How To Prepare for a Hurricane

Julie H. Case

Seven tried-and-true tips for preparing for any category of tropical storm.

It’s hurricane season in the American Southeast, which means now is the time to get ready. Plus, as climate patterns become increasingly unpredictable, early preparation and action for you, your loved ones, your pets, and your home is essential. Here’s how to prepare for a hurricane, according to one of the nation’s top disaster relief nonprofits, Team Rubicon. 

To Evacuate or Not? Know the Saffir-Simpson and the Likely Damage and Risks

Knowledge may just be your most powerful tool in preparing for a hurricane. Familiarize yourself with the basics of hurricanes, including how they are categorized—category 1 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale—and the potential risks associated with each category. A Category 1 hurricane, for example, is likely to come with very damaging winds that will produce some damage and can usually be weathered from home; Category 4 and 5 hurricanes are considered catastrophic and should be evacuated before they arrive. 

Prepare for a Hurricane by Monitoring the Storm

Stay informed about incoming hurricanes by monitoring local news channels, the National Hurricane Center, weather apps on your smartphone, and even social media. Understanding the weather jargon and alerts will help you interpret warnings accurately.

Create and Memorize an Emergency Plan and Be Prepared to Evacuate

Develop a comprehensive emergency plan with your family or household members. Outline evacuation routes, designated meeting points, and emergency contacts. Assign specific responsibilities to each family member and ensure everyone knows their role in case of an evacuation. Make sure to include your pets in the plan as well, as many shelters are now pet-friendly.

If local authorities issue an evacuation order, follow it promptly. Prepare your vehicle in advance with a full tank of gas, and have a map of evacuation routes in case GPS systems fail. If you have pets, identify pet-friendly shelters along your evacuation route and keep your pet’s essentials in your disaster kit.

Secure Your Home Before the Hurricane Starts

Minimize potential damage to your home by securing it against high winds and flooding. Trim trees and shrubs near your house, and consider installing storm shutters or boarding up windows and doors. Reinforce garage doors and inspect your roof for any weak spots or loose shingles. Additionally, elevate electrical systems and appliances to prevent water damage.

Assemble a Hurricane Disaster Kit for Your Family

Whether you’re evacuating in advance of a hurricane or sheltering in place, having a well-prepared disaster kit is essential for surviving the aftermath of a hurricane. Your kit should include non-perishable food items—canned goods, granola bars, and dried fruits—at least one gallon of water per person per day for a minimum of three days, as well as first-aid supplies, flashlights and batteries, personal hygiene items, and some cash if possible as ATMs may be unavailable during power outages. 

Assembling a hurricane disaster kit doesn’t have to be expensive: check out these tips for creating a free disaster kit for any emergency. 

Prepare a Hurricane Plan for Your Pet, Too

Even fur babies need protection during a severe storm. But if you’re wondering how to prepare for a hurricane with a pet in tow, the answer is to keep it simple. 

Include at least five days of your pet’s food in your own sealed emergency kit, as well as their medications, an extra leash, and important paperwork, such as vaccination records. Those may be required to get into a pet-friendly disaster shelter. And always, always make sure your pet is wearing a collar with its nametag and your contact info. Finally, if storms trigger anxiety for your pet, be sure to have any anti-anxiety medication on hand in advance. 

Prepare for the Days and Weeks After a Hurricane

One of the best tips on how to prepare for a hurricane is to seal everything of value in plastic. 

To prepare for both a hurricane and its aftermath, store valuables—including home deeds, insurance papers, identification documents, family memorabilia, and irreplaceable photos, in ziploc bags, then add another level of security by placing them in a waterproof container. 

For one more added layer of security, you can even 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. 

Knowing how to prepare for a hurricane and then taking action well before one spins up can be life-saving practice. By educating yourself about hurricanes, creating an emergency plan, assembling a disaster kit, securing your home, and staying informed, you significantly increase your chances of surviving and recovering from a hurricane’s impact. Remember, preparation is key, and being proactive is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones during this unpredictable and challenging natural disaster. 

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