Natural disasters often have a season, and for some of the largest in the United States (tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes), that season is summer. In recent years, climate change has made weather patterns unstable, leading to more ferocious wildfires and more devastating floods.
Hurricane season peaks in September, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted an “above average” hurricane season this year, driven by a winter La Niña pattern expected to emerge between August and October. And the Farmers’ Almanac made its own winter projection, warning that the central United States could see below normal temperatures while many other states could be hit with heavy rainfall in mid-January.
While no one can truly predict the weather, we can rely on past weather data from NOAA, which shows there were 22 weather and climate disasters in 2020, totaling approximately $95 billion in damage. All of this may have you wondering how prepared you and your neighbors are in the event a weather event or natural disaster strikes your area this fall or winter.
To find out, Realtor.com® partnered with HarrisX to conduct a survey of 3,026 adults to determine how prepared they are for a natural disaster in their area.
Here are some of the main takeaways:
- A third (32%) of respondents say they are not prepared and 50% say they are somewhat prepared.
- Those who own their homes say they are better prepared (74%).
- Men (74%) are more likely to say they are prepared than women (62%).
- High earners (76% of those earning $100,000 or more and 72% of those earning between $50,000 and $100,000) are more likely to say they are ready than those earning less than $50,000 (60% ).
And nearly 1 in 5 Americans (20%) don’t have an emergency kit in place. If you are one of those who are not yet prepared, collecting emergency supplies now is one of the best ways to prepare for the season of natural disasters. Waiting for severe weather warnings and watches to hit your area to stock up on supplies usually results in long lines and out-of-stock items.
Here are the top items to buy right now and avoid the long lines at Home Depot later.
According to HarrisX, the most important household item people buy before a natural disaster is bottled water (56%).
Water is usually the first thing to disappear from the shelves when a weather event occurs, as water sources are often contaminated during floods or hurricanes. And since clean water is so important, why not buy it now? Water has a long shelf life and can be stored in any condition.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends having at least 1 gallon of water on hand for each person in your household per day.
“A good rule of thumb is to support yourself and your family for at least 72 hours,” says Cary Fairless, president of Rainbow International Restoration, a Neighborly company. “It’s relatively how long a power outage can last.”
But if you have the room, FEMA suggests storing at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your family.
Our joint survey found that the second thing people bought was emergency food (42%), in case weather conditions made it impossible to get to a grocery store. While the items that typically disappear from store shelves first are milk, bread and eggs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends buying only bread, which is less perishable. If your electricity goes out, all that milk you’ve bought will spoil, and if you have an electric stove, you won’t be able to cook eggs.
Flashlight and batteries
Next on the list of what Americans buy before a natural disaster strikes are flashlights (32%) and batteries (28%).
“You can have all sources of sustenance with you,” says Jack Millerfounder of How do I get rid of, one of the leading home improvement blogs. “But things will be difficult to navigate in the dark.”
This is where multiple flashlights come in handy, along with enough extra alkaline or lithium batteries to last three days.
“Storms can knock out your power,” says Jason Fladhammer, Director of Quality Assurance at Batteries Plus. “So it’s important to have a backup source in place to help power essentials like lights and fridges.”
Twenty-five percent of respondents agree that having a constant power supply is very important, with portable generators coming in fourth on what people stock up on before an emergency.
“If you’re considering buying a portable generator, invest in a medium-sized variant that can handle at least 2,000 watts,” adds Eric Thomas, CEO of Simple Solar Living. “It will allow you to plug in a heater if you are losing heat.”
Rather than perishables, 23% of Americans surveyed stocked up on canned or freeze-dried meals. According to FEMA, you should have enough food for three days per person. (Don’t forget your pets!) If you can’t cook, that translates to at least 12 cans of non-perishable food. Look for items that have a long shelf life like peanut butter, canned meats (think tuna and spam), beans, and granola bars.
“Stocking up on trail mix and dehydrated fruit is also a good idea,” adds Karen Leefounder of Things Around the House.
“The other item I make sure I have are a few can openers,” says Miller. “The last thing you need during a hurricane is to be stuck with a broken can opener.”
Complements for the emergency kit
For those who have ever prepared emergency kits, the most common items they contain are a flashlight (56%), first aid supplies (54%), batteries (51%), bottled water (50%), emergency food (41%). %), canned goods/freeze-dried meals (33%), a change of clothes (30%), duct tape (24%) and a mask (22%).
Your medical kit should include medications, first aid, and supplies to treat common injuries such as cuts, swellings, and sprains. The CDC advises people to stock up on prescription drugs for three days.
Leonard Angthe CEO of iPropertyManagementsuggests people invest in N95 masks.
“These masks help you breathe poor quality air,” he says. “And with wildfire season upon us, we can’t afford to breathe in unhealthy toxins.”
As for tape, the Department of Homeland Security recommends using tape that is at least 0.01 inches thick.