The thought of a hurricane striking can be scary. It’s something most people don’t want to think about; however, putting off preparing for one until the storm is bearing down on you could make a potentially bad situation considerably worse. Luckily, with proper planning, you can greatly improve the chances your home and your family make it out unscathed.
The first step in hurricane preparation is making a family emergency plan. Start by learning your community’s evacuation routes. Next, determine where your family will evacuate to if needed, and then ensure that all family members are familiar with both the routes and the location where you’ll meet up if separated. It’s also helpful to designate a single point of contact for all family members, so everyone knows who to call if they need information.
Find out the location of the nearest shelters in case something happens to your home and you need a safe place to stay. If you have a pet, check to see if they allow pets during emergencies, and if not, you may want to consider finding another nearby shelter that does.
When creating your plan, you should print up a list of all the important information you might need, including emergency phone numbers, shelter addresses and insurance information. There’s always a chance of a power outage that may prevent you from looking up things online during the hurricane.
Now that you have an emergency plan, it’s time to think about what supplies you should stock your home with to help you weather the storm. Blackouts are very common during hurricanes, so every home should have a generator. If you can’t afford to install a whole house generator, then at least buy a portable generator that can power the refrigerator and some lights. This will also help you charge phones and other devices you need to stay on top of the most current news and storm-related notifications. You should take extra care in setting up and maintaining your generator. A generator that isn’t properly installed and used can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Even if you buy a generator, you should still buy a couple of lanterns and at least one flashlight per person. This way, even if you run out of gas, you’ll still have light. Make sure not to forget the batteries. You may also want to pick up some candles and a lighter as a backup.
Make sure to stock up on nonperishable food and plenty of water. It’s recommended to have at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day and at least 3 days’ worth. Ideally, you should stock up with 2 weeks’ worth, if possible. Buying a small propane or butane stove and some fuel is a smart idea so you can still prepare some hot food even if you don’t have power.
You never know what kind of emergency may happen in the middle of a hurricane, so it’s best to prepare for everything. This means having a fully stocked waterproof first aid kit to care for minor injuries. If anyone in your family relies on prescription medication, keep enough on hand to last a few weeks.
It’s recommended to have an emergency go bag in case you need to evacuate quickly. This should contain food, some fresh water, additional first aid supplies, light sticks and ponchos, among other essentials. You should also put important documents inside a ziplock bag and place them inside the go bag so you don’t risk leaving them behind.
Hurricanes can take out cell towers, power and even the internet. To stay abreast of the most recent news, a hand-powered NOAA radio will come in handy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration broadcasts continuously on a VHF frequency with weather and emergency information that you may need to be aware of.
If you live in a location that experiences hurricanes, you should install hurricane shutters or hurricane windows. If you can’t afford these, you’ll need to board up your windows with plywood to prevent them from breaking. A cordless drill will make this process considerably easier. When taking the plywood panels down, don’t forget to label them so you can reuse them in the future if needed.
It’s a smart idea to buy some extra supplies in the event that you need to do some emergency repairs if something smashes a hole in the walls of your home or window coverings. These include a couple sheets of plywood, thick plastic sheeting, duct tape, a hammer and some nails.
Once you know the hurricane will hit your location, walk around your property and look for any items that could become projectiles. This includes bringing potted plants, outdoor decorations, patio furniture, bikes, toys and anything else that could cause damage indoors. Trim any large tree branches that are growing over your roof or where your vehicle will be parked.
Gas is usually in short supply leading up to a hurricane, so to avoid waiting in line for hours to fill up your tank, fill up the tanks in all of your vehicles as early as possible. This ensures your vehicle will be ready to go if you need to evacuate.
Once you have your home and family prepared as much as possible, consider checking in on your neighbors to see how they’re faring. This is especially important if you have senior or disabled neighbors who may have trouble preparing for a hurricane themselves.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.