For the seventh year in a row, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts above-average storm activity this hurricane season. Some 33 million homes in America are at risk of hurricane-force wind damage, making preparing to evacuate or survive a hurricane more essential than ever.
Preparing for a hurricane is key to storm survival, but it can also seem expensive or overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. These budget-friendly ways to prepare for a hurricane can improve your chance of surviving a severe storm, and improve your recovery after one.
Free Ways to Prepare for a Hurricane
Stockpile Tap Water
According to one survivor, “food and basic needs, like water, are the first things being bought” in local grocery stores ahead of a hurricane. And, in days after a hurricane, when power is out and supplies are limited in most storm-damaged areas, finding bottled water can be next to impossible.
The low-cost and easy solution to this problem is to start stockpiling tap water now.
In addition to purchasing a sterile 5-gallon water jug and filling it up, save sealable containers like plastic milk and juice jugs, wash them, and fill them with water from the tap.
The CDC recommends storing one gallon per person per day for three days at a minimum or as much as a two-week supply, if you have the space. Label each container with the filling date and the words “Drinking Water.” And, make sure to replace the bottles six months after filling them. Store the bottles in a cool place out of direct sunlight for best results.
Create a Plan with Neighbors
There’s safety in numbers, especially in the face of an upcoming storm. Disaster first responders likely live in your community—creating a network of contacts is crucial to community protection in a disaster situation.
The first step to making a plan with your neighbors is meeting them in the first place. After you’ve introduced yourself, consider making shared strategies for hurricane season. Consider using one home as a safe house, establishing a plan to carpool to a nearby shelter, or sharing a nonperishable food stockpile. Share the resources and information you have, identify the risks that apply to your community, and build your support network early. Then, in the wake of a hurricane, plan to check on your neighbors and ask them to do the same for you.
Manage Yard Debris ASAP
During hurricane season, don’t let objects in your yard pile up or become projectiles. Actively remove vegetative debris in the yard, and stow or secure toys, lightweight furniture, and other objects that could become airborne in high winds.
If your local trash pickup service doesn’t remove yard waste in a timely manner and you can’t take it to a local dump or transfer station, reach out to local landscaping companies. They may haul vegetation away for their own mulch production.
In addition, keep up with the trees and shrubs surrounding your home, keeping them cut back regularly during storm season. “Cut down trees that may land on your home if possible, or trim the branches,” urges a Hurricane Harvey survivor.
Need help with the heavy lifting? Ask a local high school sports team to spend a day helping out your entire neighborhood.
Low-Cost Ways to Prepare for a Hurricane
Preparing to withstand or evacuate a hurricane doesn’t have to be expensive. Putting these seven cheap and free tactics to prepare for a hurricane before the season starts can improve survival and recovery when one hits.
Seal Essentials in Plastic
Hurricanes regularly bring heavy rain that causes flooding, so keeping everything from home deeds to family memorabilia beyond the reach of floodwaters is essential.
Store valuables, like identifying documents, family heirlooms, irreplaceable photos, and home deeds, in a waterproof container. A plastic bin with a sealing and locking lid is an excellent choice for storing and keeping valuables dry, but in a pinch sealing documents in ziploc bags is also a good solution.
For a zero-cost solution—one that doesn’t require purchasing plastic bags or boxes—place all important documents and memorabilia in high on a shelf so that if a flood does occur, it won’t soak boxes stored at ground level.
Create a Cache of Canned Food
Every time you head to the grocery store, pick up a few on-sale nonperishable foodstuffs to add to your stockpile. Canned goods, peanut butter, and dried fruits last the longest, but make sure to check expiration dates regularly. Those who shop at food pantries or food banks should consider picking up additional canned and shelf-stable items during their regular visits.
Have a little extra to spare? Consider donating regularly to a local food pantry—resources that save lives 365 days a year, but are especially crucial during a disaster. After a storm, you can also share stockpiled nonperishables with neighbors or build a free little pantry within the community.
Make a Plan and Gather Supplies for Cooking Without Gas or Electric
Hurricanes typically result in days—or months—worth of power outages. In some municipalities, the gas may also be turned off to reduce leak risks. Prepare to grill (outside in well-ventilated places) in the aftermath of a storm.
If you have a charcoal grill, put extra charcoal, lighter fluid, and lighters in a plastic container on a high shelf to keep them dry. If you’re planning to use propane, make sure to keep at least one extra tank full and on hand at all times.
While you’re at it, charge all your devices in advance of the storm.
Stockpile Prescription Medication
There are numerous tactics for stockpiling medications, but one of the simplest and safest methods is asking your doctor to write prescriptions for 90-day supplies. Most health insurance providers offer a one-week “vacation prescription” to their patients at no additional charge.
If your insurance doesn’t cover 90-day supplies, discount methods like GoodRx or Cost Plus Drugs can help you stock up without breaking the bank.
Make sure to rotate your stock, using the oldest medications first to prevent expiration.
Ahead of hurricane season, preparation is paramount. Even if you think a natural disaster could never happen in your area, you should hope for the best but prepare for the worst. These seven inexpensive ways to prepare for a hurricane can make surviving and recovering from a disaster easier.