The Dish Guide To Disaster Preparedness

The following is a collection of advice, mostly from Dish readers, about how to prepare for and thus weather a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Fri Aug 26, 2011 – 12:58pm:
by Chris Bodenner

From the inbox, a Floridian who isn’t being a dick:

If you actually get hit by a hurricane you are somewhat screwed. Construction of everything in Florida takes into account hurricanes. We have shutters or shatterproof windows. We don’t have water towers on top of buildings or any type of siding in our houses, even street signs and lamps are designed for storms. Our drainage systems are designed to reasonably handle several inches of rain per hour. For geographic reasons, we have one tunnel in the entire state and nothing subterranean like a subway or basement. Heck, people in the Florida Keys aren’t allowed to have a first floor at ground level. A selling point for a house or condo in Florida is that it is on the same power grid as a hospital or jail. There are a lot of generators, and if you don’t have one, a person with a generator quickly gets reminded of all the nice things you did for them.

The Northeast has little or none of this.

Having been through more than half a dozen hurricanes, there are a couple necessities that don’t make the list too often. A pack of cards, a lot of wine and a bunch of books are as much necessities as batteries and flashlights.

Fri Aug 26, 2011 – 5:35pm:
by Chris Bodenner

A crucial tip from a reader:

If nobody has told you this, you need to fill your bathtub with water.  It is not for drinking; it is for flushing the toilets if you lose water after the storm.   You don’t want to be without a flush toilet.

More advice here. More advice from a reader in NYC:

Having gone through a few hurricanes myself, a couple things I’ve been telling people here at work to have on hand, beyond the usual batteries/food/water: A lighter or two. The standard Bic never fails. Get it in the bright orange color and it’ll be easier to find wherever you set it down. Bandaids and bacitracin. The actual Band-Aid brand “Tough Strips” – the fabric kind, not the plastic – are miles more durable than any other kind I’ve used. I keep a box or two at all times because I slash myself in the kitchen on a weekly basis, but where there’s broken glass, there’s cuts, no matter how careful you are. Tough garbage bags (contractor-grade, if you have a local hardware store) and duct tape. Clean laundry, especially socks, underwear, and t-shirts.

Fri Aug 26, 2011 – 8:56pm:
by Patrick Appel

More hurricane tips from a reader in New Orleans:

1. If you leave, put all of the food in your freezer and fridge into “contractor” garbage bags.  If you lose power, you can throw it out when you get back and save yourself from the stench of having to clean out the fridge, and it can also ruin your fridge. If you don’t lose power, you can just pull it out of the bags and all is normal.

2. If you have an answering machine and a land line, make sure it is on so you can check to see if you have power or not while out of town.

3. If you stay, make your own ice by freezing full water bottles. Keep them in an ice chest so they can keep other items cold. Save your cubes for your cocktails. When power goes out, ice is like gold. After the ice melts, you have more drinking water in case the water systems is knocked out.

4. Also, place as much as you can in your freezer. It will help the freezer stay colder, longer. You will be eating the food in it in the days that follow. Place things that you go to often in your ice chest. Try to open the doors to the fridge as little as possible. Your fridge will keep things cold for about two days.

5. And lastly, if you are going to leave, leave now and take the mandatory vacation. Go far if you can. Don’t go 90 miles away so that you lose power in your hotel room with sealed windows.

If you don’t have water bottles to freeze, ziplock bags filled with water also work.

Sat Aug 27, 2011 – 2:08pm:
by Patrick Appel

Adam Pasick gives advice to those in NYC:

As during the transit strike, cabs will take group fares and livery cabs will be allowed to make street pickups. And, in case you’re evacuating Fido, taxis and all buses are required to take pets as passengers. Still, the chances of successfully finding a ride when you need one are probably not good. And in case you were wondering, the MTA won’t be giving you a discount on those unlimited Metrocards that you won’t be able to use. Bridges out of the city will suspend tolls, though, so you’ll save $13.50 as you flee to Staten Island with all of your worldly possessions.

A reader writes in with an ingenius tip for evacuees:

I second my fellow New Orleanian’s recommendation about putting food in contractor bags in the fridge and freezer.  But in addition, if an evacuation is required, one should freeze a nice, clear, full, pint-sized glass of water into solid ice and put a penny on the top of the ice in the freezer.  Given that power outages can vary from block to block for varying lengths of time, and that power can be restored before one can return home, it is very possible to arrive after an evacuation to a fridge and freezer working normally.  However, if you find the penny at the bottom of an almost-full glass of solid ice, you can toss your bags of food in the trash without even opening them.  The penny at the bottom of the glass of ice means that power was out long enough for the ice to melt all the way through.  Long enough so that the stuff in the bags is surely re-frozen and re-chilled spoiled food.

And one more piece of advice from a reader:

The other major tip I would add (as a resident of the Florida panhandle now living in DC), beside the bathtub thing, is to urge people to take out money now from ATMs. Those won’t work when power goes out.