Candles? Check. Food? Check. Appliance thermometer? Hmm.
When it comes to keeping your home and family safe in preparation for powerful storms such as Hurricane Florence, which is projected to make landfall in the Carolinas late Thursday night or early Friday, some things are common knowledge and others aren't.
What should you do? What's a waste of your time? What are the myths?
Don't: Tape windows and expect to protect them from breaking.
“The ideal solution, if you have an opportunity, is to put plywood over your windows,” said Dr. Marc Eckstein, EMS director for the Los Angeles Fire Department. “Putting packing tape or duct tape might help for a second, but if you’re dealing with winds well over 100 mph, parts of your home just won’t withstand that.”
Don't: Leave windows cracked to ease wind pressure inside your home,
“That’s false,” said Bo Mitchell, a former police commissioner who, in 2001, founded a consulting firm called 911 Consulting, which provides emergency preparedness services and training for organizations of all sizes. “You want to close all your windows. Fortyinches of rain coming into your house isn’t helping you. If the window is going to get blown out, it’s going to get blown out. Cracking it or keeping it open is not going to help you. If you can board it up, that can protect the glass.”
Wind, however, is not typically the most significant cause of damage in hurricane-force storm, nor the primary cause of death. Water is.
"It comes in three stages: surge, rain and then flash floods," Mitchell said. "Those three things kill people and cause real dollar damage. Water is what people should be concerned about. The wind is just secondary."
Don't: Look at generators as a life saver. They pose an unknown deadly threat — carbon monoxide.
“People think, ‘I’ll buy a generator, then run my extension cord,’" Mitchell said. “That’ll kill you. You can buy generators, sure, that's a smart idea. But to be safe, it should always be hooked up by an electrician.”
Don't: Rely on candles for lighting.
“There’s a risk of fire danger with a candle," Eckstein said. "If there's a significant wind event, there could be a gas leak in the home. If you have an open flame with a ruptured leak in the home, that could be a recipe for disaster.”
Don't: Be in denial.
"When the government declares an emergency, it’s called a mandatory evacuation because people are in denial," Mitchell said. "You see reports of people who are staying behind because they say they want to protect the property or their pets. But it's really because it’s in their mythology that they’ll be OK. But you may not be OK. Heed the warning.”
Do: Bring an ax.
“It’s a good idea to have an ax in your home,” said Dr. Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground. “You can use it to chop through your attic to access your rooftop.”
Do: Have an inflatable or other flotation device.
“I bought an inflatable boat for about $300. Or, you could obviously have a raft or a life jacket," Masters said. "Any sort of flotation can save your life if you're swimming through storm surges.”
Also, Masters said that wearing a reflective jacket or keeping a signaling device handy could be useful if you need be rescued.
“You don’t want to use a laser pointer, though. You could blind rescue personnel," Masters said.
Do: Take pictures of your valuables and any essential paperwork.
"Take pictures of all your valuables before and after to show damage. Store your receipts," said Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University Earth Institute. "When you’re looking for reimbursement, whoever you ask will want some paperwork."
Schlegelmilch also recommends both electronic and paper backups of important documents. If you have to leave essential paperwork behind, place them on high shelves or on upper floors to try to protect them from flood waters, he said.
Do: Protect the integrity of your stored foods.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a list of food and safety suggestions for areas in the path of Hurricane Florence. The list includes temperature tips such as keeping an appliance thermometer in the fridge and freezer to ensure that items remain safe to consume during power outages.
Don't: Assume you'll have running water.
"You need to keep your hands clean," Eckstein said. "Do you have the alcohol-based decontaminates or wipes? Imagine surviving a storm event like this, and you come down with an intestinal infection ... that’s a bad place to be in.”