In our previous blog, we discussed Hurricane Preparedness for third-trimester pregnancy, and what to do if labor begins at home during the storm. Today, we want to talk about how to prepare for a hurricane if you have babies or young children. If you have a baby or toddler, there is a good chance that you’ve never had to prepare for a hurricane with them in mind before. There are some key things to remember when gearing up to face a large storm when you have small children.
Before the Hurricane
Before the storm arrives, you will want to have a solid plan in place. Are you evacuating, or will you be staying put? If evacuation is your plan, where are you going, and what are you bringing with you? If you are in South Florida, the earlier you evacuate, the better. There are so few highways that lead out of Florida, that choosing an evacuation route and beating the traffic is vital, especially if you have young children in the car. If you are staying put, you will want to have plenty of essentials, and make sure you are in a secure place for both during and after the storm.
- Reserve a hotel in advance, if staying with family or friends out of state is not an option. They will fill quickly, and you want to make sure you have somewhere safe to go. Even if you are evacuating with your pets, any hotel is a viable option. Thanks to the 2006 PETS act, they can’t refuse to shelter your family, even if you have animals with you.
- Pack your own gas. In addition to filling your car’s tank before you head north, you will also want to have one or two additional portable gasoline tanks with you. During a crisis like this, gas is extremely difficult to find, and you don’t want to find yourself stranded in an area with no available gas. By carrying your own, you increase the likelihood of making it quickly to your destination.
- Don’t wait for the mandatory evacuation orders. If you are in South Florida, the earlier you evacuate ahead of a major hurricane, the better. There are so few highways that lead North and out of Florida, that choosing an evacuation route and beating the traffic is vital, especially if you have young children in the car. You don’t want to wind up gridlocked on the highway as the storm rolls in. Give yourself plenty of time to get out of the state and to safety.
- Pack Food and Water, in addition to clothes and valuables. The trek north out of Florida, which often takes 6-8 hours, may take two to three times that long due to traffic. Along the highway, you will be hard pressed to find stores carrying things like water, gatorade, snacks, bread, and other staples. If you do find a store with items in stock, they will likely be very busy. Pack your own before heading north, and avoid the delay and hassle of trying to find things elsewhere.
Tips for Staying
- Secure your home. Use hurricane shutters, sandbags, duct tape; anything that can reinforce your home against the force of the storm, do it. If you don’t have a generator, but have the ability to get one, do so. If your home is not a safe place, relocate to a shelter or the secure home of a friend or family member.
- Gas up your car, and store extra gas at home. After the hurricane passes, power will be down, so having gas for your car, a generator, and propane for a grill to cook food is a must. Power could be down for a few days, or may not be restored for weeks.
- Stock up on essentials. The earlier you can start stockpiling things like water, non-perishable food, paper towels, batteries, flashlights, and other hurricane must-haves, the better. We will talk more about the essentials for your children below.
- Get creative with storage. Your dishwasher makes a great, water-tight storage compartment for things like your DVD players, computers, and other small electronics. Have a water and fireproof safe for all important documents. Freeze ziploc bags of water, so that you will have extra ice packs to keep the refrigerator interior cold if the power fails.
- Figure out Feeding. Depending on how your baby is fed (formula, breastfeeding, pumped milk, a combo), you will need access to clean water, and refrigeration/freezer capacity if you are bottle feeding breastmilk. Without power, the freezer issue is a big one. Make a game plan for your frozen breastmilk, so that you don’t have to lose any of it.
Top Hurricane Essentials for Babies and Toddlers
I’m sure you’ve seen blog posts and lists covering the basic hurricane essentials, like this one from Emergency Essentials. While these lists are important, we don’t want to give another run-of-the-mill essentials list. We are here to focus primarily on the littlest members of your family, and the additional essentials you will need for them. Essentials for your baby or toddler may include
- a thermometer
- copies of medical records and any other important documents
- antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer
- a portable crib
- baby food in pouches or jars and disposable feeding spoons
- at least two baby blankets, and changes of clothes
- extra baby clothes and shoes for older infant
- baby sling or carrier (strollers won’t be of much use if you have to navigate flooding or debris).
- plenty of diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream
- medications and infant pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- small disposable cups
- A cooler or deep freezer with plenty of ice for breastmilk storage
- ready-to-feed formula in single serving cans or bottles, in case of emergency or lack of clean mixing water
- dish soap for cleaning re-usable supplies
- Favorite non-electronic toys or activities easily on-hand
If your child has medical needs that require electricity, and you do not have a generator capable of supplying the necessary power, it is safest to evacuate the area.
If you and your children are in an evacuation zone, do not wait it out. Evacuate as soon as you are able to. Have a plan and a backup plan in place, whether you are planning to leave or stay. If you are not in an evacuation zone but feel uneasy about your location, evacuate or relocate. It is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to storms like this. We recommend following the guidance of public officials, and respecting their announcements for things like evacuations, clean water restoration, road closures, and states of emergency. Above all else, we believe in safety first.