1. Hurricane? Know when to evacuate.
In the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, the need to evacuate is decided by local, state, and federal government officials and authorities. However, although an evacuation declaration may not have been made, you may consider evacuating in case of a hurricane if you:
- Live in a mobile home.
- Live on the coastline, an offshore island, or near a river or a floodplain.
- Live in a high-rise. Hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
- Is a person with special needs, including health or mobility-related concerns.
WHN TIP — Evacuate! Need to go? Ready.gov has tips on its Evacuation page. Map safe road routes inland to higher ground. You may need to drive 20 to 50+ miles inland to locate a safe place. Also, check out our ‘how to create a hurricane evacuation plan.‘
2. Follow hurricane evacuation precautions
WHN TIP – Get Ready: Hurricane! Be sure your Home Disaster Preparedness Kit is ready.
- Print out and fill in your contact lists and keep copies by your phone and at work for easy access.
- Plan in advance where to go if you are asked to evacuate your home in case of a hurricane. You might choose a relative’s home, a hotel, or a shelter.
- Keep your car’s gas tank full if you may need to evacuate. During emergencies, filling stations may be closed.
- Learn safe routes to higher ground. You may need to drive 20 to 50 miles to locate a safe place. Remember to map alternate routes, in case bridges are out or roads are blocked.
- Know where emergency shelters are located. Contact your local emergency management office or the Red Cross for information on designated public shelters.
- Always have extra cash on hand (at least $100 or so) because ATMs and credit card machines won’t work if there is no electricity. Do this even if you aren’t planning to evacuate.
- Download the free Red Cross Hurricane app, along with the Emergency app so you can monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.
WHN TIP – Disaster Kit Drill: Choose a night when all of your family is at home. Turn off the TV and lights, don’t use the faucets, fridge or stove. Check and see what items might be missing (special needs for family members, meds, pet food, socks, can opener, etc.). Make a list and add these items to your kit.
3. Know what to do if you’re staying in your home.
If you are not evacuating for the hurricane-
- Have a “safe place” in your home where family members can gather during a hurricane.
- The location should have no windows, skylights, or glass doors, which could be broken by strong winds or hail, causing damage or injury; and be out of the path of floodwaters (not the basement!).
- In a two-story house, go to an interior first-floor room, such as a bathroom or closet, or a hallway.
- Draw a floor plan of your residence. Mark two escape routes from each room, in the case of flooding. If your home has more than one story, make sure there is a way to safely exit the upper floors. Place a copy in each room in an obvious location – near the door, on a bulletin board, etc. – and tell each family member about the escape route plan.
- Practice your escape plan every month. Practice using both exits. Make sure windows and doors aren’t stuck and that screens can be removed. Also, practice exiting with your eyes closed or in the dark (it may be hard to see in an emergency especially at night).
- Designate a place for the family to meet outside the neighborhood. Make sure all family members know the address and phone number.
- Ask an out-of-state friend to be your “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to reach someone who isn’t weathering the storm.
- Know the emergency response plan for your workplace, your children’s school or child care center, as well as other places where your family spends time (i.e. church, gym, rec center).
- Meet with neighbors either informally or through a neighborhood group to create a neighborhood preparedness plan.
- Make a note of neighbors or nearby relatives who may require extra assistance. Write down their names and phone numbers, if you don’t have them already. Keep this list with your emergency kit or your emergency contact list.
- Prepare a readily available and fully stocked Home Disaster Preparedness Kit. (Download the First Aid app from the Red Cross – just in case!)
- Consider stockpiling emergency building materials such as plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, hammer and saw, pry bar, shovels, and sandbags.
- Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher and have a central place to keep it. Check the extinguisher each year.
- Adult family members should know how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main valves or switches.
- Consider enrolling yourself and/or family members in first aid and emergency preparedness courses.
- Responsible family members should also know CPR, how to help someone who is choking, and first aid for severe bleeding and shock. The Red Cross offers basic training of this nature.
WHN TIP – NOAA Weather Radio: Protect yourself and your family as you sleep. If there is a severe warning in your area, at any time of day, the NOAA Weather Radio will automatically turn on and alert you with beeps and sirens. It will even alert you if the power is out because they have battery backup. Look for NOAA radios with the “SAME” feature (Specific Area Message Encoding) which means the receiver is capable of turning itself on from a silent mode.
WHN TIP – In Case of Emergency: Make friend or family contacts easy to find on your phone.
4. Prepare a home inventory.
- Create a household inventory – videotape, photograph, or compile a written inventory of your home and belongings.
- Update your inventory every year, when you’ve made a major purchase, or you’ve made significant renovations in your home or on your property.
- Prepare a Master Information box or upload scans of important documents and records, photos, and contact information. If you have an infobox, keep it off-premises with an out-of-the-area friend. The inventory is a record for you and the insurance company to review if you lose your home.
5. Make proper preparation for your home and property.
Along with these tips, prepare for a hurricane with this quick list of general indoor and outdoor precautions to take to improve your “shelter from the storm” in the event of a hurricane.
Before you begin, contact your local building official so you know what codes are required. They can provide assistance so you make improvements properly the first time.
For More Information
FEMA’s Avoiding Hurricane Damage: A Checklist for Homeowners
This 4-page pdf file offers a checklist you can do to see if your home is in need of hurricane safety improvements. FEMA prepares the nation for hazards and manages Federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.
WHN TIP – Get the FEMA App: Download the free FEMA Alert App to get severe weather alerts, maps of disaster resources and other helpful information in case of natural disasters. Information is in English and Spanish and available for IOS or Android mobile devices.
Institute for Business & Home Safety: How to Protect Your Home From Hurricanes
The IBHS features four articles on protecting your home, keeping wind and water out, a home checklist, and rebuilding after a hurricane. The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is a nonprofit association that engages in communication, education, engineering, and research.
Information on what to do after a hurricane including getting help from authorities, financial assistance, filing insurance claims, and more.
Thank You …
A special thank you to the first responders, emergency workers, government officials, lawyers, insurance agents, and people who gave us their time, insight, and real-life advice.
Photo Credit: Unsplash