How to Store Food Safely

For most people, the ideal way to store food safely is to stuff it into the refrigerator. But when tropical storms and other natural disaster cause power outages, this may not be the best idea and is a futile exercise.

Recent tropical natural disasters have shown that power outages can last for days, weeks or even months, thus rendering your refrigerator stored food useless and unsafe to eat, unless it is consumed right away.

Because of this possibility, you should aim to prepare food for extended outages, stockpile food that does not require refrigeration and use adequate methods to store food safely. Always remember that food poisoning can occur if food is not stored according to its food type.

Food Safety Facts You Should Know

The dangers of consuming unsafe food are very real. The World Health Organisation published ten facts about food safety to address the prevalence of food borne diseases. Of note on this list, is the fact that each year, 1 in 10 people get sick and 420,000 people die from consuming contaminated food.  Food may be contaminated during production, distribution, preparation and storage. Spark Food Safety further explains that parasites, bacteria and viruses which are characteristic of food borne illnesses, can result in infections and irritations of the gastrointestinal tract.

Food Storage

Storing food at the right temperatures can prevent harmful bacteria from growing and contaminating your food. Bacteria that results in food poisoning multiplies at temperatures between 5 and 60 degrees celcius. However, the bacteria multiplies at its quickest rate between 36 and 38 degrees celcius. Food poisoning bacteria can survive in temperatures below 5 degrees celcius, however, nearly all are killed above 60 degrees celcius.

High risk foods such as dairy products and fish can spoil very quickly, if they are not kept in the required cold temperature. Frozen foods that have thawed should be eaten straight away and should not be refrozen. This is an important point to remember in situations where there is no electricity and frozen foods have thawed. These foods should not be refrozen because bacteria can grow and multiply during the defrosting and freezing processes.

How to Create an Emergency Food Supply

A good rule of thumb to follow when creating an emergency food supply is to store foods that do not have to be frozen or chilled. Thankfully, this is a long list and it includes cereals, flour, sugar, canned goods, dried goods, sauces and spices. These are relatively low risk foods, that will not encourage bacteria growth like the high risk foods.

When creating an emergency food supply, food should be:

  1. Kept in a cool and dry spot that is free from moisture
  2. Stored in re-sealable bags and containers
  3. Inspected for spoilage before use and discarded where necessary
  4. Discarded if cans are dented, corroded or swollen
  5. Consumed before the “use by” date
  6. Regularly swapped with fresher goods

The Best Types of Food for Emergencies

In dire situations, food shortages and water shortages are inevitable and it may be difficult to access these basic staples. That’s why you should take stock of your family’s needs and preferences and create an emergency supply of food that can last a long time. When creating your survival food kit, you should aim to have enough food to last your entire family (including pets) for at least one month.

The best types of food for emergencies are those that can remain fresh for at least six months. One must be mindful of the shelf life of food when creating an emergency supply. The shelf life of food is the length of time that food can be kept and still maintain its freshness and quality.

Because a loss of power is one of the most likely impacts of a natural disaster, foods that do not require refrigeration or freezing should be stockpiled for emergencies. Also, foods that do not have to be cooked or specially prepared should be included.

Suggestions for Emergency Food Supplies

Ready.Gov suggests the following food items which are useful when selecting emergency food supplies:

Although it may be difficult to store several months’ supplies of water, it is advisable to stockpile at least a two week water supply. If storing tap water, replace the supply every three months. If storing store-bought water, check the expiration dates and rotate often. Always keep a bottle of unscented liquid bleach on hand to sanitize and disinfect water.

Quick Tip: Download the free Storm Preppers  Emergency Food Supply Kit Checklist and create your own emergency food supply. The checklist contains over forty items that you can include in your food stockpile.

How to Store Food Safely

There are some key tips which should be utilized to store food safely so that it’s quality is not compromised. Food storage areas in the home include pantries, cupboards and shelves; and in commercial spaces, there may be food storage rooms and pantries. The main takeaway is that the storage area should be one that’s safe and takes the following points into consideration:

1. Surroundings

Food storage areas such as cupboards and pantries, should be dry and free from moisture, not close to stagnant water, located away from chemicals and waste disposal areas. These environments may be potential sources of contamination and may harbour pests.

2. Construction

The room that food is stored in should be an adequately sized structure that does not have any cracks or openings that could allow pests and insects to enter. Also, roofs should be sealed, and windows and doors should be outfitted with screens.

3. Internal Structures

At the very minimum, areas where food is stored should be kept clean and should be well ventilated. Floors and other surfaces should always be clean and if there are any signs of mould or water seepage, these should be rectified immediately.

4. Storage Management

Where food is stored, there should be no chemicals or hazardous materials. Foods with specific storage requirements should be stored as stipulated. Storage areas should be cleaned regularly and spills should be wiped up as soon as possible.

5. Pest Control

Food should be stored in pest resistant containers that are designated for food storage use only. If chemicals are used to control pests, special care must be taken to ensure that the food in storage is not contaminated.

It may seem a bit overwhelming to create and store an emergency stockpile of food. The most effective approach is to start small and then increase your supply. Start by creating a one week supply and then gradually increase it to the one month supply. There are always options to purchase easy to store survival food packages, but these may be more expensive. The aim is to start now with a one week supply, so that you will be prepared for any natural disaster that may come your way.


For more information on how to store food safely for and during an emergency, please read the following:

The Role of Disaster Emergency Management Offices

For people living in the Atlantic hurricane belt, June to November is a period in which there is advanced tropical weather monitoring and attention. For disaster emergency management offices and their staff, it is a period that they routinely prepare for from December to May. These agencies are expected to be fully functioning during the approach, passage and aftermath of a tropical storm or hurricane.

Disaster emergency management officials are often seen accompanying senior government officials at press conferences about tropical storms and hurricanes. In many places, they are called upon to advise the government about shut downs, potential impacts, the resources that are in place to deal with the disaster, and the activities that they will be engaging in to keep the jurisdiction safe.

The Role of Disaster Emergency Management Offices

The disaster emergency management office performs a critical role that offers much needed support to governments and residents. Hilton, Tony et al (2015)  mention that in the event an emergency overwhelms government or individual entities, disaster management offices should be in a position to “provide assistance and resources to cope with the emergency.”

The role of the disaster emergency management offices goes further that mobilising responses to natural disasters. A Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) publication, notes the following key functions of disaster agencies:

  • Implementing government policies and programmes that aim to reduce the impact of [natural] disasters
  • Providing various types and levels of training in disaster management
  • Disseminating timely information about impending hazards to institutions and the population
  • Requesting activation or deactivation of National Emergency Response Plans
  • Leading and coordinating disaster response efforts within the agency (internally) and with other stakeholders in other sectors (externally)

Key Disaster Emergency Management Offices

Coordinated disaster emergency efforts are required to effectively manage various types of disasters. Emergency management frameworks consist of robust emergency management, inter-organisational resilience, response planning and implementation, an understanding of disaster risks and vulnerabilities, and a general affinity for risk management, response, relief, recovery, reconstruction and a detailed understanding of risk management, pre-disaster and post-disaster. The success of these frameworks is guided by the competency of people who are trained to plan and respond effectively to natural disasters.

United States

In the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinates the federal government’s disaster management programmes. These are enabled by strong strategic goals which are to “build a culture of preparedness”, “ready the nation for catastrophic disaster” and reduce the complexity of FEMA.” To achieve these goals, the organisation has implemented a FEMA Integration Teams (FIT) programme, which aims to enhance the Agency’s customer service performance and efficiency of its initiatives.

The agency which was created on 01 April 1979, is tasked with “preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from” both man made and natural disasters. This is achieved through a robust programme of disaster preparedness education and working closely with local disaster management agencies throughout the Unites States. FEMA employs over 11,300 employees and operates with a budget of USD $28 billion dollars.

Alabama  | Connecticut  | Delaware  | Florida  | Georgia  | Louisiana  | Massachusetts  | Maine  | Maryland  | Mississippi  | New Hampshire | New Jersey  | New York  | North Carolina  | Rhode Island  | South Carolina  | Texas | Virginia


The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is a Caribbean based agency that is responsible for disaster management in the Caribbean. It was established in 1991 as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA). However, in 2009, it transitioned to CDEMA, where there was a shift towards the “principles and practice” of Comprehensive Disaster Management. Its mandate reflects this shift and the agency has undertaken the roles of “facilitator, driver, coordinator and motivating force” for its member states.

CDEMA currently has eighteen participating states. They are “Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Republic of Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands and the Virgin Islands.” CDEMA works closely with regional disaster management agencies to coordinate planning, preparedness and relief efforts.

Anguilla  | Antigua and Barbuda   | Aruba | Bahamas  | Barbados  | Belize   | Bermuda  | Bonaire | British Virgin Islands  | Cayman Islands  | Cuba | Curacao | Dominica  | Dominican Republic | Grenada  | Guadeloupe | Guyana  | Haiti  | Jamaica  | Martinique | Montserrat  | Puerto Rico  | Suriname| St. Barthelemy | St. Kitts / & Nevis  | St. Lucia  | St. Vincent and the Grenadines   | Trinidad and Tobago  | Turks and Caicos Islands 

Central America

The Central American Coordination Centre for Natural Disaster Prevention (CEPREDENAC)  is an inter-governmental organisation whose mission is to reduce the vulnerability and impact of disasters in the region. To achieve its goal of creating a safer Central America, the organisation has embarked on a number of initiatives. They include training staff for disaster responses and strengthening governance on disaster related matters.

Costa Rica  | Guatemala | Honduras | Mexico | Nicaragua | Panama

South America

Columbia | French Guiana | Suriname | Venezuela

Disaster Management Systems

In order to provide accurate and timely information to stakeholders, disaster emergency management offices rely on efficient disaster management systems. Oh, Ertan and Scheinert (n.d.)  explain that these systems are typically guided by four decision phases:

  1. Detection of risk;
  2. Recognition and interpretation of risk as a basis for action,
  3. Communication of risk to wider arenas of response and resources, and
  4. Self-organization and mobilization of action to reduce risk

According to the authors, if these phases are not implemented effectively, there is a risk that the systems will fail.

Thomas and Nair (2015),  in their paper A Survey on Disaster Management Systems, provide examples of major disaster management systems used in India. It appears that these systems (noted below) build on the four decision phases outlined by Oh, Ertan and Scheinert (n.d.):

  1. EPIC (Empowering the Public with Information in Crisis) – This uses social media to map, visualise and monitor the hazard
  2. MRCCFR (Mobile Rich Media Communication Tool For First Responders) – Facilitates communication between first responders
  3. iGaDs (Intelligent Guards Against Disasters) – Devices that receive and respond to disaster warning messages
  4. UbAlert Disaster Application – Alert system that shares information about disasters
  5. BRIDGE (Bridging Resources and Agencies In Large Scale Emergency Management) – Develops technical and organisational solutions to improve emergency management


Disaster emergency management offices are tasked with ensuring safety of all residents in their jurisdiction. Admittedly, it is a large responsibility that spans several areas of concern. By utilising the most effective disaster management systems, they are able to carry out their tasks and provide the services that are necessary to mitigate hazards and reduce the impacts of disaster risks.

Further Reading

Hurricane Strap Installation

A carpenter told me that when Hurricane Irma hit Antigua and Barbuda in 2017, many of the roofs that were not ripped off, were secured with hurricane straps. This should be more than enough to convince you that a hurricane strap installation on your home or shed should be done as soon as possible. Although there is no guarantee that your roof will survive a Category 5 hurricane, the hurricane strap is an economical addition to your home’s arsenal that you cannot afford to ignore.

Depending on where you live, these straps may already be part of the building code. Newer construction would be required to install straps to pass inspections and satisfy the requirements of the code. Roofs on older homes which may not have been required to install hurricane straps as per code requirements. However, they can be retrofitted with hurricane straps to strengthen and protect the home.

What is a Hurricane Strap?

A hurricane strap is a connector that is used to strengthen wood framed roofs and homes. The most popular hurricane straps are made of galvanised steel or stainless steel and they are designed to protect structures from the ravages of adverse weather events such as tropical storms and winter storms. Properties that lie in any tropical weather area, should be equipped with them. Hurricane straps are sold under several different names including hurricane ties, hurricane brackets, hurricane anchors and hurricane clips and hurricane strips.

Types of Hurricane Straps

There are several types of hurricane brackets, each of which have various purposes for the protection of the home. In a thorough technical manual on Hurricane Straps, BRC West Indies, a manufacturer of hurricane straps, outlines the wide range of straps available in their product catalog. These straps have been tested “recognising the characteristics of repeated, dynamic and fluctuating loads” that occur in tropical storm events.

The different types of hurricane ties available at BRC are:

  • Timber connectors – Connect beams, purlins, wall plates, floor plates, rafters and studs to the structure
  • Rafter connectors – Connect rafters to ridge boards
  • Rafter/ purlin clips – Connect rafters/ purlins/ battens to supporting rafters
  • Multipurpose straps – Connect roofs, walls and foundations of timber buildings
  • Mending plates – Support lower load members
  • Truss anchors – Connect concrete beams to rafters
  • Moment connectors – Connect butt junctions
  • Twist ties – Connect wood members
  • Purlin braces – Fasten purlins/ battens to rafters

Descriptions for each of these straps include a permissible design load and suggestions on the types of nails which are required can be found on the BRC website.

How to Install Hurricane Straps

A hurricane strap installation requires a clear understanding of which straps should be used on which section of the roof. Straps should be installed in specific structural members and must be spaced accordingly. As mentioned previously, there are various types of hurricane straps, each with their own purpose and design load specification.

If you are seriously considering installing hurricane clips on your home, my advice would be to consult with a reputable civil engineer and carpenter. If you are adamant that you can do it yourself, there are manuals that can offer assistance. For reference purposes you can also refer to the following videos which explain how to install hurricane anchors on existing roofs, new roofs and on rafters and trusses.

How to Install Hurricane Straps on an Existing Roof

How to Install Hurricane Straps on a New Roof

How to Install Hurricane Straps on Rafters/ Trusses

How to Install Hurricane Straps on Beams

How to Install Hurricane Straps on Decks

How to Install Hurricane Straps on Foundations

Hurricane Strap Installation (Frequently Asked Questions)

There are a few questions that pop up time and time again with no solid response. Here are some of these questions and answers.

Q: Are hurricane straps required in my area?

If you live in an area that is impacted by tropical storms and tropical weather systems, the answer is yes. Your home should have hurricane straps that have been installed correctly.

Q: Are hurricane straps required in Florida?

Yes. After 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, Florida’s building code was updated to require that all new construction (including both timber and concrete), be equipped with hurricane ties. Unfortunately, homes built before this period may not have them installed. However, homes can still be retrofitted with straps post construction.

Q: Are hurricane straps required in the Caribbean?

Yes, because the Caribbean is prone to tropical weather. However, not all building codes or building guidelines in the Caribbean are enforced as they should. Additionally, not all building professionals are knowledgeable about hurricane straps, and they may not use them or install them correctly.

Q: Are there hurricane straps for older homes?

Yes. There are hurricane straps that can be installed on older homes. However, because it may be difficult for a homeowner to access the roof, a professional may be required to retrofit the home.

Q: My home has hurricane straps that were installed by previous owners. Does this mean that my roof is safe?

Unfortunately no. There are several instances where hurricane straps have been installed incorrectly. As a result, you will have to request an inspection by a reputable company to confirm that your straps meet the building code and technical specifications.

Q: Where can I find information about starting my hurricane strap installation project?

You can safely refer to hurricane strap manuals which are usually prepared by manufacturers such as BRC and Strong Tie. You can also review instructions posted on Hunker, Do It Yourself and WikiHow.

Where Can I Buy Hurricane Straps?

Hurricane straps can be purchased from several retailers. Suggestions include Amazon, Fasteners Plus (Online); Home Depot, Lowes, Do it Best (USA); BRC, Williams Metals, Carters (Barbados), Caribbean Metals Ltd.  (St. Lucia)

In the past few years there have been several storms which reached Category 5 status. Given the high prevalence of these storms, residents in the Atlantic tropical storm corridor must prepare their properties for the six month long season. And by installing hurricane anchors now, you can reduce the damage sustained during a tropical storm.

Defending Against Expensive Flood Damage

Is your home protected from expensive flood damage? Have you taken adequate steps to ensure that you will not suffer from unwanted flooding?

Time has shown that flooding is one of the most common and costly disasters that can happen anywhere and at any time. During the hurricane season, flooding is a real and scary danger that can kill people and animals and cause millions of dollars in damage to infrastructure. As a property owner, you should seek to minimise the risk of flooding. A basic monthly home maintenance exercise can identify problems and allow for time to rectify before they are too destructive. Many of the suggestions below are relatively simple and inexpensive and can be implemented seamlessly to safeguard your home.

Maintain Your Landscape

Sometimes our surroundings can impact how water flows in a natural disaster. Drains that are covered in grass, leaves and garbage will make flooding worse, because the outlet that carries the water away is blocked. Property owners should maintain surrounding landscapes and undertake a periodic, yet frequent inspection and maintenance of their properties.

Gutters, downspouts and splash pads should be cleaned so that rainwater is directed away from the home. Drains, ditches and storm drains should be cleared of all debris especially if you live in an area with lots of leafy trees, shrubs and grass. If you can, change how your lot is graded so that rainwater drains away from the building. And, if possible install a water storage barrel to catch water from the gutter downspouts.

Check Your Foundation

Maintaining the integrity of the foundation of the home is one of the most important considerations that a homeowner should have. During your home maintenance inspections, you should always check for foundation cracks. If cracks are found, close them with mortar, cement or masonry caulk. All cracks should be filled completely to prevent additional issues.

Where possible, seal all walls in your basement with waterproofing sealants to prevent seepage. If your area floods, water can seep into the foundation and cause the cracks to widen. According to Eden Structural, this can also cause the walls to separate from the foundation and weaken your home’s structural integrity. In addition, damage may be caused to walls and floors and life threatening mold may form in damp areas.  Proper drainage, sump pumps and frequent inspections can protect your foundation from expensive flood damage.

Buy Flood Insurance

Many homeowners do not know that flooding is not covered in standard home insurance policies. Flooding is covered in separate flood insurance programmes and without it, you will have to pay for expensive flood damage out of your pocket or acquire a loan. Flood Smart explains that mere inches of water in your home can cause thousands of dollars in damage and advocates signing up for a flood insurance policy.

If you are on the fence about flood insurance, you are not alone. However, please bear in mind that flood hazards can impact areas that are outside of high-risk flood zones. Even if your home has never been impacted by a flood, infrastructure improvements, home construction, fluctuating weather and climate change can alter flood maps and flood zones.

Install Flood Protection Barriers

There are many flood protection barriers which can be used to prevent properties from expensive flood damage. These barriers, which are flood mitigating measures, can be classified as either permanent flood protection barriers or temporary flood protection barriers. FEMA explains that permanent flood protection barriers include levees and flood walls which are “engineered structures usually built of concrete, masonry, or a combination of both.” These structures are generally more expensive, but they effectively prevent floodwaters from reaching structures in the protected areas.

Temporary barriers “can be removed, stored, and reused in subsequent flood events” and “are designed so they can be used numerous times.” The type of barriers used for flood protection is, in most cases, dependent on the soil conditions. If the soil has a “low bearing capacity”, temporary barriers should be used. This is because permanent barriers may sink from their weight and consequently fail.

Install a Sump Pump

Sump pumps are used to keep reduce the risk of flood damage to your property. They can channel groundwater away from your home by pumping water from your basement. The water is then discharged to an area outside such as a well or drain. According to Fresh Water Systems, the there are several types of sump pumps – submersible, pedestal, battery operated and water powered.

Sump pumps require regular maintenance and should be serviced every six months. For a quick check, you can look to see that the pump is always sitting upright; make sure that it is plugged in ad that the cord is in good condition; test the pump periodically by pouring water into the catchment area; and if there is debris like dirt or sand in the pump, unplug and disconnect and remove the debris. The ideal sump pump should have a battery back up so that it can still be used if there is an electricity outage.

Elevate Indoor Appliances and Outdoor Equipment

One of the key determining factors of how expensive flood damage can be, is the loss of appliances and equipment. FEMA and Bank Rate both recommend protecting these items by raising them. Major indoor appliances like washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, and hot water heaters, should be moved above the ground floor. In one story homes, these items should be elevated at least one foot off the ground or at least one foot above base flood elevations (BFE).

Outdoor equipment, such as air conditioners, central air and other HVAC systems, fuel tanks, and generators, should be anchored and also raised on platforms that are at least one foot above the BFE. Relocation of outdoor equipment should also maintain recommended clearances as stipulated by building codes, insurance codes and manufacturers’ instructions. Other equipment that is owned by utility companies should not be moved unless permission is received in writing.

How to Deal With Expensive Flood Damage

Even though the suggestions listed above are excellent ways to protect your home from flooding, there will always be some risk and you cannot completely eliminate the onset of a flooding disaster. If you have been affected by extreme flooding, you have to determine if you can deal with the damage on your own. Remember – do not attempt to rectify any damage until you are sure that the flooding threat has been eliminated. Always  consult with your insurance company before undertaking any work on your own.

Ideally, you should obtain the services of licensed plumbers and electricians before starting any work. These professionals will turn off all water and electrical sources before you enter the flooded area. Quicken Loans suggests that for a thorough clean up, the water should be pumped or drained off; fans should be used to dry out the area and prevent mold from growing; all areas and items that came into contact with the flood water should be disinfected; and items that can be salvaged should be sorted from those that will be discarded. If the damage is too much for you to handle, you should consider calling in an expert.

Where to Find Emergency Financial Help After a Storm

You never know when you’re going to need emergency financial help in the aftermath of a tropical storm or hurricane. Admittedly, much thought goes into how to prepare for storms and how to cope during their passage. But there needs to be a forceful link between ex-ante and ex-post options. We have seen billions and trillions of dollars spent on disaster recovery and rebuilding efforts in countries along the tropical hurricane belt, from Barbados to the United States. But this somehow pales to the amount of funding available for mitigation and preparation efforts.

Disaster relief funding is used to rebuild and improve infrastructure; cover basic needs of affected residents; fund the construction of homes and rental of temporary lodgings; provide food and water and pay bills. This money often comes from governments, disaster agencies, non-profit organisations, charities and charitable donors, churches and other service institutions.

But sometimes in the chaos that ensues after a tropical storm or hurricane has impacted an area, there may be some confusion. People may not be sure about who they should contact or the type of assistance that is available to them.

Sources of Emergency Financial Help

There are many financial resources available to disaster survivors in their time of need. FEMA outlines specific emergency financial assistance options in its publication Sources of Financial Help After a Disaster.  Whilst some of the information might be tailored for residents in the United States and its territories, the content is relevant for the Caribbean as well. For Caribbean residents, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has provided a list of the international agencies that provide funds earmarked for climate change and disaster management initiatives before and after natural disasters.

The types of funding available below shows that there is a vast range of assistance available, especially if you know where to look.


If you have a pre-existing insurance policy, you may be able to file claims for the damage your property received. Because there are so many different types of insurance that cover so many different catastrophes, you should confirm that your specific problem is covered. If you’re in the market for home insurance, one point to note is that depending where you live, homeowner insurance and flood insurance are separate policies. Do not assume that either of these policies covers the other.

Disaster Loans

You may qualify for a disaster loan from different agencies if you meet their specific eligibility requirements. The Small Business Administration is one of those agencies that offers emergency financial help in the form of disaster loans. Pay outs are capped at $200,000 for repairs to primary housing and up to $40,000 on personal property (clothing, furniture, appliances and vehicles) that have been damaged.

Voluntary Agencies

Voluntary and or private sector agencies may step in to offer additional assistance if your needs are not met after utilising other emergency financial help options. These agencies may provide emergency food, shelter, clothing and medical assistance in the aftermath of the tropical storm or hurricane.

How to Determine Eligibility for Financial Assistance After a Disaster

Different programmes have different eligibility requirements for financial assistance after a disaster. For federal disaster assistance, you must reside within a region that “has been declared a disaster zone by the federal government.” The amount of financial assistance that you may receive will depend on the type of disaster and its severity. However, if the damages sustained are covered by insurance, you will not receive financial assistance from the federal government.

To be eligible for FEMA’s Individual Assistance grants, applicants must meet the following conditions.

  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien
  • FEMA must be able to verify the applicant’s identity
  • The applicant’s insurance, or other forms of disaster assistance received, cannot meet their disaster-caused needs
  • The applicant’s necessary expenses and serious needs are directly caused by a declared disaster

If the applicant does not meet the above conditions, the following emergency disaster relief programmes may be able to offer assistance:

  • Voluntary Agency Assistance
  • Disaster Legal Services (DLS)
  • Emergency Assistance (sheltering, feeding, etc.)

To apply for disaster assistance from FEMA, click here.

How Post-Disaster Financing is Activated

Hammett and Mixter (2017)  mention that financing after disasters requires new models with less obstacles and those that can provide lessons learned solutions which can be easily replicated. This is against the backdrop of observations by Mahul & Ghesquiere (2010) that post-disaster financing “tends to be slowly activated.” These challenges may be caused by delays in legislation, a lack of products that match post-disaster needs, unavailability of funding and poor disaster response timing.

However, the disaster cycle is often wrapped up in challenges encountered in accessing emergency disaster funds. According to the authors, the disaster cycle consists of activities that fall under “Before Event” and “After Event” categories. Before Event activities include mitigation, preparation and warning activities, whilst After Event activities include response, reconstruction and recovery.

Hamett and Mixter (2017) further explain that funding available for disasters includes risk transfer; credit; grants and aid; remittances; and other/ hybrid options:

  • Risk transfer, which is largely enacted before an event, includes insurance which may facilitate pay outs based on “pre-defined threshold measurements”
  • Effective credit options are activated in a timely manner and provide funding in a timely manner and without layers of red tape.
  • Grants and aid to be paid out after a disaster depend on how quickly post-disaster needs assessments can be completed.
  • Remittances from family members may be short term and depend on families’ ability to provide the financial assistance.

Five Organisations that Provide Financial Assistance After a Storm

In addition to the governmental agencies mentioned throughout this article, there are several non-profit organisations that provide assistance after tropical storms, hurricanes and other natural or man-made disasters.

Residents in hurricane prone areas must take responsibility for enacting their own precautions before the natural disaster occurs. Even though there are several options for emergency financial help in the aftermath of natural disasters, research has shown that relief may not be timely and it may not cover all of your needs as you would like.


Hurricane Shelters

When orders to evacuate are given and certain areas are unprepared to provide safe shelter for residents, hurricane shelters are opened as refuges and safe havens for residents. Buildings designated as hurricane shelters are expected to provide the safest and most reliable protection during the passage of tropical storms.

What are Hurricane Shelters?

Hurricane shelters are safe locations that the public can utilise in the event of a tropical storm or other disaster. Also known as tropical storm shelters or disaster emergency shelters, hurricane shelters should be seen as viable safe shelter option, especially in situations where you have been instructed to evacuate and have nowhere else to go. Many shelters are opened at a specific time before the weather event, usually in accordance with local evacuation orders.

Emergency shelters are operated by government, local and national disaster management agencies and private agencies including the American Red Cross. The operation of hurricane shelters requires the coordination and cooperation of several parties and also the participation of volunteers to manage the shelter.

Characteristics of Hurricane Shelters

A thorough study by Pine, Marx, Levitan and Wilkins (2003), was a comprehensive assessment of how hurricane shelters in Louisiana fared with the passage of Hurricane Georges, which formed in September 1998. Evaluating shelters was one aspect of the research and the evaluation included shelters that were open and closed during the passage of the hurricane, in zones at risk for varying storm impacts.

The study identified 15 key characteristics which the ideal hurricane shelter should have. Properties designated as hurricane shelters should be outside of the 100 year flood zones; outside of Category 4 storm surge areas based on computer simulations and that hazardous or radioactive materials should be/ were not stored or use in the building, on the compound or within close proximity of the shelter’s location.

Additionally, tropical storm shelters should have minimal lay down hazards (i.e. hazards such as trees or electrical poles or communications that could damage or destroy the structure); limited wind and debris exposure; compliance with the best wind design standards available; a construction profile that includes load bearing walls, hurricane straps on the roof and a continuous load path from the roof to the foundation.

It was also noted that the building should be well maintained and in good condition; exterior walls should be able to withstand winds and debris; fenestrations (windows and doors) should be protected; roofs should be constructed from concrete or a roofing system with engineered mechanical connections; unsupported roof spans should be no longer than 40 feet; roofs should have adequate drainage; and the interior space should have reinforced columns and rooms.

Tropical Storm Shelters in My Area

One of the most poignant conclusions made in the study by Pine et al, was that when residents are urged to evacuate they could be assured that the hurricane shelters are safe places. This also requires that authorities embark on a robust shelter assessment programme to ensure that properties designated as shelters are “the safest locations and the best available sites.”

In many jurisdictions, hurricane shelters are opened in schools, churches, resource centers, auditoriums, government buildings and other properties which are of a high standard of construction. Some of them may have been modified post-construction to meet hurricane building standards to withstand some storms.

For your information and hurricane readiness, you should make a list of the shelters in your area, the category that they fall into (whether they be a low impact or high impact shelter); the name of the shelter; the number of people it can comfortably accommodate; the full address of the shelter and a map of regular and alternate routes to get there; and if that shelter caters to special needs such as evacuees with medical conditions or those with pets.

An expert storm preparedness tip that I’ve seen time and time again is that you should take note of the closest hurricane shelter and next closest shelters that are nearby. In some cases, new shelters may be opened depending on demand and the severity of the impending storm. Always check with your local disaster agency for updated shelter lists and to make sure that your shelter is open before you make your way there.

Shelters in the US

There are several states in the United States of America that could suffer a direct impact from a tropical weather system. The list below includes storm shelters in states along the east, south east and south coasts of the United States. Some of these links will take you to sources that are actively updated when tropical storm activity is expected in the area. Other links will take you to the disaster emergency agency websites that will post emergency shelter openings as they occur. Additionally, you may search the American Red Cross’ shelter map which shows the shelters that are open.

Alabama | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Louisiana | Massachusetts | Maine | Maryland | Mississippi | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New York | North Carolina | Rhode Island | South Carolina | Texas | Virginia

Shelters in the Caribbean

Each Caribbean island has its own list of hurricane shelters which are governed by the local disaster management agencies. In some countries, shelters are listed in categories. In Barbados, Category 1 shelters are used during a hurricane; whilst Category 2 shelters are used after the weather event, provided they are in good condition.

Click the following links to see the list of emergency shelters or the disaster management agency in each country:

Anguilla | Antigua and Barbuda | Aruba | Bahamas | Barbados | Bermuda | Bonaire | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Cuba | Curacao | Dominica | Dominican Republic | Grenada | Guadeloupe | Haiti | Jamaica | Martinique | Montserrat | Puerto Rico | Saba | St. Barthelemy | St. Kitts & Nevis | St. Lucia | St. Vincent and the Grenadines | Trinidad and Tobago

Shelters in Central America

Countries in Central America have seen their share of tropical storms and hurricanes. Tropical systems have formed in the Gulf of Mexico and have either kept on a northern track towards the US or an eastern track towards the countries of Central America.

Costa Rica | Belize | Guatemala | Honduras | Mexico | Nicaragua | Panama

Shelters in South America

Although there have not been many tropical storms which have affected the countries on the northern tip of South America, these countries are still at risk for tropical weather systems.

Columbia | French Guiana | Guyana | Suriname | Venezuela

Disaster Emergency Shelters FAQs

As mentioned previously, before you leave your home to go to one of the listed shelter locations, you should confirm that the shelter is open and has enough room for you and your family. The below list of shelter FAQs will assist you as you decide whether a shelter is the safest option for you.

Is my shelter open?

Shelter openings are usually announced on local media news outlets such as the radio and television, disaster management agency websites and also via social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Information many also be disseminated in live press conferences and public announcement meetings.

What should I take to the shelter?

When leaving home to go to a shelter, you should leave with enough supplies to last you for at least four days. In addition to your first aid kit, you should pack the following items for each person of your family:

Is my pet allowed in the shelter?

No. Most public shelters do not allow pets. You should research your area for a list of pet friendly shelters.

Can I smoke inside the shelter?

No. Smoking is prohibited inside of the shelter. Some shelters, at their discretion, may create designated areas for smoking outdoors.

Is alcohol allowed in the shelter?

No. Alcohol is not allowed in the shelter.

Can I bring my gun with me to the shelter?

No. Guns and weapons are not allowed in public shelters.

When can I leave the shelter?

You are always advised to stay in the hurricane shelter until the local authorities have given the all clear for you to return to your home.

Although there is great value in hurricane shelters and the priceless service they provide, they can become overcrowded, can be very noisy and can be extremely uncomfortable. This is especially possible in catastrophic situations where there has been extensive devastation. Conditions may worsen inside the shelter if there is no electricity, little or no ventilation and if there are many people queuing to use washrooms and other facilities.

If your shelter information (including website link) has changed, please contact stormpreppers [at] gmail [dot] com.


John C. Pine; Brian D. Marx; Marc L. Levitan; and Daniel Wilkins (2013):  Comprehensive Assessment of Hurricane Shelters: Lessons from Hurricane Georges

Further Reading

Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Guide (Louisiana State Police)
Louisiana Citizen Awareneness and Disaster Evacuation Guide (Louisiana State Police)
Medical Special Needs Shelter in Louisiana (Louisiana Department of Health and & Hospitals)

Tropical Storm Preparation Blogs (Hurricane Guides from Popular Preppers)

Storm Preppers is one of the few tropical storm preparation blogs that aims to prepare people for tropical storms and hurricanes. Admittedly, there aren’t many sites that focus solely on preparing for tropical storms, but there are many prepping sites that offer insightful tropical storm and hurricane preparedness guides. This site sits right in the midst of survival preppers, doomsday preppers and survivalist websites, but its focus is a bit narrower.

Storm Preppers

I’ve been hearing about survival preppers and survivalists for the past few years and I never thought that I would be considered one of these blogs. I grew up in an area of the world that was always in the tropical weather hot seat and in the direct path of one storm or the other. I knew that every year for at least six months, the African coast was one to be monitored closely and consistently. And I also knew the importance of being prepared for whatever weather system that came our way.

I started Storm Preppers as my contribution to the climate change and disaster preparedness debates that have now become a mainstay in the tropical weather discussion. In the last few years, there has been increased interest and scrutiny of the relationship between climate change and weather and the resulting disasters. In 2014, I wrote a paper for a country conference on the topic Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation in the Caribbean. This was the first activity that defined my interest in disaster preparedness and dealing with the aftermath of disasters.

Survivalist and Prepper Sites

Even if you don’t believe in all of the possibilities that some of the prepper sites prepare for, you have to admit that you can learn a lot from them. This is one area where innovation and ingenuity are encouraged and welcomed with open arms. From their disaster preparation techniques, to the products that are created, the amount of information that is available is impressive and necessary.

Because survival at all costs is a must, much inspiration and motivation can be gleaned from disaster prepper blogs. You never know if you’re going to be in a situation where some of these tips will save your life. These sites often go beyond the basic first aid kit and water storage tips, but you are free to determine how much you really need in relation to exactly what disaster you are preparing for.

Tropical Storm Preparation Blogs

Being prepared ahead of time is the least you could do with any impending storm or hurricane. As a result, I’m highlighting the top storm preparation blogs from the best prepper websites on the internet. I’ve read all of these articles and I believe that the advice is top notch and worthy of being mentioned and shared.

1. The Ultimate Hurricane Survival List (Prep For That)

This guide from Prep for That takes you through all that you need to know about hurricanes and hurricane preparedness. Key takeaways include an explanation of what can be expected during and after a hurricane; the importance of adhering to mandatory evacuation notices; putting your property in hurricane mode; how to stay safe during the hurricane and an itemised prepper hurricane supply list.

2. How to Prepare For and Survive Hurricanes (The Prepared)

This one of the best tropical storm preparation blogs that you will ever find, simply because of the depth of information covered using both text and video. The Prepared breaks down how to prepare for a hurricane that is days away and a few hours away; outlines the various hurricane risks and situations they may arise; tips on storing hurricane supplies; suggestions for preparing your home in advance of the weather event and critical advice about what you should do after the storm.

3. Hurricane Survival Guide (The Prepper Journal)

The hurricane survival guide that I found on the Prepper Journal caught my eye because it uses Hurricane Katrina as a meaningful example of the worst that could happen if a hurricane hits your area. It looks at the age old question of whether you should evacuate or stay in your home and how you should assess your options. To provide some idea of what you could expect, if you decide to stay in your home, the blog examines hurricane strength classifications based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale and the conditions you should expect.

4. Getting Ready for a Hurricane (The Organic Prepper)

How do you get ready for a hurricane? This guide from the Organic Prepper takes you through a structured action plan which you can follow. It also explains that you a storm is on its way, you should be focused on your water supply; establishing a reliable communication method so that you can receive essential information; acquiring sanitation supplies for hygiene purposes; preparing backup lighting in the event of a power outage; finalising alternative methods to cook and prepare meals; preparing food supplies that are easy to cook and van last up to a month; stocking up on disposable cutlery, especially with the possibility of water outages; stockpiling tools and special supplies that may be useful and keeping an emergency supply of special needs items.

5. Hurricane Preparedness (Happy Preppers)

“The best way for how to prepare for hurricane season is to be self-sufficient and plan ahead.” This hurricane preparedness guide by Happy Preppers stands true to this quote by giving you all of the tools needed to be prepared for a hurricane. It is a detailed guide that provides helpful steps on how to survive a hurricane; how to prepare for a hurricane; what you should do during a hurricane watch; what you should do during a hurricane warning and what to do after the hurricane; provides a list of items that should be in a hurricane survival kit; and explains the hurricane rating system.

6. How Preppers Prepare for Hurricanes (Graywolf Survival)

This is one of my favourite tropical storm preparedness blogs because it takes you into the mind of a prepper. The best prepared prepper thrives on being proactive; getting ready for disasters before they happen; and considers the various situations that could unfold. When preparing for a storm or hurricane, Graywolf Survival considers four basic time periods – before the storm forms; when a hurricane is likely to impact you; during the storm; and the aftermath of the storm. One important point made was that the best time to prepare is when there is no immediate threat and when most of your prepping activities should take place. I would recommend that you print this article, bookmark it and share it with everyone you know.

7. How To Survive A Hurricane (Survivorpedia)

In my mind, there is never a hurricane season that can be taken lightly. All it takes is one storm to turn a neighbourhood, town, state or country upside down and cause damage that can never be forgotten. Survivorpedia reminds readers of the effects of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. These reminders set the tone for a timely article that looks at the difficulties of riding out a hurricane and surviving the aftermath. It’s great food for thought and encourages readers to be more proactive and involved in taking care of themselves. These hurricanes are lasting examples of how being prepared is first and foremost your responsibility.

8. Hurricane Preparedness (Offgrid Survival)

As mentioned throughout this article, the best tropical storm preparation blogs give you the information that you need to be prepared for any tropical weather event. Off Grid Survival reinforces the point that if you live in a hurricane zone, you should be aware of the dangers that you may face. This is even more important if you refuse to evacuate even after orders have been issued. The blog reviews hurricane classifications and damage estimates; identifies hurricane supplies that you should stock up on; provides tips to survive a hurricane; and looks at the post-hurricane dangers that can literally kill you. This blog reminds us that tropical storms and hurricanes should be taken seriously at every stage.

9. How to Prep for and Survive a Hurricane (The Survivalist Blog)

Before reading this blog from  The Survivalist Blog, I had never once considered the hurricane season as one of the most consistent seasons that exists. For as far back as hurricanes have been recorded, there has always been “havoc, death and destruction” from the Caribbean to the coastal United States. This blog urges readers to develop an understanding of hurricanes and what they can do by mentioning the various classes of hurricanes; outlining the destructive effects of hurricanes; analysing examples of particularly destructive storms; and preparing for, surviving during and coping with the aftermath of a storm.

10. Tropical Cyclones What, Where, When And Actions To Take (Prepper Bits)

I would recommend this article from Prepper Bits to anyone who has to explain to their young children or family member what a hurricane is and what it is capable of. This storm preparation blog uses the term “tropical cyclones”, but it explains that this term is another name for typhoon and hurricane. It further defines what a tropical cyclone is; identifies the areas where they occur; explains the effects of a tropical cyclone; actions one should take when a tropical cyclone is on its way and what you should do if you live in a tropical cyclone prone area.

These storm preparation blogs all have a common theme that hinges on the importance of being prepared. They have realised that because storms are so unpredictable and the impacts are wide reaching, making time to prepare for whatever may come is mandatory. If you live in an area that can be impacted by tropical weather systems, take heed and follow the advice of these blogs. It’s better to be prepared than to be caught off guard.