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How to Prepare for a Hurricane

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Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 are just two examples of the massive destruction these natural disasters can cause. They bring about hundreds of millions of dollars in property loss, and the loss of lives.

Although we cannot predict a storm of such magnitude, we can prepare and plan for such events in hopes to lessen their impact and to protect our own lives. There are a few basic preparation tips that you can follow to help ready yourself for a hurricane:

Proactive preparation for a hurricane

Hurricane season is roughly between June and October, and southern parts of the U.S. on the East Coast and near the Gulf of Mexico are generally hit the hardest - individuals living in these areas should take extra precaution. However, hurricanes are not exclusive to the South, so hurricane preparedness is important no matter where you are.

Before the storm:

In areas where hurricanes are prominent, you will find a few days out of the year where you can purchase supplies tax-free. Either way, be sure that your home is stocked up with:
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Tool kit
  • Bottled water (7-day supply, minimum)
  • Battery powered radio
  • Canned and non-perishable food (3-day supply, minimum)
  • Manual can opener
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Generator (if you're buying one, be sure to buy it early. If a storm hits, hardware stores will run out quickly)
  • Blankets, sleeping bags
  • Books and games
  • Rain coats/boots
Stay alert and remain vigilant for any news of the storm by watching TV reports tracking the storm's progress and listening to the radio for news of the storm. As your local TV news stations and radio stations will have special storm coverage during hurricane season, follow their updates and get prepared.

TIP: Know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. A hurricane watch requires you to be prepared and on guard for a potential storm, and generally is given 48 hours in advance. A hurricane warning means inclement weather is imminent and requires immediate action. Warnings are given approximately 36 hours in advance.

Preparing your home for a storm:

Take a look at the following tips to prepare your home for a hurricane, which can help minimize damage:
  • Invest in storm shutters: these can be durable aluminum storm shutters, or they can be made out of plywood (if made properly). They should be cut, fit and installed before the start of hurricane season, if you don't have them already.
  • Update your insurance or review it: Bottom line, you'll need enough insurance coverage to do any potential rebuilding once the storm is over. Talk to your insurance agent about what your policy does and does not cover, and inquire about flood insurance.
  • Move your valuables: You want to get anything that could prone to water damage off the floor and as far away from walls as possible. If your belongings are small enough, pack them in plastic bags.
  • Landscape your backyard: Keep large tree canopies to a minimum and have them pruned regularly prior to hurricane season, so the wind can pass through the branches. Have branches cut down that face your home.
  • Seal any cracks or leaks: You want to keep the water out, so use caulk to fill cracks and holes around your home. You should also secure any loose shingles on the roof.
  • Remove everything from your yard: You don't want any patio furniture flying into your window (or your neighbors). Bring anything that could be blown away inside.
  • Move your car: If you're closer to water, you will need to move your vehicle to a higher location so it doesn't flood. If you have a garage, store your vehicle inside. You could also consider installing an impact-resistant garage door before the season starts.

Preparation tips for evacuation

No matter how "hurricane-proof" you may have made your home, for your safety, you may be asked to evacuate, especially if you live in an area that is close to the shore or water.

Once you have received word that evacuation is your safest option, don't wait. The sooner you are able to evacuate, the more time you will have to get away from the prime impact area of the storm before it hits.
  • Plan your evacuation route. Too often, people wait too long before they decide to leave, and are hit with bumper-to-bumper traffic on main interstates. Plan a few alternate routes to combat traffic.
  • Pack your vehicle ahead of time. Evacuation should be premeditated whether it is your decision or mandatory. You should have all of your hurricane essentials packed into your vehicle prior to evacuation, so you can leave as soon as possible.
  • Decide where you'll be staying. Before you leave, you need to decide if you will be staying in a hotel, or at a family member or friend's house. Be sure to book the hotel in advance, and similarly ask your friend or family member if you could stay there until it is safe to return.
  • Fill your tank with gas. Gas shortages become a problem after hurricanes because of many people needing to fill their generators. Ensuring you have a full tank of gas prior to the storm will help if you need to travel. You should also take cash out of the ATM prior to the storm.
  • Unplug all electrical items. Before you leave, you want to make sure anything electrical is unplugged and turned off so you do not come back to potential electrical fire damage.

Tip: Always check the power, gas and water twice to ensure that they were turned off before you leave the house in an evacuation scenario.

Proactive preparation in case you stay at home

If you are not forced to evacuate your home in advance of a hurricane because your town or city has not been advised to evacuate, there are precautions that you should still take to stay on top of.
  • Find the safest place in your home or a room without windows while the storm is happening
  • In addition to your electrical gadgets, chargers and batteries, you can have candles with you as well for an emergency light source
  • Be in touch with your friends and family in any way that you can, but also try to stay off your cell phones whenever possible and conserve your battery power

Tip: Keep photographs and videos of your entire home, which can help you if you need to file a claim for insurance purposes.

After the storm:

In the aftermath of a hurricane, your top priority is always to check on the safety and health of yourself your family members.

After the storm passes, stay tuned to television updates, if you have power to do so, as well as the radio so that you can be informed of any information pertaining to your area. If you have evacuated, you'll need to keep abreast of the latest developments and information from the authorities regarding when you can return home.

To-do list:

  • Take care of any injuries that you may have suffered during the storm.
  • Check your entire house thoroughly for any damage. Check the power to see if it still functions and the gas lines for any leaking. If you suspect any gas leakage, do not switch on any lights or light any fires. Be cautious with those things and inform the authorities about any gas leakages.
  • If you find any loose power lines lying across the road or in your home, inform the electric company as soon as you can so they can come and remove them.
  • Open your closed windows and hurricane shutters.
  • Check the house to make sure that no snakes or other stray, dangerous creatures have entered your home to seek shelter from the storm.
  • Avoid driving until the authorities give the OK to do so.

Robert Moreschi  Posted by Robert Moreschi on February 7, 2013

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