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Hurricanes are one of life’s most powerful and destructive storms. Wreaking havoc on land and structures, the average hurricane season causes millions of dollars in damages and displaces thousands of families who will be embroiled in cleanup processes for months to come.

Planning For the Worst, Hoping for the Best

While you can’t stop a tropical storm or hurricane from occurring, you can take steps to protect yourself, your home, and your family from loss and damage. Those who live in high-risk areas need to be prepared for the onset of each hurricane season, which can last from two to six months out of the year.

Planning can be stressful, but it is an essential proactive measure to ensure that you can reclaim your losses after a devastating storm. With a projected season lasting from June through November, you’ll have plenty of time to put your storm affairs in order as you take the following steps to protect you, your family, and your property.

Create a Storm Strategy

Regardless of how much food and water you can stockpile, your efforts will be in vain unless you have a place to go in the event of a hurricane. Familiarize yourself with local emergency management agencies to learn more about hurricane evacuation routes. Have vehicles prepped and ready to go and be prepared to drive at least 60 miles inland to outrun the most devastating effects of the storm. Pack your car with needed emergency supplies such as food, water, medical supplies, and personal belongings if you are displaced from your home for a short time. Have pet supplies handy too, and take pets with you in an evacuation.

Practice Evacuation Drills

Time is of the essence when planning an evacuation strategy. Practice evacuation drills regularly, and have alternate routes planned and mapped out if you cannot use your primary route. Include plans for all members of your family that may become separated and choose a meet-up location if you are separated as you begin traveling to safety.

Alert Friends and Family

Sign up for emergency alerts that you can receive on the go, and call friends and family ahead of time that live outside the immediate danger zone. They may be able to provide you temporary shelter as you wait till the storm passes. With this critical piece of the plan in place, it will be easier to leave your home.

Secure Property and Valuable Items

The power and destructive potential of a hurricane can turn large objects in and around your home into flimsy playthings, flinging them about and doing significant damage to your home and property. While you cannot possibly plan for and prevent all-natural destruction that occurs after a hurricane, you can take some proactive measures to protect your home and property from extensive damage, such as:

  • Trimming tree branches that could bring down power lines.
  • Reinforcing roof, windows, and doors.
  • Covering windows with permanent storm shutters or 5/8-inch plywood boards.
  • Bringing in lawn furniture, trash cans, and other items that typically remain outdoors.
  • Sandbagging areas of your property that are susceptible to flooding.
  • Moving vehicles to a more secure area, if possible.
  • Unplugging electronics and anchoring objects that would be unsafe to bring inside your home.
  • Turning off all utilities (water, gas, electric).
  • Assembling important financial and medical documents, as well as forms of identification, which may need to go with you in an evacuation.
  • Carrying cash if financial institutions are not open.

Other “To-Dos” to Prepare for Shelter in Place or Evacuation

Regardless of where you end up after a devastating storm, you’ll need to have some essentials with you to carry you through. It can take time for emergency responders to bring in much-needed supplies after a hurricane, so consider gathering supplies for shelter-in-place and evacuation.

1. Water

Having a week’s worth of water is ideal. Store your water in plastic bottles, if possible, but know that you can also fill up pots, pans, jugs, and even clean sinks and bathtubs in an emergency. Try to store one gallon per person per day–this water will also be used for drinking, food preparation, and sanitation. Those who live in hotter, humid climates should plan on doubling the amount of water needed for survival, as we tend to lose quite a bit of moisture through our skin when we sweat. Pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as children and those who are ill, may need additional water on hand for various needs.

2. Food

We can go much longer without food than we can without water, but it’s still a good idea to keep up your energy with sufficient nourishment during an emergency. Consider stockpiling the following items that you can use at home or on the go:

  • Canned food with pop-top cans.
  • Canned/packaged meat.
  • Dried fruits.
  • Energy bars.
  • Dry cereal.
  • MREs (see your local military supply store for a variety of options).
    Keep these items stocked up at home and have bins ready to pack in the car for an emergency evacuation; either way, you’ll be taken care of regardless of your path.

3. Medications

It’s unlikely that you’ll have access to a pharmacy during a hurricane, so make sure that you have at least a week’s worth of needed medications for all members of your family, including pets. Other over-the-counter supplements and medications should be packed and ready to go as well; anything that can make you more comfortable in an emergency is something that you should consider taking along.

4. Baby Needs

Babies always have unique needs, so take care to pack all anticipated needs for these little ones to keep them as comfortable as possible during a tumultuous time. Water, jarred baby food, formula, diapers, plastic bottles, and proper bedding and clothing should all be stored in a separate bin, so you don’t have to search for what you need when a little one presents an urgent need for care.

Other Items to Bring in an Emergency

It’s not easy to uproot the whole family and maintain business as usual, but there are some essentials that you’ll need to keep everyone safe and comfortable, no matter where you land. Pack or keep the following on hand for a hurricane emergency:

  • Pet supplies and needed medications.
  • Clothes and bedding.
  • Personal care items.
  • First aid kit.
  • Flashlight.
  • Lighters.
  • Utility knife.
  • Battery-operated radio.
  • Cell phone chargers.
  • Household bleach and medicine dropper for improving drinking water.

Forgetting Something? Try Flood Insurance!

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Original article published March 2019. Updated content and references April 2022.