Hurricane Preparation in Houston
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law
Below is a "To Do" list (in no particular order):
_____ Locate a Hurricane Chart to follow the progress of the storm. Most grocery stores and hardware stores have them.
_____ Fill all gas tanks on cars. If we lose electricity the gas pumps won't work. Also, when people decide a storm is headed our way, they will all top off their tanks and stations often run out of gas. Top off your tank daily during the run up to a storm.
_____ Fill the lawnmower gas can. Unless you have to add oil to your lawnmower gas, it can be used as gas for your car. Make sure the lawnmower gas is fresh. Gasoline gets old, and can damage engines when it is too aged.
_____ Check the radiator water in your car.
_____ Check the oil in your car.
_____ Check the windshield wiper fluid in your car. You may need your wipers during the storm.
_____ Give some thought to what you will park in your driveway. You don't want to block your car in behind something else.
_____ Check the air in your car tires, especially including the spare.
_____ Put a couple of Fix-a-Flat aersol cans in each car. Downed tree limbs and wind-blown debris cause flats.
_____ Check the air in your bicycle tires. Bikes are great for short trips when gas is in short supply.
_____ Make sure you know how to raise and lower your (electric) garage door if the electricity goes out. Usually, there is a red ball one pulls to disengage the gears and allow manual operation. You will need to know how to do this to get your car out of the garage after the storm is over if electricity is still out. If you don't know how, get a manual or ask a neighbor with a similar garage door. If you can't get your garage door up, your car is not going anywhere.
_____ Bring a ladder inside the house. You don't want to have to go to a detached garage in the rain if you need the ladder.
_____ Bring tools inside the house (i.e., tin snips, vise grips, pliers, hammers, nails, hack saw, tree saw, pole saw, crow bar, screw drivers).
_____ Move hammer, nails, plywood, plastic wrap or tarps inside, where they will be readily accessible to put over broken windows.
_____ Locate rain jackets.
_____ Locate hats (bike helmets offer good head protection from debris. Motorcycle helmets do too).
_____ Bring in safety goggles (driving rain and debris can hurt eyes).
_____ Bring in a box of 30 gallon or larger garbage bags. 1.1 mil is the minimum thickness I recommend.
_____ Bring in plastic sheeting (like painter's drop cloths) to cover large valuables (like furniture) in case there are roof leaks or broken windows. Three mil is a good minimum thickness. Plastic garbage bags (30 gallon and up) can be used in a pinch. As is, they will close over small items. Make sure the tied-off top in not at a position where it will catch water and direct the water inside the bag. If you cut the bag at the seams, you can have an improvised drop cloth of fairly good size. Also, use duct tape to make a large drop cloth of several garbage bags if you forgot to buy plastic sheets.
_____ Bring drinking/cooking water inside the house. Allow at least two gallons per person, per day, for drinking purposes.
_____ Fill the bath tub and sinks with water. If the seal on your rubber tub stopper has a slow leak, you can put a thin bead of vaseline around the edge of the drain and "seat" the stopper in the vaseline. The leak may be sealed. You can also try plumber's teflon tape. If the tub has a built-in lever stopper that leaks, you will have to buy a rubber one and use it to work around the leak. If you forgot to buy a rubber one, a thin piece of rubber (like some jar openers) will work in a pinch. Test these methods before you need them. Also, Amazon.com sells a device called a waterBOB that is a giant water membrane that holds 100 gallons of water. You put it in the bathtub and fill it out. The structure of the bathtub provides the support. It comes with a siphon for getting the water out. Well worth the expense.
_____ Put extra ice in the freezer. A full freezer retains cold longer than one only half-way full. Spoilage can be put off for several days in unopened freezers, even in the absense of electricity. Also, turn the termperature selection to the coldest setting.
_____ Have a "two cooler" plan. One Igloo-type cooler is devoted to food, with a little ice. The other cooler is filled with just bags of ice. One can then get into the "food" cooler without opening the "ice" cooler. This will make the ice in the "ice" cooler last longer.
_____ Buy bags of ice, or use your ice machine to make your own, if you think of this far enough in advance.
_____ Fill propane tanks for cooking during power outages.
_____ Buy extra charcoal for cooking during power outages.
_____ Check your trees to make sure there are no branches within three feet of the roof or sides of your house.
_____ Make sure any rain gutters on your house are free of leaves or other debris.
_____ Take down bird feeders. They will blow away or into a window.
_____ Take down plants that are in hanging baskets.
_____ Search the yard for small objects the wind may blow into your house or windows.
_____ Consider mowing your lawn while the grass is dry.
_____ Inventory your house for insurance purposes. Take digital pictures or videos.
_____ Move "stuff" off your balconies.
_____ Locate bricks or (better) 2 x 4's upon which to raise furniture if rising waters threaten.
_____ Find fuse box so you can turn off electricity if needed. If rising water is getting in your house, you need to turn off the electricity at the fuse box before the water reaches the outlets. If water gets in the outlets, call the light company before turning the electricity back on. It can take a long time for the wire circuits to dry out.
_____ Find the water cut-off in case pipes break.
_____ Find the gas shut-off in case the gas line breaks. Remember to have a professional turn the gas back on if you have to turn if off.
_____ If you leave your house, consider turning off the water, electricity and gas. Be aware that if you turn off the gas, a professional will need to turn it on again.
_____ Check into flood insurance at least thirty days before a storm. There are waiting periods before flood insurance becomes effective. Think ahead.
_____ Locate all flashlights.
_____ Locate a flourescent flashlight so you can read during blackouts. Regular flashlights provide lousy light for reading.
_____ Recharge all rechargeable batteries.
_____ Charge up your cordless drill and/or cordless screwdriver.
_____ Make sure you have fresh batteries in your transistor radio. A radio with a Weather Alert may be valuable.
_____ Charge up your cellular phones and any spare cell phone batteries or lipstick chargers you have.
_____ Make sure you have a battery-powered black and white TV. You don't want to be unable to see those "live" reports if you lose electricity.
_____ Make sure you have a book on First Aid.
_____ Make sure your First Aid kit is fully stocked.
_____ Refill any prescriptions, including those for children and pets.
_____ Get a booster on your tetnus shot in case you step on a nail or cut yourself in the aftermath.
_____ Back up your computer.
_____ Charge up the batteries on your laptop.
_____ Make sure you have a current Texas map if you have to evacuate. I recommend The Roads of Texas map (available at better bookstores) because it give the numbers on county roads.
_____ Get extra cash. Banks and ATMs may stay closed for some time.
_____ If you have to go to a shelter, please note that many will not permit firearms, pets or alcohol.
_____ Make a list of important phone numbers and put the list in your wallet or purse.
_____ Get pictures of your family and pets and put them in your wallet or purse. Such pictures will be invaluable if you have to ask for help in locating loved ones.
_____ Designate someone outside this area to act as contact point for friends and relatives who inquire about your safety. Parents are good choices if they live outside the hurricane zone. Then, you can call one person and everyone else can get the information by calling them.
_____ Have an emergency plan where everyone can meet if family members get separated during the hurricane.
_____ Have an out-of-state contact so everyone in Houston will have someone to call and convey where each family member or friend is.