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Personal Responsibility: Irene Prep

Plastic sheeting and duct tape have their place in your emergency kit both before the storm and after it has passed, but it isn't worth much during the storm should wind-blown debris punch through a window.

You can't waterproof a shattered window during a hurricane, but you can cut down on the flying spray coming through the hole a bit by hammering an old blanket over the opening from the inside using roofing nails. We had to do this for a neighbor in our apartment building when Fran struck in '96, and while we couldn't do anything about the shattered glass, we at least kept leaves, twigs, and spray from soaking everything they owned throughout their apartment.

Get a decent sized cooler. Fill it with ice (beer is optional).

If you lose power for any length of time the ice in the cooler serves triple duty, keeping perishable foods and certain medicines at a decent temperature, cooling your drinking water, and serving as another potential source of backup water.

And now for some not-so-obvious advice on dressing for hurricanes: high water and high winds mean you're going to face the possibility of fallen trees, wind-blown objects, shattered glass, and downed power lines. Wear a sturdy pair of shoes (sneakers or boots) or keep them within arm's reach throughout the storm. Don't wear flowing or delicate garments. Dress in sturdy clothing that is relatively form-fitting and comfortable, and if you have clothes that match this description that are fast-drying, so much the better. If you have to go into the winds for any reason -- and there are few good ones -- make sure you have eye protection in the form of safety glasses or goggles. Hurricane and even gale force winds combine with dirt and debris to form an experience like standing in a gusty sandblaster.

Also have a sturdy pair of cut-resistant gloves on hand. You'll thank me later.

Large water resistant storage containers cost relatively little, and are an excellent place to keep water-sensitive valuables such as photo albums and your emergency kit itself.

Last but not least, make sure you take in all light objects in your neighborhood indoors, or find a way to secure them. You'd be amazed at the damage patio furniture, tools, potted plants, and toys can do when they're thrown into something at 60mph-100mph.

And the best advice ... leave if you can, well in advance of the storm. You can't get out once it starts, and you don't want to be trapped on the street, where so many people have died being swept off the roads and into raging flood waters.

Keep yourself safe, and we'll see you on the other side.