In the wake of Irene, I suppose, although I've never had to prepare for a hurricane. But I have been through thunderstorms and tornado warnings and even a mini-twister this one scary time. Plenty of hail. And power outages, which is my main focus here.
1. Know your house, your water source, your electric system, your gas. Most likely it will all be fine but if you need to be able to shut one of those off, you'd better know where it is. Learn, too, about the utility systems in your area. My friends in Vermont, for instance, have pumped water on the electric system, while here it is gravity fed and we can still take a shower (even a hot one because it's on a gas water heater) and flush the toilet and have something to drink. Unless of course we're under a boil order due to an overtopped water treatment plant in a flood. But those usually are easier to see coming.
2. Keep bottles of water, like 2-liter bottles and old milk jugs, in your freezer if it isn't absolutely jam-packed full. It will help maintain the temperature longer as the ice slowly melts. And don't open the freezer until you know for certain it is too late to save anything. If meat is still cold, you can cook it right away (as if it defrosted on purpose). We've been here, 3 days out, with a giant MeatFest at Zelda and Travis' house.
3. Store canned food and non-perishables. We eat mostly fresh food in season throughout the year but I have canned goods as well because of my don't-open-the-fridge rule. We cycle through them a bit, a green bean casserole here, a can of pineapple chunks there, to keep it in mind so it doesn't seem like such a punishment if we're without electricity for a while.
4. Learn to cook without a stove. Girl scouts did this for me, girl scouts and family camping. I know how to bake over a campfire. I know how to grill and how to use a dutch oven. I like my electric stove but I'm not lost without it.
5. Have an alternate heat source. This is the one we're still working on. We will have to line our chimney if we want to put in a stove (we do). I know what I want. It's just doing the work and/or paying for the work to be done. Can I just say I am done with workmen? With the plumber across the street giving me advice on painting my porch, with the painting folks with the ludicrous bids, and so on. We may not be able to do this one ourselves and will have to suck it up, but I'm tired of them.
6. A weather radio. For the lead-up time, for the moment when you decide to go to the basement. During the storm, wondering if it's ok to go back up. We have tornado sirens in town (half a football field from my house) but the recorded voice is almost impossible to understand. NOAA's mechanical voice is easier. Yeah, I could watch TV and have the meteorologist fill time chatting about lightning strikes in St. Charles, but I'm really just-the-facts about weather. And the TV is upstairs. By the time I turn on my hand-crank radio, I'm in the basement. I have a weather radio in the kitchen, too, and when the skies turn green, on it goes.
7. Sense. Having enough sense is important. Knowing that old wives tales are mostly untrue and being prudent really is the smartest course of action. Go to the danged basement.
8. Batteries. Having the flashlights already ready. Having enough of whatever you need, just in case it's a long night or a long week. Diapers? Gasoline? Things for kids to do?
9. Know your neighbors. Neighbors were integral to the 2006 power outage here. It helps keep you sane. And I'd hate to be on a block where an elderly person died due to overheating or freezing to death and we didn't know them to check on them. Neighbors are your first points of contact after a disaster.
10. Have a check-in place or phone number. If Mike's at work and I'm at the store and the girls are at school, panic can be put aside if we all know we need to call, say, my brother in Houston or Mike's sister in southern Illinois--obviously not someone in town who would be affected by the storm. But if we each check in and then check back to see if the others checked in, we can put our minds at ease about that even if we're stuck where we are for the moment.
Ok, now I'm going to go check on our battery supply...