The Top Ten Hurricane Essentials

Must Have Items to Have on Hand Before a Hurricane Hits

Hurricane Irene

How many of you have ever been in a hurricane? If you have, then you know the uncertainty, inconvenience, fright, and suffering that come at the hands of a hurricane or tropical storm. In order to stay as comfortable as possible and as healthy as possible, there are a number of items that you should stock up on before a hurricane. The following list will not only contain the top ten hurricane essentials, but many more recommendations on what to have on hand during a hurricane for the ultimate in emergency preparedness.

Photo of Hurricane Irene courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0.

Things You'll Need During a Hurricane

Recommended items to have before storms hit


During a hurricane, plenty of things can go wrong. Many are left unscathed by the high speed winds, but there's too much at risk to not be prepared if something does happen in the event of a hurricane. What can happen? The most common thing to happen is to lose power in your home. If you live near rivers, lakes, or the ocean, flooding is a big concern that shouldn't be taken lightly. If a hurricane is headed your way, then take a look at these recommended items to have on hand before the storm hits. These will help ease discomfort, keep you safe, and get your life back on track.

Photo right of Hurricane Ike by NASA.


Throw off more light - don't walk into walls


Once the power goes out at night, you'll soon get sick of carrying around a flashlight, and start tripping over everything. Not to mention flashlights are small and once the power is out, you're scrambling to find it. Lanterns are bigger, throw off more light, and can light up an entire room. Whichever room you are in, keep the lantern closeby so you can easily turn it on when the power goes out. Having a couple of these around isn't a bad idea.

Photo right of lantern by Vinni.

Canned Food

Ensure a meal (even if it's gross)

Canned baked beans - yum!

Yuck, canned food. Well, you can't go in the fridge because opening the door will spoil everything. You can't order take out because all of the other local businesses have lost power, too. Just pretend you're on a camping trip to the Grand Canyon like Bobby and Cindy did, and open up a can of room temperature baked beans to go with your meal (or have as your meal). It's rough, but you'll live, and the power will be back at some point soon.

The delicious can of baked beans to the right is by Andrew Michaels on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.


Power up the fridge and other essentials

Generator (portable)

If you have loads of stuff in your fridge, you could lose a lot of money once the power goes out and food starts to spoil. It's also nice to just be able to open the fridge and get real food, not canned stuff. The problem with a generator is it's loud, and it requires frequent trips to the gas station to fill it back up. That's something to think about. Generators typically only power a few things in your home, not the entire house, so don't depend on one to light the place up like a Christmas tree -- that's a common misconception. To do that, you'll need a backup power generator, which runs in the $4,000-5000 range. Typical portable generators are far less.

The portable generator to the right was taken by JMR Photography on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

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Keep perishable items fresh for the long haul

Step 1: remove the beer from the cooler...

A more practical way to save the food in your fridge. A big, insulated cooler will hold all of the things that need, like milk, cheese, leftovers, eggs, and cold cuts. Freeze some large freezer packs and place them on top of the food to keep everything cold. Food will stay in your fridge just fine as long as the door isn't open for the first 6 hours or so. After that, things will slowly start to melt. At that point, start to transfer to the coolers, and start consuming things that are most perishable first. As for ice, make as much ice as you can fit into your freezer before the hurricane hits. This will help keep the freezer cold longer, and can held keep the temperature down in the cooler if necessary. Just don't get greedy and start adding ice cubes to your gin and tonic, you'll need those.

The beer cooler to the right, ideal for your perishable items, was taken by Clayton Parker, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.


Hit the stores before they run out

Stock up - and be sure batteries are already in flashlights and essentials before the storm.

Check to see what size batteries you'll need for your lanterns, flashlights, and other devices that you'll be using during the storm. Stock up in advance, and leave them in a place you know you can easily get to them.

The rechargable batteries photo seen right was taken by Jamie McCall, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Bottled Water

You'll need this in case your water supply is tainted or irretrievable...

Bottled water

If the power goes out and your water comes from a well or water pump, you won't be able to access your water supply. In that case, stock up on bottled water ahead of time. Assume every person is going to be consuming at least one gallon of water per day, and stock up for at least a few days. It's also convenient to have single serving size bottled water so you won't have to wash cups (you probably won't have the hot water to wash them anyway).

Photo right by Steven Depolo, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Candles and Lighters


You might need candles to light your way through the house (though an electric lantern is much safer, and so is a flashlight). Lighters come in handy if you have a gas stove. You can ignite a gas stovetop with a lighter or match if the gas is on. 

Candle photo by Irish Typepad on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Camping Stove

Heat canned food and make hot water

Camping stove

You don't have to eat all of those gross cans of food at room temperature. A camping stove usually runs on propane, so be sure to fill it before the storm. Besides a camping stove, you can use your regular old outdoor grill, provided you aren't right on the eye wall of the hurricane. If you brought your BBQ grill inside, don't cook it inside like a dummy.

Campfire stove photo by m.prinke

Coleman Stove - a Single Burner for Food and Water

Heat up water, leftovers, or canned food

At just $30, this is a no-brainer to have on hand. This single burner can work wonders and supply you with warm water, heat up meals, and provide plenty of comfort. 

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Charge it ahead of time


A cellphone can act as a mini flashlight when charged, and can also leave you connected with the rest of the world. In case of emergency, you should have one on hand. Power up all of your cellphones and devices long before the hurricane arrives to ensure the charge will last as long as possible. If you need to charge back up, head to someone's house who does have power (there's always someone). You can also check updates on your local electrical company's website (or sometimes on Twitter like National Grid does) to see when power is going to be back up.

Picture of cellphones by Andy Mihail,licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

A Backup Place to Stay

Somewhere else to go when things get unbearable

Backup place to stay - have one lined up!

Maybe you know you can count on your mom, uncle, cousin, best friend, or co-workers to help you out if you lose power for an extended period of time, but what if they lose power too? Plan ahead and think of people in towns that may not be affected by the hurricane that you can stay at if you do lose power. Having a home to stay in that has full power is a luxury to anyone who has been in the dark for days on end. 

If you don't have anyone to rely on, then check your local town hall by phone for information on where the town's emergency shelter is located. These are often at schools. Photo of home by James Thompson, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

More Handy Things to Have on Hand:

First aid kit, cash, chainsaw for downed tree limbs, basic tools, plywood if you don't have hurricane shutters, cash, clean clothes/towels, baby supplies, and things to pass the time.

What Else Did I Miss?

Are there other items or ideas that can help in the event of a hurricane?

List them here!


20 leaves
11 forum posts
mihgasper on said:
Good list. I believe a big dose of optimism is another good thing to have with...
102 leaves
2127 forum posts
bill on said:
I agree, optimism will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. That, and visiting those that DO have power can help. Everyone stay safe during Sandy!
0 leaves
1103 forum posts
Bonita on said:
From a medical standpoint, I'd also say:
-Make sure your prescriptions are refilled and that you have any medications, oxygen, or other medical equipment you might need on hand.

-A first aid kit might come in handy.

-If you are allergic to bees, make sure you have an Epi pen on hand. After Hurricane Hugo we saw all kinds of people in the ER for bee stings and chain saw accidents. The insects really got stirred up by the hurricane.

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