If your first answer to the news that a hurricane is on its way is, “Throw a hurricane party! Whoo!” then you need much more help than this article can give you. For the rest of you, read on to find out what you need to do in order to make it through the storm.
Get Plans in Place
- Make an emergency kit long before the storm, and keep it in an easily accessible area. You’ll need food and water for your family and pets, medicines, and other items on this handy checklist from FEMA.
- Mother Nature Network advises that you include in your emergency kit important papers like ID, Social Security card, insurance documents, deeds, wills, trusts, and other documents.
- Make a communications plan for you and your family members in case you’re separated. Ready.gov recommends that you choose a contact out of state, and make sure that everyone has a mobile phone and a hand-crank phone charger, a prepaid phone card, or even change for a payphone.
- Check your home’s elevation and find out if it’s prone to flooding. Also check for levees and dams in the area that could overflow or breach.
- Learn evacuation routes and follow FEMA’s evacuation guidelines. Locate higher ground, emergency shelters, and make a plan for everyone to get there.
Make Your Home Safer
- If you live in a high-rise building, make plans to shelter on a lower floor in a windowless interior room that is above the probable flood line.
- Plan to bring in patio furniture, potted plants, toys, trampolines, unsecured sheds or doghouses, and anything else that isn’t nailed down. The gale force winds that accompany hurricanes can even move big HVAC units according to FloridaDisaster.org’s hurricane retrofit guide.
- Make sure your gutters are clean and in good repair, and that you trim your trees of any limbs overhanging the house.
- Reinforce garage doors, and consider installing storm shutters or keeping precut 5/8” marine plywood on hand for boarding up. Predrill the holes that you’ll use to secure the panels for faster application.
- Add extra reinforcing and bolting to your roof to lessen the chance of wind and subsequent water damage.
The Storm is Coming
Hurricane watches and warnings are two different things, and you need to understand the two.
- Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. If your area is under a hurricane watch, NOAA recommends that you complete your storm preparations including turning off your utilities and propane tanks, and leave the area immediately if advised to evacuate.
- Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. Prepare your home for storm conditions, review your evacuation plan, and listen closely to your local media for any evacuation orders or if the warning is changed to a hurricane watch.
Finally, if you are ordered to evacuate, you will need to return and assess the damage to your property and contact your insurance agent. The Red Cross has a helpful checklist for those returning to the evacuated area.