Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Celiac Hurricane Preparedness—Don’t Wait Too Late

If you are Celiac, are you ready for this?
Getting prepared for a hurricane takes on a whole new dimension when someone in your family has special dietary needs, such as Celiac Disease or is gluten intolerance. In contrast to the customary advice issued over and over every time there is the threat of a hurricane, I don’t think I have heard anything related to planning for how to deal with special dietary restrictions if you lose power or if you have to evacuate.

While it is all well and good to go to sites such as FEMA at, the National Hurricane Center at or the Center for Disease Control at for advice what to do to stay safe when in or near the path of hurricane, I could not find any mention special diets. Well, actually that is not the whole truth. FEMA has one sentence that stated—and I quote—“Remember any special dietary needs.” As if you could forget. These sites recommend crackers, whole grains and canned foods.

For those with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerant, this recommendation is THE prescription for disaster, and I have confidence my readers know better. So, what are some things in addition to those customary items that apply to everyone planning to either hunker down or evacuate in advance of a hurricane?

  1. If evacuating, print plenty of your “Chef’s Cards” to carry with you.
  2. Check the internet for restaurants and grocery stores where you are planning to go for gluten free eating options. Print a hard copy, and load addresses into your GPS before you leave home.
  3. Make several batches of your favorite gluten free muffins and snack foods to take with you.
  4. Make a loaf or two of gluten free bread to take with you. These come in handy for sandwiches. Remember, that all Boar’s Heads products are gluten free and can be bought safely at Publix stores. Don’t try to take condiments with you. You can purchase them safely at most grocery stores, even Walmart.
  5. Don’t forget to pack an ice chest or two to take along. Freeze several 2-liter soda bottles with water. These stay frozen longer than ice and can be tossed or drank when you no longer need them.
  6. Consider taking a small, inexpensive Hibachi grill along. You know that a steak or piece of chicken will be safe. Fresh corn-on-the-cob is also good on the grill.
  7. Stock up on gluten free breakfast, protein bars, granola and fresh fruit. Nuts are also a good source of protein, but will cause a problem for those allergic to peanuts and/or tree nuts.
  8. When purchasing canned goods or packaged items, check the contents very closely for gluten and look for an allergen warning statement. It has been our experience that if a product label states it was produced in a facility that also processes wheat OR has a “may contain wheat” statement, it is prudent to pass on these items because of cross contamination in the processing plant.
  9. Leave in plenty of time to get to a safe place and purchase the things you need to safely maintain a gluten free diet.
  10. Take important papers such as deeds, wills, etc with you.
  11. Make sure your prescription medications are refilled and be sure to pack them.
If you are planning on hunkering down at home, here is a partial list of items you will want to be sure to have on hand:
  1. A battery operated radio with plenty of batteries.
  2. Flash lights with plenty of batteries.
  3. Bottled water for at least three days.
  4. Gas or charcoal grill for cooking after the storm passes if the electricity is out. Don't forget to stock up on charcoal, lighter fluid and matches. For gas grills, purchase a couple of extra tanks if your grill is not hooked up directly.
  5. Again, follow the same advice listed above with regard maintaining a gluten free diet during any natural disaster.
  6. Bring pets inside and make sure you have enough food for them as well. 
  7. Fill your cars with gas.
  8. Make sure your important papers are in one location.
  9. If you lose power, DO NOT go outside until you have clearance there are no live wires close by.
Tips for anyone in the path of a hurricane whether you are staying at home or evacuating:
  1. Secure anything outside such as garbage cans, swing sets, grills, patio furniture, etc.  These items can become projectiles in high winds.
  2. Tape large windows to avoid shattering if broken.
  3. Don't forget to pray! God will keep you safe.
As a side note: When evacuating, DON’T LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. You would leave a child with a baby sitter to evacuate to safety; so, don’t do less for your pets. Call ahead for hotels that accept pets and places to board your four-legged family members. And, be sure to take their vaccination records with you. If you have a large breed, check with the city government about Breed Specific laws that might be in place. You would not want to save your pet from a hurricane only for it to be confiscated and killed because of its breed.

If you have questions, please email me at I have lived my entire life in Alabama, many of those years close to the coast. Evacuations and getting prepared for hurricanes are only too familiar. My advice is that “When in doubt, get out.” Houses can be rebuilt; you can’t. Stay safe and eat safely!

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