With the high incidence of hurricanes in the United States, these weather phenomena have become a part of our culture. There are countless sayings and songs attesting to a hurricane’s aweing and destructive power, and significant media coverage devoted to each storm that arises. We collectively watch as hurricanes form over warm ocean waters and hit land with powerful winds and unrelenting downpours. Many of us are directly affected, with the entire Atlantic seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Hawaiian Islands in areas of considerable hurricane vulnerability.
You can, fortunately, make yourself less vulnerable to a hurricane by adhering to the three basic hurricane preparedness rules below. Become more resilient in the face of these immense storms by reading more on how to prepare for a hurricane.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane:
- Make your hurricane family plan now by signing up for emergency alerts, identifying evacuation routes, choosing a shelter-in-place, and making a family hurricane preparation kit.
- Protect your home before a hurricane is predicted. Keep up on outdoor maintenance, get storm shutters, identify storage space, and purchase flood insurance.
- Protection from an Approaching Hurricane. Stay tuned to weather and emergency broadcasts and follow evacuation orders.
1. Make a Family Hurricane Preparedness Plan
In any catastrophe, the welfare of your loved ones is priority number one. Protect those you love by following these hurricane preparedness steps now. These are designed to ensure your entire household is educated on safety-first responses to hurricanes. A little information and communication are game-changers in keeping your family calm, collected, and protected during a major storm.
Sign up for your emergency alerts. If you are in a hurricane-prone area, sign up for your community’s warning system, which provides text or phone alerts. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts via TV and radio broadcasts, including internet-based apps.
Know your area’s evacuation plans. Be sure you know your evacuation zone, evacuation route, and nearby designated shelters.
An internet search for evacuation plans (as well as local emergency alert systems) in your city or county will help you gather the appropriate information.
Choose your shelter-at-home location. In the event you do not need to evacuate during a storm, choose a safe location in your home for sheltering in place. Ideally this is a storm shelter you have purchased or built or a FEMA-safe room. (A FEMA-safe room is a standalone structure, or one installed or built in your home, that meets FEMA criteria to provide near-absolute protection during extreme weather events). If neither is available to you, go to a windowless interior room on the first floor that is not prone to flooding, such as a bathroom or walk-in closet.
Make a hurricane preparedness kit. Have enough non-perishable food, water, and toiletries for each person for three days. Count on each person needing one gallon of water per day for drinking and sanitation. (Don’t forget pets!) Be sure everyone is wearing sturdy shoes and has some waterproof attire, like a rain jacket. Additionally, you should have a first aid kit on hand, flashlight with extra batteries, and a battery-operated radio tuned into a NOAA channel. You may need a wrench or pair of pliers too in case you need to turn off your utilities.
Make photocopies of important documents. Insurance policies, asset documentation like deeds, and family documents like birth certificates should all be copied and kept in waterproof containers. You can also take pictures of these documents and store them in a password-protected file.
Prepare for a flood. Even inland communities, outside of the evacuation zone and high wind areas, can face a flood risk from rain or failed levies. Use sandbags to create barriers against flood waters around your home. Be sure to stay tuned in to weather alerts and be prepared to move to higher ground. Learn more about preparing for a flood here.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Sign up for emergency alerts and identify evacuation routes in your area.
2. Protect Your Home Before a Hurricane is Predicted
When learning how to prepare for a hurricane, keep in mind that there are steps to take before hurricane season, and preparation steps once a hurricane is predicted. The high winds from a hurricane can easily lift objects, break windows, or loosen unsecured items on your property. Flooding is another major cause of property damage during a hurricane and is not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance. Avoid the additional stress by taking proactive, property-protecting precautions in advance of the next storm.
Keep up on Outdoor Maintenance: Prevent flooding by clearing up rain gutters and downspouts. Make any necessary changes to landscaping or outdoor features, like awnings, where water collects.
Get or Make Storm Shutters: Protect windows and prevent injury from broken glass by investing in permanent storm shutters. Alternatively, attach pre-cut, one-half inch marine plywood to cover your windows.
Create a Storage Space: Identify a safe place indoors to store items like lawn furniture, gardening tools, trash cans, and toys. These items can be picked up by high winds causing property damage or injury.
Get Flood Insurance: Since standard homeowners’ insurance does not cover flooding, it’s a good idea to get flood insurance, especially if you live in a hurricane-prone zone.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Decide where all your outdoor furniture will be stored and make a plan to get it there.
3. Prepare for an Approaching Hurricane
As a storm gathers into a hurricane, your area might be put under a hurricane warning or hurricane watch. A hurricane watch is when a hurricane is possible and is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) up to 48 hours before the onset of tropical storm force winds. A hurricane warning is when a hurricane is expected in your area, issued up to 36 hours before the arrival of tropical storm force winds.
It’s easier to remain composed as a hurricane nears by focusing on what you can do to protect yourself. Here are three things to do as a hurricane approaches:
Tune into local broadcasts. Check your local radio or TV stations, or NOAA weather broadcast every 30 minutes to get the latest updates.
Protect your property. Move outside items to your safe space, setup sandbags, and place storm shutters where appropriate.
Check your supplies. Have your hurricane preparedness kit ready, and stock up on items as needed if you are sheltering in place.
Go to a safe shelter. If an evacuation order is issued for your area, follow the orders as quickly as possible. If you are not under evacuation, go to the safe place in your home. Bring your hurricane kit with you. In case you lose power, charge up your cell phones and have a battery-powered radio with you. Also, put a thermostat in your refrigerator and set it the coldest setting to keep your food safe for longer. Under no circumstances should you leave your designated shelter until it is declared safe to do so.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Choose a safe space in your home for sheltering in place. This should ideally be a bottom floor, windowless room, or your own constructed or purchased safe shelter. Make sure everyone in the household knows the “safe room.”
By taking these steps before hurricane season, and in the days leading up to an imminent hurricane, your family will be ready to safely make it through any storm.