The Gear You Need for Hurricane Season

With the 2012 hurricane season already underway, if you're not yet ready, we'll help you finalize your preparations.

The season officially began on June 1 and won't end until November 30. So far, we've already had Tropical Storm Alberto, Tropical Storm Beryl, Hurricane Chris and Tropical Storm Debby in the Atlantic. The forecasts for this coming storm season are conflicting, and at the end of the day they are simply predictions, not certainties.

Since we don't know what's coming down the pipeline, it's always a good idea to have some supplies to tide you over in case the utilities are out for a while. Your emergency supplies are your lifeline. No, you don't need a warehouse full of stuff, but you should at least have the basics, which include the following items:

--One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

--At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and a manual can opener

--Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert; extra batteries for both

--Flashlight and extra batteries

--First aid kit

--Signal whistle

--Moist towelettes, garbage bags with ties, feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

--Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

--Local maps

--Cell phone with solar charger

--Prescription medications and spare eyeglasses

--Baby formula, wipes, ointment and plenty of diapers

--Food and extra water for your pet

--Cash in small bills (20s, 10s, and 5s)

--Important family documents, such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container

--Spare clothes and a sleeping bag or blanket for each person. Have some thin sheets for hot climates and warm weather

--Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper.When diluted (nine parts water to one part bleach) bleach can be used as a disinfectant. In an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented or color-safe bleach or bleaches with added cleaners

--Lighters; matches in a waterproof container or similar fire starters; and a fire extinguisher

--Mess kits; or paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils

--Paper and pencil for notes; books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

--And finally, keep some morale boosters, such as your favorite treats or inspirational items

--Of course you could include more gear and stash it all in a big plastic tub so you can transport it easily. What matters most is that you do something to prepare ahead of time, rather than acting reactionarily during a crisis.

--Did you survive a hurricane? Do you owe your safety to the plans and preparations you made beforehand? Please tell us your story, and share your tips, in the comments.