Hurricanes cause billions of dollars in damage each year, which doesn’t even account for the emotional toll. Lives are lost, homes are destroyed, and whole economies can be waylaid for months or even years as the slow process of cleanup and repair drags on.
Preparing for these extreme weather events is more than just a good idea – it’s critical if you live near a hurricane-prone coast. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know and do to prepare your household for hurricane season.
Create a Plan for Your Family
Developing a plan of action ahead of time will mitigate stress when the storm hits. Give every family member a role and assign tasks and responsibilities. Discuss different scenarios, such as where and when to take shelter or even evacuate (more on that later).
Beyond simply creating a plan, it’s a good idea to review it a few times a year, particularly before hurricane season arrives. That way, when it’s time to put the plan into action, you’ll feel much calmer knowing that everyone is ready and able to do their part.
Make a Disaster Supply Kit
Hurricanes can be extremely disruptive in nearly every way imaginable. Stores close, supply chains screech to a halt, and everyday essentials can become scarce. That’s why every family — including yours — should put together a disaster supply kit well ahead of time with the items they’ll need for sheltering in place or evacuating altogether.
Every household’s readiness kit will be unique. People who suffer from migraines, for example, might want to stock up on medication. Pet owners will want to have food, litter, and other essentials on hand. There are, however, universally useful items that every disaster supply kit should include, such as:
Plenty of drinking water
Plan on having one gallon per day per person. If you have pets, they’ll need to be accounted for, too. When a storm is coming, you can also fill your bathtub with water, so you have non-potable water available for tasks like washing dishes or flushing the toilet.
Ideally, you should have enough food to last a few days, but a week is even better. Canned goods, nuts, jerky, and dried fruit are all good options. And if you have a grill or camping stove, keeping fuel on hand will enable you to cook if the power goes out. Just be sure to do your cooking outdoors!
Fully stocked first-aid kit
This is non-negotiable. Hurricanes impede mobility and communication, so being able to handle minor medical situations on your own is advantageous. And if anyone in your family relies on prescription medication, have them discuss a preparation plan with their doctor to ensure they have what they need. You can assemble your own set of supplies, or purchase a fully stocked first-aid kit from Target, Amazon, or your local pharmacy.
Flashlights, batteries, and a radio
If you’ve ever endured an extended loss of power, you know first-hand how dark it can get when the lights are out. Have at least one flashlight for each person and several days’ worth of replacement batteries. It’s also advisable to keep a stash of candles and matches on hand in case your battery supply runs out.
You’ll also want to dust off your old radio and add it to the mix. If your mobile devices run out of juice, a battery-powered radio will ensure you’re still able to receive news and safety alerts.
In addition to having these items in your preparation kit, try to keep a full tank of gas in your vehicle. Long lines and limited supply at the pump can make it extremely difficult to get gas during evacuations. If you haven’t already, make it a habit of refilling your gas tank whenever it dips below half-full, especially during hurricane season. You’ll use it anyway, and you’ll be better prepared if you have to leave in a hurry.
Get Your Go-Bags Ready
Being ready to leave is another integral component of hurricane preparation. A great way to simplify this part of the process is to prepare a go-bag for each family member. Common items to pack in a go-bag include:
- Food and water
- Change of clothes
- Medications and basic first aid supplies
- Flashlight, batteries, and cell phone charger
- Emergency cash in a variety of bills (quarters can be handy, too)
Keep Your Important Documents Ready
We all have a file or folder of important documents like social security cards, birth certificates, bank information, deeds, titles, insurance info, and medical records. It’s usually not preferable to keep these stored in a go-bag, but it is a good idea to keep them stored in a way that allows you to grab them if you need to evacuate. You don’t want to search through unopened mail for up-to-date car insurance cards when a storm is on the way. Keep your documents organized, current, and readily accessible.
Think About the Power
We’ve already suggested having extra batteries on hand. This is because power outages are common during hurricanes and you might not be able to flip on the light switch for a few days. While a few extra sets of AAs can be useful, you might want to consider upgrading your auxiliary power setup. Various power bank products can ensure your phone has power for many days. If you want to kick it up a level, a small generator could power your refrigerator, and with a whole-house system, you could experience little, if any, disruption.
Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane
Hurricanes can bring a torrential downpour of rain and damaging, high-speed winds well over 100 mph — both of which can be extremely destructive to property. So ensuring that your home is prepared for the added “stress” of the elements should also be part of your preparation process.
Designate a Safe Room
During a hurricane, taking cover in a safe room is frequently necessary. This room or area needs to be on your home’s lowest level and as close to the center of the structure as possible. Hallways and closets are often ideal. A bathroom can also work, but be mindful of mirrors and glass shower doors. The key is to stay away from windows and insulate yourself from the chaos outside.
Secure the Windows
When the wind blows and debris flies, windows are easily broken. Broken windows not only pose a safety hazard, but also leave the interior of your home exposed. FEMA recommends securing windows with storm shutters and covering windows with plywood that’s at least ⅝” thick.
Protect the Roof
We’ve all seen post-storm imagery featuring roofs that have been pulled off by heavy wind. Hurricane straps are a defense against this. Able to withstand 100+ mph wind, these steel straps reinforce the roof trusses and wall plates. Installation isn’t a basic DIY job, so find a qualified building contractor who has experience in retrofitting homes so that they’re able to withstand hurricane-force winds.
Turn Off the Power, Water, & Gas
During the hurricane, shut off electricity, water, and gas at their sources to avoid fires, floods, leaks, and other accidents. Turn off the power at the breaker, shut off the water main, and turn off the gas. Turn them back on after the storm if everything is structurally safe and sound.
If You Have to Evacuate
Hurricanes frequently become so intense that evacuation becomes necessary, which makes having a plan and being prepared even more important. Whether you stay with friends, family, or at a hotel, identify where you will go and how you will get there. What route will you take? Do you have an alternative in case traffic is heavy or roads are closed? Identifying these variables and having them in place before it’s time to go will make a stressful time much easier. And stay tuned to the local news so you can remain abreast of road closures, evacuation instructions, and important announcements.
Stay In Communication With Friends & Family
One of the most mentally and emotionally taxing aspects of extreme weather is the uncertainty of it all. It can be a lot to bear, so keep your lines of communication open. Update family, friends, and neighbors as the storm unfolds and check in on them, too.
Adequate preparation and community support will empower you to handle the next hurricane that heads your way with relative ease.
Download your Hurricane Preparedness Checklist here.