With hurricane season on the brink and our first tropical storm already in the books I thought that I'd take a moment and write up a quick article on what to do before a storm so that your as prepared as you can be. Everything I intend to show you presupposes that you've had at least 12-24 hours advanced notice. Beyond that, there won't be any items a normal person wouldn't already have in their home nor techniques inaccessible to the layperson.
Disclaimer: I am not a survival expert. I've lived in the north eastern United States all my life and have experienced quite a few blizzards, freak snow storms, hurricanes and tropical storms. These are the steps that I go through each and every time that there's news of an imminent storm. They're not labor intensive nor are they in any way prohibitory of everyday living. These steps won't guarantee it'll all be okay. But you'll be much better off if things go south.
From one who knows; After "Sandy," my area wasn't overwhelming affected, nothing like the coastal areas of NY. But power was out in a lot of areas for four days or more. Roads were closed with power lines and tree branches down. Transformers were damaged. Gas pumps ran dry. Supermarkets weren't able to processes electronic transactions. Water pressure was abysmal. I happen to work in an monument to consumerism and I can tell you there were stadiums full of displaced people charging their phones and laptops overwhelming the public bathrooms trying to gain some semblance of normalcy... It's good to have a plan, it's better to enact it when it counts.
Step 1: Be Cautious of Clutter.
One of the easiest steps (or hardest depending) is to clear all major walkways. People often don't notice just how cluttered a room or hallway really is until they've got to navigate it in the dark. One of the most important rooms to ensure everything is stowed away is the kitchen (Think knives...) clear off a good section of your counter to use as a staging area for the next few steps.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty take a second and plug in everything that needs charging; your laptop, cell phone, rechargeable batteries, flashlights your toothbrush... Whatever needs charging, might be a spell before you get the chance to charge em again. Be sure that once things start getting interesting you unplug everything to prevent any potential power surges damaging your goodies.
If you have time. I repeat, if you have time! Go and get some gas. I've noticed that right before any big storm the gas stations get hella crowed and the supermarkets forget about it. People go through more bottled water and batteries then Carters has liver pills! (Thanks dad for giving me a multigenerational pool of interesting and unique sayings with which to pepper my articles.)
While crowed gas stations are generally easier to get through then supermarkets and living in a petroleum based economy there's usually one close to home which is important. You don't want to be caught in a storm in an unfamiliar environment. They also typically have ATM's which is awesome if you don't have any cash on hand. Cash is king after all.
Step 2: Water Is Your Friend.
If your like me (American,) then more then likely you've got plenty of pop in the fridge or pantry. That's cool and all, but water is a bit more versatile then soda so let's take a moment and get some stored.
Pop into your cabinets and grab up two pots one large stock pot and one 2 quart sauce pot, If they've got tops mores the better. Fill 'em up! The sauce pan is going to be left on the stove top so you've got some cooking water should it be necessary. If you've got natural gas then you can still cook like you would normally during a blackout just so long as the gas mains haven't been damaged. If they have, you've got bigger worries. You can always use a kettle in place of the 2qt pot, your preference.
The larger stock pot is actually going above the toilet. Place it gently on the top of the tank or as proximal as possible the reason you didn't just fill it up in the tub is because (at least in my experience) the water quality is a bit better. Why near the bathroom. Well, nature calls, even after she's come and went. If you've got to flush the toilet you can still fill the tank with water and let gravity do the rest if there should be water pressure issues after a storm. Might be a good idea to break out an extra roll of TP too.
While you're in the bathroom if you've got a bath tub you should take a second to fill it also. The water in there might not be a great idea to drink (albeit if you've got nothing else... When's the last time you scrubbed the tub?) and should be considered "gray water," really it's best used for washing up & refilling the toilet tank.
Back to the kitchen!
Step 3: Chill Out Man It's Only a Storm-ish
Now that you're back in your kitchen it's time for another cabinet raid. Everyone's got that random sangria pitcher laying around. You know the one, sure it may have some miles on it but you just haven't gotten around to tossing it yet... Yep, that's the one! Fill er up! This ones going in the fridge. It's always good to have more water then not enough. Worst case you need more then you've got. Best case you've got an excuse to make some cool-aid, score!
Now on to your recycling bin... Say what? Yes, your recycling bin. You do recycle don't ya? Snap up a couple empty bottles with lids. Rinse them out and fill em up. *Don't fill them up completely, about four fifths max to allow for expansion.* Two of three of these should be fine. These guys are going in the freezer. In the event that you lose power you can use these to help keep the fridge cold a bit longer and believe it or not having the extra mass I your freezer helps it to run more efficiently. These also double as potable water once they melt, win!
Lastly snag a few coasters or small plates and place them on the counter. They're not for eating however they'll come into play in step 5.
Step 4: Clear Paths, Dark Skies and Water on the Brain. Now What?
So, having completed step three you should still be in your kitchen. You've got the major walk ways clear, water set aside, enough for drinking and hygiene for at least a couple days, great job! But we're not done yet.
Next your going to go on a panty raid. No, wait a second. I meant pantry raid. Sorry bout that folks.
Go though your pantry. No need to go crazy about it, just grab down a few snacks and such and place them on the counter; Pop tarts, cereal, snack bars, crisps whatever you know you'll eat that doesn't require any advanced prep or cooking.
Now on to the tools of the trade as it were... Step 5
Step 5: The Usual Suspects. + Some Extra Credit.
All of the steps to this point done. Now we're gonna get together a few things you may or may not have. Nothing too extravagant. Here's the list:
Flash light w/extra batteries: This doesn't need to be some mall ninja tacti-cool 100 lumen (a lumen is the measurement of visible light a device emits) flashlight any light provided it works will do. If you have multiples one goes on the counter the others by the bedside and in the bathroom.
Radio (battery powered.) In a perfect world this would have NOAA weather stations and alerts. But if the storm's bad enough you'll be able to get the play by play on your local AM or FM stations.
Candles and matches: Here's where those coasters or small plates that I asked you to grab come into play. Fire safety is important, never more so then in the event of a potential disaster. You don't want to have to move a lit candle from one room to the next unnecessarily. You can use the "coasters" to place the candles in your principal areas of activity. If you've got match books to spare you can leave a book with each candle/coaster set.
Warming: The "coasters" are a precautionary measure. Never leave a fire unattended!
Manual can opener: Just in case you blow through all the bodies we've splayed out on the counter.
Trash bags scissors & duct tape: These are just in case you wind up with a broken window. Sure you could use plywood, 2x4's a hammer, nails, circular saw etc. but hey, I don't have all that stuff so I'm guessing a lot of you out there don't either. So, duct tape and trash bags.
Fire extinguisher and first aid: These are pretty self explanatory and more then warrant their space on the counter.
*Make sure you check your fire extinguisher's charge regularly. Some models can be taken to your local fire department to be recharged, others simply need to be replaced. Might want to double check the batteries in your fire alarm while your at it.
Pro tip; If you don't have a fire extinguisher baking soda will work in a pinch.
Final note. For those of you not living in an apartment you might want to consider turning off your utilities just before the storm hits home. That way if things go bad they won't go from bad to worse.