water.

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  • Drinking water: A couple of options here, if you prefer you can by bottled water. Any type is fine, but beware that water will be in high demand so stores may run out quickly and you may have to go to a couple of stores before you find any. Another option is to purchase a Brita Filter or some type of water filtration device and fill up water bottles that you already have. I have an obsession with water bottles so I did a mix of filling up all the water bottles and placing them in the fridge along with purchasing a couple of cases of water.

  • Water to cook with: If your water line becomes contaminated you will need water to cook with and possiblly wash dishes. A couple of options are to use some of the bottled water you have or fill containers up with water prior to the storm and keep them in the fridge to use later.

  • Water to flush the toilet: This is often overlooked, but you need electricity to flush your toilet. The majority of times the power goes out when there is a storm meaning that you also lose the ability to flush your toilet. This could be embarrassing because your bladder does not stop when a storm is coming. Toilets; however can be manually flushed by pouring water in them. You best option is to fill the bathtubs in your residence before the storm hits to have water to flush your toilet.

2. Gasoline

When a storm is approaching it is vital that your gas tank stays full incase you need to evacuate. Be prepared though because this can be a time consuming task with long lines and gas stations running out. The last thing you want to do is be on the road to evacuate stuck in traffic and your gas runs out. At least two days prior to the storm approaching make sure your tank is full if you are staying. If you have a safe place to store it, such as a garage, consider purchasing spare gas cans and fill those up too. NEVER NEVER NEVER store gas cans in your apartment or campus dorm room. Also check out apps such as GasBuddy which lets you know which gas stations currently have gas and also the prices. 

3. Shelf-Stable Foods

You never know how long your power may be out. With some hurricanes power has been restored the same day, with others it can be weeks or months. The last thing you want is to get food poisoning while dealing with your power being out for hours. Typically when your power goes out food in your refrigerator will be good for 4 hours. After 4 hours THROW OUT ALL FOOD IN YOUR REFRIGERATOR. It doesn't matter if it still "looks good" or "smells good" that is just a problem you do not want. As for your freezer, if your freezer is full and you keep it closed the food will keep its safe temperature for 48 hours. After that time the food will start to thaw out and you must either cook it or throw it out. A hint to keep the food cooler a little longer is to turn your refrigerator and freezer down to the coolest setting prior to the storm approaching. Now if you evacuated you may not know if your power went out and how long it was out, so the safest bet is to just throw that food out. 

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A best bet is to stock up on self-stable foods and have enough for at least 3 days. Purchase foods such as soups, bread, peanut butter, canned fruits, granola bars, etc. Lets admit it a natural disaster is expensive to prepare for so use as many cash saving options as possible. While preparing for Irma I utilized apps such as Ibotta, Checkout 51, Publix, and Wal-Mart to receive discounts and cash back on the food items that I purchased. It made a huge difference and saved me from draining my bank account to prepare. 

4. Hygienic Wipes

As said before you may not be able to shower because your water line may become contaminated from the storm. Since hurricanes typically come during the summer months leading into fall the last thing you want is to be sweaty from not having air conditioning and not be able to shower. In this case make sure you keep plenty of hygienic wipes to refresh yourself. I prefer Seventh Generation Free & Clear wipes. They are fragrance free, contain no alcohol, paragons, phenoxyethanol, and are safe for babies, hands and face. You can easily find them at stores such as Target in the Baby aisle and online for only $2.99 for a 64 count pack. 

5. Emergency Plan

The final thing you need and probably the most important is an emergency plan. Have a listing of emergency contact numbers written down such as your parents, neighbors, physicians, landlord, bank, roommates, etc. Cell phone towers might be down or a possibility that something happens to your phone. Also have a written evacuation plan such as where you plan to go if you have to evacuate, such as local shelters and routes to get there. Finally make sure you have all vital documents together in a water tight container such as bank documents, car loan documents, birth certificate, social security card, and proof of renters insurance. 

Natural disasters are scary, unpredictable, and something you don't learn to prepare for in high school. While you may feel overwhelmed as something is happening the more you prepare the easier it will be. There is no such thing as being over prepared, so even if a natural disaster isn't heading your way right now go ahead and start thinking through your emergency preparedness plan.