Two trillion gallons per day: That’s how much rain a hurricane can dump on your home. Combine those torrential downpours with extremely high winds and you’ve got the potential for serious damage. Experts estimate that hurricanes Harvey and Irma—the two most recent major storms to hit the United States—caused up to $200 billion in damage.
When you’re facing a natural disaster of such epic proportions, it’s easy to feel powerless. Although there’s no way to completely avoid these dangerous storms, you can take measures to protect your home and family. Stacker consulted official recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Red Cross, and other experts to compile this comprehensive list of steps you should take to prepare for a hurricane. You can take care of many of these tasks ahead of time; the rest will have to be done once you know a hurricane is on its way. Though there’s no way to predict exactly what Mother Nature will throw at you, following these 29 steps for hurricane preparedness will at least provide some peace of mind.
No matter where you live, everyone should have an emergency plan. Sit down with your family and friends to discuss how you will find shelter, where you will evacuate and how you will communicate in case of an emergency.
Every household should also have an emergency supply kit ready, including a go bag for each person. That way, if you need to shelter in place or leave home in a hurry, you’ll have everything you need to stay safe and healthy.
Some states (we’re looking at you, Florida) get hit by hurricanes all the time—others very rarely experience this type of storm. Do some research on your county to find out how often your area experiences tropical storms, then check the flood map on FEMA’s website to determine your risk of flooding.
Don’t wait until a disaster strikes and you need information to download this app—do it right now while you have the time. The FEMA mobile app provides alerts from the National Weather Service, offers safety tips and allows you to locate open shelters in your area.
Right before a hurricane makes landfall, home improvement stores will be swamped by homeowners trying to purchase sandbags, plastic sheeting and other supplies to keep flood water out of the house. Store these supplies in a safe place ahead of time so you don’t have to join the mad dash.
You might get one of two warnings: A hurricane watch indicates that conditions are possible within the next 48 hours, while a hurricane warning indicates that conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. If your area issues either warning, it’s very important to listen to official instructions in case you need to evacuate.
Don’t overlook the four-legged members of your family! If you do have to evacuate, your pets will need to evacuate, too. Make sure all pets are microchipped and have identification tags and consider how you will evacuate them.
As soon as you hear that severe weather might be possible, start thinking about where you will go. Can you stay with friends or family? Do you need to make reservations at a hotel? Consider what route you will take out of town, as well.
Hurricanes can fill your home with flood water, damaging computers, phones and other electronic devices. Save important documents by uploading them to an online backup service or external hard drive that you take with you.
Extreme weather can knock out utility service, so it’s best to prepare enough drinkable water to survive for several days without running water. You’ll need at least one gallon of water per person per day for three days.
If officials call for an evacuation, you’re going to want to leave immediately—not have to stop for gas along with everyone else. Don’t let your gas gauge dip below the halfway mark just to be safe.
Check your home insurance policy to make sure it’s still valid and ensure that you understand what is covered. Most standard policies cover damage caused by flying debris, falling trees and high winds, but many don’t cover flooding—a major problem during hurricanes. You might want to consider purchasing flood insurance if you live in a hurricane-prone region.
Local officials might warn residents to turn off their utilities ahead of a hurricane to prevent gas leaks and dangerous explosions. Make sure you know how to turn off your gas, water and electricity and keep any tools you need on hand.
If stormwater has nowhere to go, it will back up into your home. Remove debris and clogs from rain gutters and other drains to keep water moving and limit the potential for flooding.
To be considered a hurricane, a storm must have sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour. Winds that high can easily topple trees, causing the potential for extensive damage to your home. Keep tree branches trimmed and consider removing any trees within 20 feet of your home.
You want to keep hurricane winds out of your house at all costs. Before the next storm hits, check your garage door to make sure it’s functioning properly and reinforce or replace it, if needed.
Once hurricane winds enter a property, the likelihood of severe structural damage goes through the roof (no pun intended). Residents of hurricane-prone regions might consider installing permanent aluminum or steel storm shutters. Don’t have the funds for that? Hire a contractor to make temporary covers for your doors and windows out of ⅝-inch exterior grade or marine plywood. That way, when meteorologists predict a hurricane, you can install your temporary shutters quickly and easily.
When was the last time you had your roof inspected? If you’re not sure, it might be time to call a contractor to ensure that your roof is sturdy enough to withstand hurricane winds.
If you have a basement, you’ll want to waterproof it to prevent flooding damage. Fill any cracks or holes, coat the interior with waterproof masonry cement, install flexible connections to downspouts to keep water away from your foundation and create a dry well for excess rainwater.
If you eventually have to file an insurance claim for hurricane damage, you’ll need a detailed inventory of everything you own. The easiest way to prepare this quickly is through photos. Walk through your house and snap a photo of everything you can think of—that way, you won’t have to rack your brains trying to remember how many books you had in the bookshelf later on.
Those 74- to 157-mile-per-hour winds can lift up patio furniture, garbage cans and bicycles like they weigh nothing. Bring anything you can indoors so that it doesn’t become a flying projectile during a hurricane.
What about other objects that are too heavy to lift? Anything you can’t bring inside by yourself should be permanently attached to the ground in your backyard. Use heavy chains to attach grills, swing sets and other large objects to the ground.
As soon as you get word of an approaching hurricane, set your fridge and freezer to the coldest setting. Chilling your food as much as possible will help it last longer in the event of a power outage.
Move any small appliances or electronics at least a few feet off the floor to prevent them from rusting or corroding. Think about anything that has an electrical cord: TVs, microwaves, blenders, speakers, vacuum cleaners, desktop computers and so on.
If your home floods, large area rugs will soak up stormwater like a sponge. Roll them up and set them upright to keep them dry.
Put your most valuable possessions as high in your home as you possibly can. Take them upstairs if you have a second floor or store them on the highest shelves in the house.
Before you turn off your water supply, fill bathtubs, sinks and even buckets with clean water that you can use for flushing the toilet, bathing and cleaning. You might not need this water, but it could prove useful if your water supply is off for several days.
You’ll need to listen for hurricane warnings and other updates from elected officials during a storm. Consider purchasing an NOAA weather radio to stay up-to-date on the latest information.
Once you’ve prepared your home as best you can, there’s only one thing left to do: hunker down and ride out the storm. Stay away from doors, windows and any other openings. Of course, if local officials have directed you to evacuate, do so immediately.