If you live in the United States, you’re probably aware that at this very moment Hurricane Irene is barreling towards the northern two-thirds of the East Coast. If, like me, you live in or near the hurricane’s projected path, you’re probably (very reasonably) worried about what might happen and preparing as best you can for it.
Of course, you’re also a geek. So what are some of the (slightly) geekier pieces of advice you should be aware of as you batten down the hatches ahead of Irene? Glad you asked!
1. Charge everything. The odds are you’ve got a dozen or more devices of various sorts around your house that run on rechargeable batteries: mobile phones (both smart and not), laptops, cameras (both video and still), radios, flashlights, handheld game systems, e-book readers, tablet computers, etc. In case your power goes out for some length of time, you will want to have all of these fully charged — some for safety reasons and some to provide entertainment while your family waits out the storm. Charge anything and everything that can be charged, even if you think you won’t want to use it, because you might just be wrong about that.
2. Buy battery-powered chargers and lots of batteries. Many rechargeable devices will take regular batteries as an alternative, and there are gadgets available (Best Buy usually has some) that will allow you to recharge devices using regular battery power. Batteries last a long time when they’re not being used, so if you (hopefully) end up not needing them, you can save them for some other purpose.
3. Get a hand-cranked radio and/or flashlight. Your local stores may already have sold out of these, but if not and you don’t have at least one, go buy one now. Hopefully you won’t need it, of course, but if all those devices you charged run out and you still don’t have power available to recharge them, you’ll be glad you had one.
4. Do not buy a lot of perishable groceries. A lot of people immediately go and buy milk and eggs whenever it looks like they might be stuck in their house for a few days. This is not a useful idea when it comes to hurricanes, though, as they are more likely than any other predictable disaster (i.e., not counting earthquakes) to knock out your power for a time, and eggs and milk go bad pretty quickly without refrigeration. Instead, buy a lot of canned food — and make sure you have at least one manual can opener where you can find it.
5. Fill everything that takes gasoline. That includes all of your vehicles and generators, of course. But if you have, say, a gasoline-powered lawn mower, fill that too, because as a last resort you could always siphon the gas out of it for use in something else. (Make absolutely certain you don’t put gasoline into a hot generator, or you risk relieving yourself of all your problems, if you get my drift.) The odds are that unless the worst part of the storm hits your area, you’ll still be able to get gas where you usually do, but in this sort of situation it’s wisest to hedge your bets.
6. Make sure everyone, including your kids, has some form of ID on them. If it looks like you could get serious winds and/or flooding, this is an easy and potentially vital precaution to take, even if it seems a bit scary to contemplate needing it. If anything should happen to separate your family, everyone having some kind of identification on them — including contact info — could be crucial.
7. Get some plastic tarps and/or sheeting and duct tape. If a window breaks, having these ready at hand to seal it up could make the difference between having a water-damaged interior and not.
8. Above all, respect the storm. If the police come by and tell you you need to evacuate, do it. If you get the feeling your house is in serious danger of flooding because of its location, listen to that feeling and go — ahead of the storm — to stay with relatives or friends, or in a hotel, somewhere safer. Hurricanes are so awesomely (in the original “inspiring awe” sense) powerful it’s hard to really comprehend just how much damage they can cause. Consider that the tropical storm-force winds of Irene extend about 255 miles from its center at the moment, giving the center of the storm a diameter of 510 miles, or about 1/3 the length of the East Coast of the U.S.
- National Hurricane Center
- NASA’s page about Irene
- Ready.gov’s hurricane-preparedness site
- Maps and related resources (Google’s Crisis Response web app)
Got any other useful advice or links? Please leave them in the comments. Stay safe, everyone!
(My thanks to my fellow GeekDad writers, particularly Jim Kelly, for their help compiling this advice.)