Maybe you’ve just moved to the Hurricane Alley, maybe you’ve lived there throughout your entire life, or maybe you’ve just realized, as many folk have over the years, that Hurricanes don’t care if the place you live in has a cool nickname with the word “Hurricane” in it. You’re looking to prep, and that’s what we’re here to help you with.
- The Essentials
- The Non-Essentials
- Final Words
- Useful Videos
Notorious salesmen on the internet and in TV infomercials will be eager to use this opportunity to sell you your own fear. While others will, on the other hand, carelessly skip any and all preparations entirely and ignore Mother Nature at their own peril.
The following article is here to keep both your feet on the ground, somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. While you shouldn’t go out and spend thousands of dollars on kits, shelters, army-grade vehicles or emergency mac & cheese buckets (opens in a new tab), you also probably shouldn’t take deadly weather phenomena, which have caused trillions of dollars in property damage in the past, lightly.
Below, you will find a list of precautionary measures, recommendations and general topics of discussion, which are worth addressing before and possibly during the hurricane season, to make sure that you aren’t caught off guard, and to prevent as much property damage as possible.
Build a Home Safety Kit
Regardless of who you are and where you live, every household is recommended by FEMA to have a home safety kit. So, what exactly is that?
A home safety kit contains the most crucial items for the survival of your household, in case everything goes wrong. These are the essential items which must be ready for use, regardless of whether you decide to weather the storm, or evacuate.
Naturally, the question now becomes, what exactly should a Home Safety Kit contain?
That depends on who you ask. There are, of course, people, who overdo it and vice versa, those who believe that a matchbox and a hair clip are good enough for a week or two in the wild. We recommend you use common sense and stick to the basics.
You should be able to take care of water, light, heat, injuries, navigation, communication, hygiene, energy and preferably also food, for every member of your household.
A possible list of items includes:
|Gallon of water per person per day, for three days||Three-day supply of food|
|First aid kit||Radio|
|Toiletries and towels||Phone chargers|
|Basic tools – Wrench, pliers, knife (preferably multi tool, or a small toolbox)||Local map|
Remember, if you are ordered to evacuate by the local authorities, this kit must be ready to go in a matter of minutes. So, apart from food and water, all should be already set and ready to go, preferably in easily carried bags, such as weekenders or sports bags.
Other useful items, such as fire extinguishers, baby formula, diapers, pet supplies, feminine products, etc. should be considered as well based on your family situation.
To learn what your government has to say about home safety kits, go to ready.gov (opens in a new tab).
Prepare a Medical Kit
While first aid/medical kits are common in Europe, since they are required by law in any workspace and vehicle by many of its countries, we Americans encounter a proper one somewhat rarely. However, including one in both your car and your household can be a life saver, during, before and even after the hurricane season. If you don’t have one yet, this is the time to get one!
However, be careful! Because first aid kits are not, outside of a workplace, regulated, the contents of commercially available ones are often insufficient for practical use and in addition, they are in general overpriced.
So, what does a proper medical kit contain?
As an illustrator example, consider BS 8599-2-compliant first aid kits (opens in a new tab), which are standardized by our friends in the UK and are mandatory in public service vehicles.
|10 cleansing wipes||1 foil blanket (adult)|
|1 adherent dressing||2 burn dressings|
|1 HSE dressing, medium||1 resuscitation device|
|2 gloves (pair)||1 guidance leaflet|
|1 trauma dressing, medium||1 triangular bandage|
|1 universal shears||10 wash proof plasters|
Even with such an exhaustive list of items, first aid kits are designed for what their name suggests – first aid only. It never hurts to include a few more items, since you may end up stranded without medical assistance for long periods of time.
It is crucial that your medical kit must also contain any medicine used by members of your households in sufficient quantities, an extra inhalator if any of them has asthma, and possibly an EpiPen or other forms of allergy medications.
Disinfectant, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and mild analgesic medicine should be considered as well. Extra sanitary products never go to waste either.
And remember to include necessary medicine for your pets, if you have any – they may need it too.
As for my last words on this topic… I can’t stress enough how unreliable and overpriced pre-packaged medical kits can be! Be smart and save yourself both a lot of money and trouble by building your own!
Designate a Safe Room
Most hurricanes aren’t severe enough to prompt evacuation. In such a case, when staying home, it is recommended to gather your family and supplies in a single room – your safe room.
Some care should be taken during its selection and preparation. So, how should you go about it?
While it used to be recommended to hide in your cellar, this intuitive move has proven to be somewhat risky, since you may end up trapped under the rubble of your own house and even drown if it ever comes to flooding.
Therefore, you should stick to the ground floor, and move to the upper floors in cases of severe floods – e.g., when drowning becomes more likely than having your roof collapse on you. However, never go for the attic, where you risk ending up trapped, nor the cellar!
Living rooms are the preferred choice for most, since they provide sufficient space for the whole family.
When the storm comes… All windows must be boarded and avoided as much as possible. Any paintings, decorations and anything else that can be knocked over and destroyed should be cleared in advance.
Bring in everything you will need in the course of the following days, including your food and water – even though most storms don’t last that long, you want to keep everything in one place and easily accessible.
If possible, avoid using electricity anywhere but your safety room to prevent your home circuit from shorting out, or even fires sneaking up on you unknowingly. Unplug all unessential devices and turn the gas off.
Know which of your walls are support (sometimes called main) walls – These are the ones you want next to you when if your house starts falling apart. It is also often recommended to get under a table – so if possible, it doesn’t hurt to bring one in and at least have your kids hide under it.
For near-absolute protection, you can build an actual FEMA-approved safe room (opens in a new tab), though that may cost you.
Have an Evacuation plan
If I told you right now “You have 10 minutes to pack everything you need and get out of town”, could you do it?
For many, the answer is something closer to a confused “eh”, rather than “yes”. This is a crucial mistake, since situations may get out of hand so fast, that evacuations must take place immediately.
This is not just the case of possible nightmare scenarios such as nuclear attacks, but also hurricanes, which may change their path and build up force in a matter of hours. When that happens, reaction times can be rendered surprisingly short.
So, how do you set up your evacuation plan?
Your household should:
- Have 2 places, out of town, where you can go. This would be preferably some relative’s household, but when it comes down to it, a familiar campsite or a trailer park will do just fine.
- Have an escape route. Along with a backup route. This requires a bit of research, but can be easily done using Google Maps.
- Have a meeting place, if you and your family get separated, or can’t make it to your house in time.
- Have at least one contact person who can be reached by phone if you aren’t. Make sure your relatives know about them, have their number and most importantly, he has theirs. In case something happens to you, this person may be the one coordinating your family’s evacuation, so choose wisely.
- Have a functioning vehicle. Tires must be inflated, with fresh oil and a full fuel tank.
- Know where the nearest evacuation shelters are. If not left any other choice, evacuation shelters are here for you. While not perfect and on top, always crowded and often quite miserable, they are a preferable refuge to the stormy weather outside. Locations of such shelters are commonly announced by local authorities in advance to any natural disasters.
During storms, even the less severe ones, it is very common to lose power. Especially rural areas have vulnerable grids, which can be taken out by strong winds alone.
However, even bigger cities may face blackouts during a severe storm. All that was granted to you by the graces of electric energy is gone in an instant.
It may, and more often than not, will, take days before the power lines are fixed. During this time, your family will be left with no light, entertainment, nor often even hot water, functioning refrigerator, etc. Even a mild storm can thus become a nightmare.
However, this can be easily avoided.
Both portable and home generators can be used to recover either at least the most crucial, or the entire functionality of your household. Since you’re already on our site, feel free to check a few of them out!
Consider Storm Shutters
Over the years, it has been established that before any major storm, it is recommended to board up your doors, windows and any other points of entry which may be blown open or even smashed in by the force of wind, and anything it happens to carry.
However, this process is time consuming, will damage your property and if done improperly, is less effective than desired. In addition, in some areas, you may be required to board up and down several times per hurricane season, which becomes tiresome.
To avoid this, impact-resistant glass and glazing can be used. However, this may still not be sufficient protection both in practice and, possibly more importantly, by law. In many areas (e.g., in coastal regions of Florida), you may be required by the local building code to also install so-called hurricane (or storm) shutters.
Storm shutters are exactly what their name suggests – Shutters, intended to protect you from severe storms.
Even if you are not located in an area where they are mandatory, we recommended checking them out, as they are both an attractive and a safer alternative to boards, which can promptly secure your window and enhance your safety.
Hurricane shutters come in various designs, whose applicability will be determined by the type of walls, windows and your budget. They can be bought both premade, to be installed by the user, or custom, which are usually installed by professionals. Custom shutters are needed for unusually large windows, while your standard American peeping holes will do with a premade one.
For a complete guide to storm/hurricane shutters, we recommend reading the technical fact sheet 6.2 of FEMA P-499 (opens in a new tab).
Employ Hurricane Resistant Landscaping
Even though landscaping would be in most cases considered a low priority, aesthetical task and not the first thing that comes to mind when the hurricane season comes along, keeping your property neatly tidied and organized can be crucial for the prevention of property damage or injuries.
Keeping your trees and hedges trimmed is key to preventing branches from falling down, flying off, and possibly smashing through your roof, or car windows. If you can, do so at least in the vicinity of any buildings or sheds.
However, the key to avoiding damage is prevention. Some trees, plants and landscaping materials are simply better suited to withstand hurricanes. Please read this article (opens in a new tab) on which trees to go for and how to take care of them.
Taken care of the trees? Well, you’re still not done! Clear your property of anything that may tip, fall over, or get carried off by wind – Barrels, flowerpots, power tools, etc. If possible, get rid of, or at least secure temporary structures, such as above ground pools and trampolines.
Do not underestimate the force of the wind and protect both yours and your neighbors’ households.
Find a Safe Parking Spot
Don’t forget to keep your car safe (opens in a new tab) as well! While you are busy boarding up your windows, there may be a tree falling right on top of your vehicle. To prevent the obvious, park your car in a clear but also elevated area to prevent flooding. You should preferably use an above ground garage, but go for your lawn if you have to.
In any case, keep your car close! Avoid leaving it in a safe spot which is out of your reach, as the situation during a storm may get worse rapidly and you may be required to evacuate immediately.
Consider Laminating Emergency Instructions for Your Family Members
As a family man, you should make sure that all your kids know where to go, who to call and what to do if it comes to the worst and you might not be around.
I find this step crucial, since kids are simply not what you and I used to be back in the day. Over the years, they have gotten so used to their cell phones and somebody babysitting them 24/7, that if they find themselves stranded on their own, they might have no idea what to do.
The best way to get around this is to simply leave them instructions – Where to go, what to do, who to contact. A list of important numbers, where the nearest shelter is, etc. Now, of course, an 8-year-old won’t be able to just memorize this and that’s where a laminator comes in.
A laminated card with all the necessary information can be literally a lifesaver in these situations, since it will stay undamaged and readable in most conditions (unlike a sheet of folded paper in your kid’s wallet).
Laminators are cheap, handy and will most likely find many more applications around your house, but in case you don’t want to buy one, most copy centers and libraries are an affordable option.
Backup/Save Important Documents
Even in the 21st century, our most important information, such as birth certificates, wills, insurance policies, etc. are still written down on paper, black on white. But what happens when they get soaked in water, carried off by wind, or trapped under a collapsed roof, never to be seen again? A lot of trouble for you and in some cases, such as with stocks or bonds, will cause irreparable damage to your wealth.
Backing up or saving crucial documents is an overlooked, yet one of the most useful things you can do when preparing for an eventual natural disaster.
Many choose to store the originals of their documents in a safety vault, which will, of course, cost you. However, the security is worth the money.
Lately, simply having a scan on Cloud services has become a preferred solution if on a budget, though they have been compromised in the past. Furthermore, in some cases, a copy just won’t do.
Weigh your options carefully and see which is the better choice for you.
Keep in Touch with Crucial Information Sources
During hurricanes, the methods of communication we have gotten used to can fail us miserably. While the most accessible source of information would be in most circumstances, FEMA, their Twitter (opens in a new tab), and their mobile app (opens in a new tab), you may find yourself cut off of any internet access. What then?
Television broadcasts can be helpful. You should search for your local news channels or wait for the EAS (Emergency Alert System), which should be visible regardless of the channel you are watching.
However, to make sure you are prepared even for the case of your television failing you, equip yourself with a radio – preferably battery powered or hand-cranked. These are cheap, reliable and priceless during emergencies. Just don’t forget to have spare batteries as well.
Hopefully, our article has taught you, or at least, reminded you of some of the precautions you can take before the hurricane season comes. While this may seem as an exhaustive list, it is necessary not to underestimate the forces of nature.
Bellow, you will find some additional links to useful information on hurricanes and hurricane prevention. Use them as you see fit.
You know what they say… better safe, than sorry.