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Preparation guide: Before the storm

These are things you should do long before a hurricane threatens. Once a watch is issued, there are many other precautions to take. Getting these out of the way now will save time.

1. Check for evacuation options, or residences that have a history of not getting too affected by storms (stone buildings, etc.).

2. Gather important documents, deeds, titles, stock certificates, wills, birth certificates, death certificates, military and adoption records, credit card and bank account numbers, insurance policies and anything else that would be difficult to replace. Keep these documents in a sturdy, waterproof container you can quickly grab if forced to leave or leave in a safe place. Consider getting a safe deposit box.

3. Trim trees around your yard to reduce the effect of wind, and remove dead or weak branches.

4. Photograph, videotape or write down a list of your valuables, and keep this record with your other documents. This is for insurance.

5. If you don't want to keep an emergency supply of cash on hand, at least have some change like a roll of quarters.

6. Stockpile enough water in clean, plastic containers to provide for each family member 1 gallon a day for at least a week. Or at least gather enough containers so you can fill them before the storm hits.

7. Store a week's supply of canned or packaged food that won't spoil. Do the same for your pets, and don't forget a manual can opener.

8. Check your yard and house for potential hazards or items you'll need to secure or move inside if a storm approaches. This will save time if a hurricane watch is issued.

9. If you plan to use plywood to protect windows, buy and cut the wood and drill anchor holes to secure the wood to the house. Keep hardware like bolts with the shutters, and label the shutters.

10. If wood already is cut, check it and be sure you can find the hardware. Do the same if you're using metal sheets instead of plywood.

11. If you have shutters that roll down, be sure they're operating.

12. As much as possible, put together an emergency kit now to avoid much of the rushed, panic buying that comes when a storm threatens. Whatever you don't put away now, be sure to get before the storm hits. Helpful items in the kit include:

Flashlights and batteries for every family member.

First-aid kit including bandages, antiseptic, tape, pain medication, antidiarrhea medication, sun screen, tweezers, scissors and soap.

Plastic tarps and sheeting, plus nails and hand tools.

Cleaning supplies such as a mop, bucket, cleansers and towels.

Mosquito repellent.

A battery-powered radio.

Spare batteries for the radio as well as things like hearing aids.

Plastic trash bags.

Wood matches and charcoal if you plan to use a charcoal grill until power if restored.

A few rolls of film for a camera in case you have to photograph damage to your house for insurance purposes.

Two coolers, one to store food, the other for ice if you need to get it after the storm.

Tape.

Foil and waterproof containers.

If possible, spare eyeglasses or contact lenses.

13. Try to keep at least a two-week supply of prescriptions on hand throughout hurricane season, but ask your pharmacist first about their shelf life.

14. Clean the gutters and downspouts.

15. If you don't have one, buy an inexpensive telephone that connects directly to the wall jack. If there is no power, portable phones may not work and the storm could damage cellphone towers.