4 things to buy before the next storm

While you sit huddled in the dark, covered in blankets, wishing for something decent to eat, a charged cellphone, and who knows what other basic comforts after a storm has knocked out your power, we all promise ourselves we will prepare better next time. But, as power returns and life settles back to normal, it’s human nature to bask in our returned creature comforts and forget our vows to be more prepared.

As winter in New England takes a slight pause, we should all consider that it’s not a question of whether the next storm will hit, but when? Even if the region manages to avoid another major snow or ice event, it’s only a matter of time before a nor’easter, a hurricane, or some other weather calamity strikes. It is in these pauses between storms that we should prepare for what may happen next.

Instead of waiting until the next storm is imminent before raiding the snack food aisle at Market Basket, we should consider taking reasonable precautions to ride out whatever Mother Nature has in store for us, if not in comfort, at least in less discomfort. Here are some items that would serve any home well during bad weather:

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A disaster kit

Don’t be one of the people who, as a storm approaches has to go to the supermarket to buy water and batteries. You don’t have to be prepared for the apocalypse with rooms full of canned goods and pallets of water, but there are some basics everyone should have at home.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends having three days of food and water for everyone in the house. Since bottled water cost less than $6 a case, we suggest just buying a couple of cases and keeping them on hand. As for food, think nonperishable foods that don’t need to be cooked. Energy bars make sense as they can serve as meal replacements and they have a long shelf life.

You will also want to have a selection of flashlights and batteries on hand. Remember to rotate your battery stock a couple of times a year and buy both handheld and tabletop models. In addition, consider buying a basic first aid kit and maybe a deck of cards as being stuck at home with no power is boring.

A properly installed generator

Generators start around $500 for a basic, portable model that can power a few devices to $2,000 to $10,000 for high-end models wired into your home’s electric system with juice for the whole house.

The key with a generator is getting it installed safely. Generators run on gas, and, if they are not vented properly, your family members will have power as they slowly die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Deciding what type of generator to buy depends a lot on budget. The lower-end models may power a space heater and let you charge your laptop or phone, while the higher end version can literally provide power for the whole house.

Now, sadly, is not the best time to buy a generator or to get one installed—the summer, spring, or fall would have been—but, buying one now is better than trying to buy one during a weather event. Once you buy one, make sure to have a a licensed electrician install it.

Though you won’t find a deal, you can at least price check various online sites against hardware stores, Lowe’s and Home Depot, Some electricians may be able to sell you a package that includes installation and the generator, but, do your homework so you at least pay a fair price.

Get the right insurance

The worst time to check your insurance policy is after something bad has happened. Many people have no idea what their homeowner’s policy covers and are shocked to learn that water damage or weather-related problems are not covered.

Schedule an appointment with your insurance agent (or get an insurance agent) and make sure you have a policy that covers you in the event of any likely, or at least plausible, disaster. Of course, if you live on a hill nowhere near water, don’t get flood insurance, but make sure you have protection for things that could go wrong where you live.

And, while, you’re meeting with your insurance agent, take the time to check your other policies. Is your life insurance up to date and adequate? Will it be enough to provide for your family should something happen to you? How about your significant other? Does his or her policy protect you in the event of of the unthinkable?

Alternate chargers for your devices

There’s nothing worse than being stuck at home with no power and dead cellphone, computer, or tablet. During and after storms many people head to Starbucks and other stores with public outlets and Internet connections, but, these places get very crowded quickly.

When we endure major power outages, any still functioning Starbucks become packed with people guarding and hoarding access to plugs. Instead of having to join the hordes battling for electricity over lattes, make sure you have an array of alternate power options.

At the minimum, make sure you have a car charger for your devices. That should be a bare minimum, however as car chargers require running your car and, if you’re not going anywhere, having to sit in your car while your phone or tablet charges is a dull prospect.

Fortunately, a wide range of battery-powered and solar chargers are available at electronic retailers and on Amazon.com for nearly every device. Solar chargers tend to be slow (and they require access to the sun, such a bright window) but they are the ultimate fail-safe. Battery-powered chargers require keeping a stock of batteries on hand, but, assuming you have the batteries, they work very well.