Whether or not it’s hurricane season, you need to be prepared long before to ensure that you and your family are safe and sound during that most critical part of the calendar, especially when you reside in an area frequented by this devastating weather phenomenon. This is also true if you plan to travel to such an area, as even those that are far inland from the coastline can get tornadoes, strong winds, floods and mudslides from tropical storms. You might live in the Northwest Pacific, where such disturbances are called typhoons, in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, where they are called hurricanes, or near the Indian Ocean or South Pacific, where they are called cyclones, but the degree of devastation and destruction is virtually the same.
It always pays to be basically prepared.
The best weather radio supplies the information you need on where to go when you are ordered to evacuate. Make sure to be aware of the routes for local hurricane evacuation in your area and always plan where to stay there. You can get more information from your local emergency management agency.
Assemble a disaster supply kit way ahead of time. This should include a flashlight, fresh batteries, first aid supplies and cash, along with copies of the critical information for you and the rest of the family should you have to evacuate.
If you live in an area that has not been advised to evacuate, staying at home requires that you have sufficient supplies in the event of power outages and loss of water supply for several days. Anticipate that you may not be able to leave your home because of blocked roads or flooding.
Plan a means of emergency communication with the rest of your household. Plenty of communities offer email alert or text systems through which emergency notifications can be posted. You can simply do an Internet search for any available alerts in your specific area.
Hurricane-proof your home.
Make sure to remove or trim damaged limbs and trees for safety to you and your home. Check your house for any loose downspouts and gutters. Debris should be cleared along with any clogged areas so as to prevent water damage. Retrofit to ensure you have a reinforced and secure roof, doors and windows as well as garage doors. This ensures decreased damage to your property.
Get a portable generator or have one installed to handle power outages. Keep generators and alternative heat and power sources outdoors at least 20 feet away from doors and windows while being shielded from moisture. Never attempt to juice up the wiring of your home by plugging a generator into a standard wall outlet. You could build an International Code Council (ICC) 500 storm shelter or a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) safe room that is engineered for protection in locations above flooding levels and from high winds.
Know the stages to take note of when watching for a hurricane.
A hurricane warning is issued to expect conditions within 36 hours. At this stage, you should check in with friends and family via social media or texting. If local officials release orders to evacuate, follow them. Have a hurricane timeline preparedness checklist ready. To get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions, turn on the radio or TV. Restock your emergency preparedness kit. Since you may have to leave quickly, plan ahead and review the evacuation plan with the family. Make sure your car is in perfect running condition and the gas tank is full. Stock your car with a change of clothes and emergency supplies.
When the storm is coming within 18 to 36 hours, you must ensure that you can get storm updates and emergency instructions quickly by bookmarking your county or city website. Any loose or lightweight objects could become harmful projectiles in high winds, so bring such items as garbage cans and patio furniture inside. For items that are unsafe to bring indoors, such as propane tanks, make sure to have them anchored firmly to something solid. Also, you should charge your cellphone at this time to make sure you have a full battery. Cover all your windows using permanent storm shutters, or you can board them up instead using marine or exterior grade plywood.
Six hours before the hurricane arrives, you should already have an idea whether your area has been marked for evacuation. If not, stay at home or where you are and inform family and friends of your location. Make sure all storm shutters are closed shut and steer clear of windows to ensure safety from flying broken glass. The refrigerator or freezer should be turned to the coldest setting and should be opened only when absolutely needed to ensure that stored food can last long. When power comes back on, a thermometer kept inside the freezer or fridge allows you to have an idea of the food temperature.
Make sure to have your TV or radio on for updates, or check the specific city or county website for your area every half hour for the latest emergency instructions and weather updates.
When the storm passes, you should still stay on the alert.
Listen to any announcements and instructions from local officials. Make sure to return home only when it is indicated to be safe to do so. Check in with friends and family via social media or texting. Be wary of downed power lines and debris. Do not walk or drive through flooded areas if possible, as high waters can sweep you away or be potential electrocution hazards due to fallen or underground power lines. To facilitate filing of insurance claims, photograph the damage to your property as proof. Do whatever is necessary to keep further damage from happening, since the insurance may not cover such instances as they occur in the aftermath of the storm.