Here’s a list of about 20 things that you’ll want to have with you when a hurricane strikes. Not just “around the house,” but WITH YOU, preferably right there on your hip.
No, I’m not a paranoid prepper, but my family did live in South Florida for 40 years and I’ve seen first-hand what hurricanes can do. Having been caught up in several major storms, I now know what I want close at hand in a worst-case situation.
“Worst case” can be several things. Generally, it means you are without food, water, electricity, or shelter. You may be trapped and you may be injured. My fanny pack will help you through the first 24 hours and hopefully longer.
I’m no Bear Grylls or Ray Mears. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic. I’m just a middle-aged businessman who has learned some basic hurricane survival techniques and would like to share them.
Why a fanny pack and not a backpack?
Yes, a backpack is larger. But the fanny pack is something you can wear ALL THE TIME. I discovered how important this is when I went outside during a lull in Hurricane Wilma. We were between feeder bands, the wind was low and the sun was shining. I left our Florida house, walked 30 yards to the street to check out the situation, the weather blew up and I spent an eternity clinging to a ficus tree while the next feeder band passed through. Believe me, when things get serious, they get serious FAST.
So, even though a fanny pack doesn’t make much of a fashion statement, it is eminently practical.
Why didn’t you include a cellphone or water?
Yes. Your cellphone is important. But in a storm, you lose both power and cell towers. Don’t count on having service after a storm hits. More importantly, your phone should be in your pocket, not in a fanny pack. Finally, unless you really have an emergency, you shouldn’t be using your phone anyway – don’t tie up valuable bandwidth updating your Facebook page – except for perhaps a single short message to tell friends that you are OK.
Water is important, but again, not something for a fanny pack. Put a bottle in your pocket,
Here’s the unprioritized list. Feel free to modify depending on the size of your pack.
- Extra keys
- Flashlight / batteries
- Antiseptic cream
- Toothbrush / toothpaste
- Identification / bank cards
- Pencil / paper
- Cheap digital watch
- Swiss army knife
- Multi-purpose tool
- Lighter / matches / candle
Let’s look at these, one by one.
When the electricity fails, so do the ATMs. You may not even be able to get to a cash machine. So, keep cash on hand. The photo illustrates 20s, but make sure to have 10s and 5s, too. People don’t make change during emergencies. If all you have is a 20, you’re going to pay 20 for whatever it is you need.
To your house, car, office. Trust me, if you really get hit, keys tend to get lost.
If you need reading glasses, put an extra pair in your kit. This is really an optional thing, but eyeglasses, like keys, get lost during emergencies.
Keep about 4-6 feet. I prefer jute to nylon as I can break the individual strands by hand or with my teeth if things really go wrong. You’ll want this to make a tourniquet or to hold a door open or for simply securing stuff that broke. As to tourniquets, if you’re really in trouble and need to protect an arm or a leg, you can also use the belt off the fanny pack itself.
For attracting attention if you are trapped. Let’s hope you’ll never need it. Did you know there’s also a whistle attached to every life vest you’ve ever seen demonstrated when you board an airplane? C’mon folks, nobody makes this stuff up just for their own amusement.
Flashlight / extra batteries
If you’re sitting in a shuttered house when the electricity is out, a flashlight is extremely useful. Almost two million Floridians sat through several weeks without electricity during Hurricane Francis – and that storm never really hit Florida! Get a flashlight with a flat base so you can set it on its end, for example during a meal. The reflected light from a white ceiling can be very practical when several people need to navigate a space or accomplish a task simultaneously.
But be sensible: batteries in the average flashlight only last a couple of hours, so be conservative in your use. For example, big old D-cells in a flashlight with a traditional incandescent bulb will only last three to four hours.
Band-aids, aspirin, antiseptics
These are for small cuts and such. Water is often contaminated when sewage systems and water supplies become mixed. The idea here is to prevent infections from minor wounds, not provide full first-aid treatment for major injuries. Hence, no gauze or larger bandages. Tear your shirt if you need to make a pressure pad to stop major bleeding.
Toothbrush / toothpaste
Nice to have. Brushing your teeth makes you feel somewhat civilized when you’re stuck in a hurricane shelter with 1000 other stinky people who have been evacuated.
Identification / bank cards
Most guys carry a wallet in their pocket, so this may not be so important to them. But, women, assume your purse is going to get lost. Keep the most important things with you at all times!
Pencil / paper / post-its
Forget Sharpies and other writing tools. Get yourself a big, fat, carpenter’s pencil that won’t break. Carry a pad of paper and even some post-its so you can leave messages for friends and family.
A granola bar, a candy bar, whatever. As long as it will provide you with a little energy and relieve the hunger pains if you are waiting to be rescued. Make sure it’s something that can be unwrapped with one hand and eaten without utensils.
Cheap digital watch
Mine came from K-Mart for 10 bucks. It’s waterproof and has a lighted dial. And in a hurricane, it beats the hell out of my expensive Rolex Submariner in terms of practicality. The lighted dial is an important feature as hurricane aftermaths are characterized by lack of electricity/lighting. And yes, this is better off on your wrist than in the fanny pack.
Multi-purpose tools / Swiss Army knife
I have both a cheap, knock-off Leatherman and a Swiss Army knife in my kit. Of all the many features, the knife blade is perhaps the most important of all. The can opener can easily become the second-most important feature. By the way, if you’re stocking up on food, get cans of stuff that can be eaten cold. Van Camps pork and beans are good and nutritious. Canned tuna is good. Spaghetti-Os and other stuff from Chef Boyardee are at least relatively tasty, when eaten with your fingers out of a cold can.
Lighter / matches / candle
The American Red Cross says to use flashlights, not candles. Well, flashlights have a much shorter useful lifetime than candles, and if you are sitting in the dark, a little light provides a lot of comfort. I carry a tea candle and a simple gas lighter. The gas lighter will dry out faster than matches if it gets wet, and although the flame is not as hot as a match, it’s still hot enough to sterilize a knife blade if the need arises.
A real candle will burn at about 1 inch per hour; if you have room in your fanny pack, put one in.
I guess that’s about it. Stay safe. And do take all this seriously. I know it’s all a huge laugh afterwards when the storm has passed and nothing really happened. But sometimes these storms DO hit…
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