Hurricanes can cause widespread destruction and devastation to communities in just a few hours once they make landfall. The 2017 hurricane season was the costliest in United States history with $306.2 billion worth of damage as a result. From 1986 to 2015, the total insured losses due to hurricane damage was $515.4 billion. However, there are steps you should take in the days and hours leading up to when the hurricane makes landfall in order to prepare for the destruction and protect your family and home as much as you can.
Evacuate and seek shelter when necessary
You and your family’s safety is your top priority when it comes to a destructive hurricane striking your area. In a hurricane, you may experience high winds, heavy rainfall, flooding, storm surges and even tornados, and these weather conditions can affect areas more than 100 miles inland from the coast. The most important thing to remember is to heed all warnings of evacuation. If you’re told to evacuate, make sure you do so as quickly and safely as possible and reach a safe shelter to wait out the storm.
If you’re staying put in your house, make sure you stay away from windows and go to an interior part of your house during the storm. Unlike in a tornado warning, the basement may not be the safest place during a hurricane because of the risk of flooding. If you experience flooding, go to the highest level of the building, but don’t go to the attic to avoid being trapped by floodwater. Stay informed with emergency alert systems and avoid trying to travel through flood waters.
Prepare with insurance
One of the earliest things you should do as a homeowner and car owner before hurricane season is to check your insurance policies. Know what your policies cover, know your risk and make sure your policies reflect that. Check with your homeowners insurance to see what damage you may be covered for.
If you live in an area frequently at risk of hurricane damage (typically the coastal states in the southeastern U.S. and especially Florida) consider buying flood insurance if you don’t already have it. If you’re purchasing a new policy, make sure to do it well in advance as it can take up to a month to become effective. Flood insurance isn’t something you can just purchase before an impending storm. Hurricanes are typically the worst in September so start looking for policies well before that, in the early summer months at the latest.
Car insurance is also important. Policies with comprehensive coverage provide protection from storm damage, such as flooding or fallen trees.
Aside from knowing your evacuation route, there are other things you should do in the days and hours leading up to the storm. FEMA has created a guide of what to do and the highlighted tips are below.
What to do 36 hours before the hurricane arrives
The day before the hurricane is expected to affect your area should mostly be spent creating plans and preparing how to stay safe during the storm. Stay up to date with the latest weather alerts and consider the following steps:
- Make an emergency disaster kit - Whether you’ll be evacuating or not, an emergency disaster kit will come in handy. Include necessary items like water, non-perishable foods, first-aid items, medications, pet needs, flashlight and extra batteries, radio, important documents and anything else you will need.
- Make an emergency evacuation plan with your family - Make sure all family members know what to do in an emergency evacuation in order to get out as quickly as possible.Your community may have planned evacuation routes and shelters so make sure to familiarize yourself with them before the storm arrives. If you have pets, make sure to include them in your plan and make sure to bring anything they will need.
- Make a communication plan - In an emergency situation, it’s possible your family may get separated. Create a plan in case this happens and make a meeting spot to regroup at. In disasters, texting is often more reliable than phone lines that become overloaded.
- Make sure your car is in good working condition and has a full tank of gas. Put a change of clothes in your car ahead of time to prepare.
What to do 18 to 36 hours before the hurricane arrives
After you have set up all of your emergency plans, the next span of time should be spent preparing your home for potential damages from the storm. Things you should make sure you do include:
- Clear your drains and gutters
- Bring outdoor items inside - Lightweight items like patio furniture should not be left outside during a hurricane as they can become hazardous when the wind picks them up.
- Secure all other outdoor items - There may be some items outside that you can’t take in or that aren’t safe to take in, such as propane tanks. Make sure these items are secure outside and anchored down properly.
- Check surrounding trees for loose branches that you can easily remove to avoid them falling on your house or flying around in the wind.
- Board up your windows - Permanent storm shutters are the best option, but if you don’t have those, use plywood. FEMA recommends using ⅝” exterior grade or marine plywood.
What to do 6 to 8 hours before the hurricane arrives
By now, you should have all plans created and practiced and your home should be boarded up. Continually check for the latest warnings and instructions for your area at least every half hour. Prepare for if you lose power during the storm by making sure all cell phones and electronic devices are fully charged. Make sure you have a radio handy in your emergency disaster kit to keep in touch with weather updates if you do lose power.
What to do 6 hours before the hurricane arrives
The hours leading up to the hurricane’s expected touchdown should be spent making sure you have everything you need and doing double checks that your home is secure. If you are asked to evacuate, make sure you do so quickly and safely. If you are staying put in your house, make sure family and friends know where you will be during the storm.
To further prepare for a power outage, you can turn your refrigerator to the coldest setting and avoid opening it unless necessary to preserve food for longer.
Continue to regularly check for emergency instructions and weather updates from your area.
Preparing your family and your home before a hurricane can lessen the chance of serious injury and damage. Hurricane season can be a stressful time but being prepared with the correct insurance coverage and emergency plans in place can give you peace of mind that you’ll know what to do when a storm is approaching and that you’ll be covered for damages.
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