The good news is that modern weather forecasting allows us to see and track these storms for days – even weeks – in advance, which gives you plenty of time to prepare. Hurricane season officially begins June 1st and runs through November, but it typically doesn't get into full swing until August or September.
When it comes to protecting your family and property during a hurricane, the best defense is a good offense so make sure to prepare well ahead of an impending storm. Use these tips to minimize damage and maximize safety.
Stay informed. The single most important tip is to be smart and know what to expect. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates. Follow the forecast and heed all advisories by local officials about dangers and potential evacuations. If you have to evacuate, avoid flooded roads.
Create a family disaster plan. Plan ahead of time what to do and where to go if you're told to evacuate, whether it be a hurricane shelter or a friend or family member's home. Ask a friend to be your “family contact" and instruct other family members to call this person and tell them where they are. Make sure everyone knows your contact's phone number by heart, since cell phones may lose power. Plan how to care for your pets.
Create a hurricane kit. Store bottled water, non-perishable food, like protein bars and canned goods, medications, batteries, a radio, a car charger for your cellphone, flashlights for every member of the family, a lighter, a first aid kit and tools in a bin. Pack important documents like driver's licenses, social security cards, insurance policies, marriage and birth certificates, wills and deeds in plastic bags. Make sure to keep this emergency kit readily accessible.
Make your home hurricane-ready. Install hurricane shutters to protect windows. You can also protect windows by covering them with two sheets of plywood, but remember to measure and cut them to fit your windows in advance. Taping windows is not effective against hurricane-force winds. Prune trees and secure loose roof shingles or tiles with hurricane ties. Bring in anything that could get picked up by the wind (bikes, patio furniture). Make sure there's only one plug per outlet and unplug small appliances. If you are stuck in your house during the storm, turn your refrigerator to the coldest setting to preserve food in case of a power outage. Lock doors and windows. Fill bathtubs and sinks with water.
Review your insurance coverage. Remember that no matter how much you prepare, the impact of a catastrophe on your home can be devastating. Talk to your insurance provider to make sure you have adequate coverage to repair or rebuild in the current building market under your homeowner's insurance policy.
Hurricanes might not always be predictable, but by staying one step ahead, you are more likely to minimize some of the storm's impacts. And of course, the most important thing is to stay safe!