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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

UF/IFAS checklist to prepare for a busy hurricane season

Now that Hurricane Season is here, it’s best to get your home and business ready for one of the fierce storms before it comes to your doorstep.

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) experts have created a simple-to-follow checklist for hurricane preparedness steps you can follow to be ready for this year’s busy hurricane season. According to forecasters at Colorado State University, the 2024 hurricane season will bring 23 named storms and 11 hurricanes, five of which will be Category 3 or above. The forecasting experts said this makes the 2024 season the “the highest prediction for hurricanes that CSU has ever issued.”

In all hurricanes or storm situations, evacuation orders must be followed, so keep a close eye on local city and county guidance regarding evacuations.

Step 1: Create a disaster supply kit

Creating a disaster supply kit ensures that you and your family have the resources you need to stay indoors during and immediately after a hurricane for at least three days.

The following supplies should be in your disaster kit:

  • a battery-powered radio
  • hand sanitizer
  • two-week medication supply
  • extra clothing
  • first aid kit
  • blankets and pillows
  • non-perishable food supplies
  • cooking supplies
  • surge protectors
  • manual can opener
  • books and activities
  • flashlights
  • safe water supply
  • cash
  • special needs items (infant formula or other diet needs)
  • toiletries/hygiene items
  • bug spray and sunscreen
  • pet supplies and food
  • important documents
  • portable cellphone chargers.

You will need one to 1.5 gallons of water per person per day, with extra for children, nursing parents, the elderly and pets.

For pets, include a carrier and leash, ID tags, proof of ownership, medications and pet first aid supplies, medical and vaccination records and your veterinarian’s phone number and address. Be sure to have pets microchipped.

A portable generator can be useful in a disaster situation. Never use gas generators inside your home or attached garage, but do have carbon monoxide alarms in your home, follow the generator directions and do not place the generators anywhere where people or animals gather.

Step 2: Create a family communication plan

In any emergency, there is a chance your family might be separated or various branches of your family aren’t able to reach one another easily due to cellphone outages. Creating a family communications plan beforehand can help save time and reduce anxiety during a hurricane.

If your family is separated, set a predetermined meeting place, such as a shelter or your home. Choose an out-of-town point of contact for your family so all answers can be routed through one person who isn’t immediately in the aftermath of the storm. Have a plan for who will pick up children if a storm comes suddenly and they are at school or elsewhere.

Create an information card for every member of your family to keep on them that includes contact information, insurance information and important addresses of places to meet during emergencies. Practice your emergency plan with your family ahead of time.

If the internet is working but cellphones are not, use social media to let your family and friends know you are OK and for them to remain patient.

Step 3: Prepare your pantry

When a hurricane is coming, stores tend to sell out of essentials quickly. Buying non-perishable goods now will help avoid a headache later.

As you make your list, include nutritious, familiar foods your household enjoys. Buy enough food for two weeks at home.

Consider frozen foods (or freezing fresh foods) since they will be useful for the first day or two in a power outage, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, milk and bread.

Shelf-stable foods will be your bread and butter, so to speak. Pasta, dried beans, grains, dried fruit, jerky, pancake mix, canned milk, sugar, baking supplies, coffee, tea, and herbs and spices will provide a well-rounded mix of foods.

Don’t forget the non-food necessities, like aluminum foil, parchment paper, plastic wrap, zippered bags and reusable containers. In addition, items like prescriptions, soap, paper products, over-the-counter medicine, a thermometer, vitamins and electrolyte supplements will be useful.

Step 4 (if needed): Prepare to treat your private drinking well

Hurricanes bring excessive rain, which can contaminate private drinking wells. To be ready to disinfect a private drinking well after a hurricane, follow these tips after testing your well if bacteria is detected.

Buy regular household bleach, but not splash-less bleach because it is not strong enough to sanitize and disinfect your well. Buy bleach ahead of time but always check the “sell-by” date before use and dispose if the date has passed. Use only unscented bleach. Buy bottled water to drink and cook with during the disinfection process, which takes a day or so.

Bleach should be diluted with 10 parts water before adding it to the well for best results. Do not mix bleach with any other cleaning products because it can create a toxic gas.

To disinfect, pump out the well for at least one hour. Flush out household plumbing, including the water heater. Make sure the water is clear and free of sediment.

Turn off electric power to the pump and remove the well cap. Prepare the solution of bleach and water and pour the solution into the well. The amount of bleach depends on the depth of water in the well and the diameter of the well casing.

Recirculate the water by connecting a hose to a faucet and spraying the water back into the well for at least 10 minutes.

Open every faucet in the system and let the water run until you cannot smell chlorine anymore. Then close all the faucets and seal the top of the well.

Allow chlorinated water to stand in the system for at least 12 hours but no longer than 24 hours. Do not use any water during this time and use an alternative water supply during the well-disinfection process.

The next day, turn on all faucets, beginning with outside and flushing out the water until there is no chlorine odor. Retest the well water in five to 10 days. If bacteria is still present, you may need to repeat the process.

For more disaster preparedness information, view the UF/IFAS Disaster Preparedness and Recovery website, which has critical information about what to do before, during and after a hurricane or other natural disaster.

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