How to Prepare for a Hurricane
It’s officially August, which means that hurricane season is really starting to heat up. If you live near the water, or even up to 200+ miles or so inland, you need to be prepared NOW! Here are five steps you can take to prepare for a hurricane:
1. Determine Your Risk
Hurricanes are severe storms that threaten lives and property. The top two risks are flooding and winds:
Flooding during a hurricane is due to storm surge and heavy rainfall. Every homeowner should know their home’s flood zone and their vulnerability to storm surge. Evacuations are based upon the home type and the flood zone you are in. The National Hurricane Center’s Storm Surge Risk Map is helpful for seeing your home’s vulnerability to storm surge.
Even the least severe hurricane has winds of at least 74 mph, which can cause damage to well-constructed homes, power lines, trees, and more. Tornadoes can also spin off of hurricanes and tropical storms, bringing destruction to everything in their path.
2. Create an Evacuation Plan
Before a hurricane is headed your way, create an evacuation plan for your household:
- Find out if you live in an evacuation zone. This is determined by the type of home you live in and if you are in an area prone to flooding.
- It should be noted that whether or not local officials ask you to evacuate may also depend on the severity of the storm coming your way. A good example of this is Hurricane Irma, which hit Florida in 2017. Irma was the most powerful Atlantic hurricane recorded and led to the largest mass exodus in U.S. history—6.8 million Floridians evacuated their homes, as well as some residents of Georgia and South Carolina. 54 out of Florida’s 67 counties were under evacuation orders.
- Pack a “go bag.”
- Plan several routes out of your area, away from the coast.
- Make arrangements for your pets if they cannot stay with you.
3. Collect Supplies
If a tropical storm or hurricane hits your home, power outages, flooding, and wind damage are extremely likely. It is important to have the following basic supplies on hand for your family:
- Food and water (enough for your household for 3+ days)
- Medication and first aid kit
- Full gas tank
- Radio, batteries, phone chargers (portable crank or solar powered chargers are recommended in case there is no electricity)
4. Prepare Your Home
Regardless of if you are evacuating or staying in your home during a storm, it is important to prepare your home for the impact of a storm. Run through the following steps to do so:
- Check to see if your home is up to local hurricane building code specifications and make improvements if necessary.
- Your garage door is the most vulnerable part of your home. Determine if it needs any retrofits to help it to withstand high winds.
- Cover your windows with plywood, steel, or aluminum panels, or invest in hurricane shutters.
- Secure or bring in all loose outdoor items.
- Move all of your vehicles to a safe location, such as your garage or a covered upper level of a parking garage.
- Trim trees on your property.
- Secure all of your doors.
5. Reevaluate Your Insurance Plans
Review your insurance policies to make sure that you are covered in the event that you experience property damage or that you lose your home and/or belongings. Depending on the location of your home, you may also want to invest in flood insurance, which is not included in home or renters insurance policies.
Hurricane Advisory vs. Hurricane Watch vs. Hurricane Warning
The National Weather Service (NWS) will issue various weather alerts when the threat of a tropical storm or hurricane is imminent. It is important to know the difference between these alerts and to act accordingly:
NWS will issue a tropical storm or hurricane advisory when conditions may become hazardous and will cause significant inconveniences to daily activities.
NWS will issue a tropical storm or hurricane watch when either is possible in your area within the next 48 hours. Under these conditions, it is advised that you monitor your local news and emergency alert systems, prepare for loss of power, and gather all emergency supplies.
NWS will issue a tropical storm or hurricane warning when either is possible in your area within the next 36 hours. If your area is under a warning, pay close attention to evacuation orders, leave immediately if ordered to do so, and complete all needed storm preparations.
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