Healthy Oceans Blog

10 things to do before a hurricane hits

A satellite view shows Hurricane Ivan Sept. 15, 2014, approximately 170 miles south of the Alabama coastline. (Photo: NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response/Wikimedia Commons)

Hurricanes are deadly, destructive and merciless. When a hurricane forms and you’re in its path, being prepared isn’t just important for you, your family and your home – it’s a matter of survival.

This hurricane season, which runs from about June to November, will be no different. In fact, after an active Atlantic hurricane season in 2018, AccuWeather forecasters are predicting an above-normal 2019 season with 12 to 14 storms. Of those storms, five to seven are forecast to become hurricanes, and two to four are forecast to become major hurricanes.

Here, we highlight some crucial tips to help protect yourself and your home in the event of such a dangerous storm.

1. Build an emergency kit

FEMA suggests setting up an emergency kit with items you’ll need in the event of a hurricane. They include, but are not limited to, a three-day supply (minimum) of water and non-perishable food for each family member; first-aid supplies; personal hygiene items; portable radio; flashlight; fresh batteries; basic tools; work gloves; portable lanterns; signaling device (such as an air horn); prescription medications; extra car keys; extra eyeglasses; cash; important contact numbers (such as medical centers, insurance agents, utilities, neighbors and family members); and copies of important documents (such as identification, insurance policies, ownership certificates and banking information).

2. Create a plan of action for your family

Discuss where and how you will seek shelter during a storm, ensure that everyone is aware of the location of first-aid kits and fire extinguishers, and choose a place for your family to meet if you get separated. Establish a contact person to communicate with concerned relatives, and ensure that you know where and how to shut off utilities at the main switches or valves in the event of a disaster.

3. Get your car ready

Fill your car’s gas tank, and contact neighbors, friends or family should you need help with transportation. Move your cars or trucks into your garage if possible, or under cover. Gather an emergency kit for your car that includes non-perishable food, smartphone chargers, flares, jumper cables, maps, tools, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, sleeping bags, a flashlight and extra batteries. Also, make sure your smartphone is charged and has a GPS app installed.

4. Learn the difference between a watch and a warning

The National Ocean Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, breaks it down this way:

  • A warning means that hurricane conditions are expected.
  • A watch means that hurricane conditions are possible.

If a watch is announced in your area, you’re advised to prepare your home and review your plan for evacuation in case a hurricane or tropical storm warning is issued. Listen closely to instructions from local officials. If a hurricane warning is issued, NOS advises you to complete storm preparations and immediately leave the threatened area if directed by local officials.

5. Build emergency panels

In a hurricane, windows and doors are among the most vulnerable parts of your home. If your home is not equipped with impact-resistant windows and doors, or impact resistant shutters or panels, consider building your own temporary emergency panels. To do this, here are a few tips:

  • First pre-measure the windows and doors you want to protect. Don’t forget to consider openings, such as roof and gable vents, skylights and garage doors. Eighty percent of residential hurricane damage starts with wind entry through garage doors.
  • To help your home withstand wind and debris, look for exterior grade plywood at least ⅝-inch thick. Plan to have a 4-inch overlap on each opening.
  • Wearing the proper safety gear, apply fasteners every 4 inches to secure plywood panels. For the right type of plywood and other supplies you may need, ask the experts at your local home improvement store.
  • For a step-by-step video on protecting your home before a storm, click here.

6. Maintain trees and shrubbery in your yard

Falling trees and blowing debris in storms often cause fatalities and severe structural damage. Make sure to remove weak branches and eliminating trees that could fall onto your home during a storm.

7. Identify the safest area of your home

This should be a place where, if you haven't been evacuated, you can take shelter in your home when the storm hits. In most structures, this will be the basement or a small interior room without windows, such as a bathroom. In a high-rise building, seek out a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Close interior doors, and put as many walls between you and the storm as possible.

8. Identify escape routes

If you become stuck in one area of your home due to damage or flooding, you’ll need a plan to get out. Think about ways to escape out of windows if the need arises. Think about the locations of fire escapes or stairways if you live in an apartment building. Note whether you need any additional equipment such as a rope ladder.

9. Secure top-heavy furniture

Furniture that is at risk of toppling over, such as bookcases and chests, should be secured to the walls. Before a storm arrives, move furniture away from doors and windows, if possible.

10. Stay tuned to local radio, TV stations and weather apps

Keep checking your news and weather sources for updates on watches and warnings (see #4) for tropical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. Tornadoes often accompany thunderstorm warnings, and the sooner you're aware that a storm is on the way, the sooner you can get your family to safety.

No one wants to find themselves in a hurricane’s path. But by taking these important precautions and doing a little research, you can be ready and able to survive the storm.

This post originally appeared on Mother Nature Network's website and can be viewed here.