How to Prepare for A Natural Disaster While at School

Hurricane Florence just rocked parts of the East Coast, causing winds, floods, and tornadoes. This storm hit close to home for me, almost literally. For days leading up to the storm’s landfall, the weather reports predicted that it would hit dead on my hometown. Fortunately for me, it changed course. Unfortunately, it devastated homes in the Carolinas.

As someone who grew up on the coast, hurricanes and other natural disasters have been a part of life. But not everyone has experienced days (or weeks) without power and clean water. Thankfully, most people in the United States have never had to evacuate because of an impending disaster, but for college students moving away for school, this can be a new reality. So, below I have listed 5 of the most important things I have learned about facing mother nature’s wrath.

Stock Up

If you are expecting any kind of bad weather that could keep you inside for several days, make a trip to the store before it hits. Stock up on non-perishable food items, like crackers, canned goods, and most importantly, bottled water. If the electricity goes out, you need to make sure you have food that is easy to store and doesn't require preparation. Pet owners, pick up some extra food for Fido just in case!

Don’t forget to pick up non-food items as well! This could include trash bags, batteries, candles, matches, flashlights, toilet paper, and more!


Have an Evacuation Plan

Take a look at your city’s website to see if they have anything about evacuation routes. If you can’t find anything specific to your area, take a look at a map and figure out where you would go in the event of an emergency and the route you would take. If you are near a coastline this could mean around 300 miles or more. Pick several options in case one is compromised. Are you going alone or with other students? How will you get there? Make sure you share this plan with family and close friends so that they know where to find you should communication lines be disabled.

Have a "Go Bag"

In case the government calls for citizens to evacuate, always have a bag with essential items packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. This could include snacks, water, maps, an external battery charger for your phone, cash, copies of important documents and your ID, a change of clothes, and toiletry items. If you can, use a waterproof or water-resistant bag.


Stay Updated

Look up your school’s evacuation plan or policy if they have one! They may have a shelter for students on-campus or resources to help you in the event of a natural disaster. Download a weather app on your phone to track any bad weather. Enable emergency notifications on your devices. Watch the news or listen to the radio if the power is out. Stay updated about the situation in any way you can.

Use Your Best Judgment

Always refer to your own judgment! Don’t let other people’s decisions in a life-threatening situation sway your gut feeling. If your gut is telling you to evacuate, then evacuate. Don’t try to tough it out if your school or city is recommending evacuating. Weather is unpredictable and even weather forecasters can get it wrong. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


The most important thing about dealing with natural disasters is to stay calm and be prepared. Have a plan ready and stick to it! 

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