In Orlando, we used to be pretty nonchalant about preparing for hurricane season, and then in 2004, we met Charley, Frances, and Jeanne. Lesson learned. Natural disasters cannot be prevented, but the damage can be minimized with the proper preparations.
The most important factor in preparing for a natural disaster is planning ahead. Know your area well enough to know whether you live in an area that needs to evacuate or to prepare for flooding and whether your home is able to withstand hurricane force winds. My house was built in the 50's; it is concrete block inside and out and is not located in a flood prone area. We get to stay put.
By June 1st every year our hurricane kit is packed and ready. My kit contains candles, batteries, lamp oil and wicks, flashlights, phone (not a cordless one), battery operated radio, a weather radio, bug spray, the hand can opener, mre meals such as one from Eversafe or XMRE, and moist wipes. That way everything is together in one spot when and if needed.
Since I get to stay in my house, I don't need to round up other suggested items, but I do need to make sure they are available. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends at least 1 gallon daily of bottled water per person for 3 to 7 days. After the hurricanes hit Central Florida large areas were under a boil water alert because of lack of electricity to filter tap water, so that possibility needs to become part of any natural disaster preparation.
The NOAA also recommends enough non-perishable food to last that long as well; you must also consider special dietary needs of family members. For those evacuating, shelters do not always have food and water available so make sure you have more than enough with you when you arrive.
Other preparations include a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag for relevant documents. Stock up on paper plates, utensils, and propane for cooking.
If a storm is imminent, there are things that must be done. Fill cars and gas cans as fuel may not be available right after a storm. Round up tools that can be used to remove debris. Stock up on any prescription medications and pet supplies. Charge cell phones, get cash. Clean up your yard – look for anything that could become a missile in high winds.
After Charley, we were trapped in our neighborhood by debris for several days, and once we could get out, there wasn't electricity available for stores to be open, and there weren't operating traffic lights to drive anywhere safely. Make sure that is part of your natural disaster plan.