How to Survive a Hurricane: Hurricane Safety Tips

What to do Before, During and After a Hurricane

September 3, 2019

What to do if a hurricane is forecasted? Don’t panic. All in one checklist, here is what to do before, during, and after a hurricane. If you live in a susceptible area, it’s especially important that you take precautions on how to survive a hurricane with these safety guidelines.

All U.S. Atlantic seaboard and Gulf coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. See the 2019 Hurricane Forecast and 2019 Hurricane Names.

The below checklist has been developed with tips from National Hurricane Center, FEMA, and the American Red Cross.

What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone that can cause torrential rains, high winds, storm surges, and flooding for 2 weeks or more over open water and can follow a path across the entire length of the eastern seaboard, its coastal areas, and barrier islands. According to the National Hurricane Center, a hurricane is primarily defined by its wind speeds, which must be 74 mph or greater (anything less, and the cyclone is classified as a tropical storm).

Safety Guidelines for Hurricanes

Before a Hurricane

  • Secure your property. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows and doors. A second option is to board up your windows with ⅝” marine plywood—cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent window glass from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Trim trees and shrubs around your home to minimize the risk of broken branches and debris.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts to prevent misdirected flooding.
  • If you have a boat, determine how and where to secure your vessel.
  • Keep articles in your basement elevated to avoid damage from even minor flooding.
  • Put any valuables on high shelves or on a higher floor of your house. This includes photograph albums and irreplaceable keepsakes.
  • Keep any household chemicals on high shelves and ensure they have tight caps. Chemicals that mix into floodwaters are very dangerous and unsafe.
  • Consider building a safe room.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher.
  • Make sure all pets have ID tags.
  • Prepare a document file to take with you in case you need for insurance later!  Photograph or scan important documents like driver’s licenses, social security cards, passports, prescriptions, tax statements and other legal papers. Upload the images online for safekeeping. Store hard copies in a watertight container you will bring with you.
  • Keep a well-stocked Emergency Survival Kit in case you lose power. This includes any prescription medicines, three days’ worth of food and water (for pets, too), and cash.
  • Find all local emergency shelters. Know your evacuation route. Have a “to go” bag ready if needed.
  • Fill plastic bottles with drinking water. Think about what you might need if you are isolated for a number of days and must endure a power outage.
  • Fully fuel your vehicles.
  • Download the Red Cross Emergency App for iPhone or AndroidOr text: ”GETCANE” to 90999

As a Hurricane Approaches

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Stay informed by monitoring the storm via local radio, NOAA radio, TV, and internet. Listen for alerts to evacuate.
  • Secure your home and close storm shutters. Even awnings can be broken and picked up by strong winds and potentially become a projectile.
  • Bring all lawn furniture, grills, trash barrels, bikes, hanging plants, toys, and gardening tools inside or tied down in a secure spot. 
  • Turn off utilities if instructed by authorities to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator and freezer thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Move freezable items from the fridge to the freezer.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Ideally, move any electronics to higher shelves to keep away from water damage.
  • Have your cell phone on a charger so it’s ready to go. Then avoid using the phone except for serious emergencies.
  • Remember: Have a certain amount of cash available. If power is lost, ATMs may not be working.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
  • Have on hand: fire extinguisher, emergency/first aid kit, prescription medicines, flashlight/batteries, blankets/sleeping bags, cooking/eating utensils, canned foods, water bottles, jumper cables, paper maps, GPS, toilet paper, toiletries, rain gear, 
  • Stay inside.

Evacuate under the following conditions:

  • If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Do so immediately (do not wait!) and be sure to follow their instructions.
  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure—such shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes (no matter how well fastened to the ground).
  • If you live in a high-rise building—hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an inland waterway.
  • If you feel that you are in danger.

Have an arranged meeting place for your family in case you get separated! One of the biggest issues in hurricanes is not knowing if your loved ones are safe. Remember that cell phones may not work. You need to communicate ahead of time (like the “old” days)! 

Only return once the authorities declare it is safe. Avoid all flood waters!  Never drive or walk on flooded roads.

During a Hurricane

If you are have not evacuated, go to your safe room. If you do not have a safe room, follow these guidelines:

  • Stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm—winds will pick up again.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.  

After a Hurricane

Recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process. Safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical well-being.

  • Let your friends and family know that you are safe.
  • Do not return home unless authorized to avoid electrical hazards and other dangers.
  • Do NOT drink tap water unless authorized to do so.
  • Check the temperature in your fridge or freezer. Anything that has remained at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder is safe to eat. Otherwise, throw it out to be safe.
  • Also, throw away ANY food that has come in contact with flood waters which may carry waterborne diseases, chemicals, etc. Better safe than sorry.
  • Document any damage with photos and contact your insurance company.
  • In your home, immediately remove or air out water-damaged items. It’s critical to minimize the chance of mold growing in your home.
  • Do NOT drive or walk through floodwaters which may be electrically-charged and filled with contaminants; just six inches of moving flood water will knock a grown man down. Do NOT underestimate the power of moving waters.

Learn More

Floods are more dangerous than winds when it come to hurricanes. See more about flood safety.

For specific health, safety, and rebuilding guidelines regarding recovery, please see the FEMA Web site. 


Reader Comments

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Very important article - hurricanes are a real disaster. Be safe and remember about these rules!

A couple of modern additions.

There are back-up batteries for cell phones that are pretty cheap. Buy several for each device you hope to power and charge them ahead of time. They can give you hours of extra power and you can carry them.

As for your pets, get them microchipped, and be sure to keep your information updated with the company, even years after your pet is lost. Pets have been recovered long after they were lost. Microchips cost about $25, and last as long as your pet. Some companies charge a yearly fee. Make sure you know which kind of chip you are buying. Any vet or county shelter should be able to check for a chip at no cost.

Please do not leave your pet chained where there might be flooding. If you must abandon your pet inside your house, leave out food and plenty of clean water in a high place. Mark on the outside of your house in large letters “cat inside”, or whatever type of pet is there. But please take your pets if you can, and leave early so that you have time to get out with everything that is important, like your pets. There are usually shelters outside of the disaster area set-up to hold pets. Seek one out.


If your staying home when a big hurricane comes(cat.4-5) then its like a bug under a vacume cleaner.Chances of making it are slim , and if you home gets lifted , possibly with you will go with it ! Better to follow advise and evacuate when advised.Providing the home is intact and no rising water , then its back to the primitave days without electricity.Old time homes were designed to breath , and higher ceilings to relieve heat and moisture new homes don't .Older homes were designed stronger, and flexed with high winds and new ones DON'T.Old homes had lots of alternatives for lights and cooking , new ones are mostly electric.Old ways of refridgerating were mostly pickeling jars dehydrated jerky meats,salt cured to avoid mold / bacteria , and cool cellars underground.Milk was delivered daily fresh , and eggs were organic yard chickens everything didn't require a fridge back then.So if you live in a old time farm house , with old time ways,and survived through these monster storms before ; shure stay home , you will probably do just fine.Just keep in mind , the newer homes around you may become flying torpedos.

Hurricane preparation

Good advice, please do similar pages for tornadoes and blizzards.

More suggestions

Living in South Louisiana, I have been through 10+ hurricanes including Camille, Andrew and Rita I have few suggestions that I would like to add. I guess these follow under the 'Family Disaster Kit' you mentioned,
Make sure all your devices are fully charged.
Flashlights and batteries.(Very important)
Bottled water
Cook a few meals and freeze them.
There will be lines in the stores so don't delay: Bags of ice and nonperishables.
A generator would be helpful but DO NOT TRY TO RUN ELECTRICITY FOR YOUR ENTIRE HOUSE. If you are a coffee fanatic like me, and your power is out, hook up the coffee pot.

Don't forget the essential drink for all south Louisiana cities.....The Hurricane!
Of course beer and margaritas come in handy.

Thank you

The Editors's picture

Thanks, Pat. This is a great advice from someone who’s been there—many times!  Stay safe–and hydrated. :-)


I'm commenting a few years too late. If you decide to run a generator, make sure you place it so your neighbor won't have to inhale the fumes.

surviving a hurricane

keep me safe!!!!

What if you don't have a

What if you don't have a basement?


you will be flooded in



How to use electricity when a

How to use electricity when a hurricane is upon us. We have seen cases of fatal accidents, with electricity.I wonder, is it safe to use appliances during a storm.
Thank you

Hi, Mattew: If a hurricane is

The Editors's picture

Hi, Mattew: If a hurricane is "upon" you, you should be hunkered down, as you know. Period. Is it safe to use appliances? Possibly, maybe even probably. Is it wise to use appliances? Definitely not. Are you going to get some sort of surge if you're holding something and outside wires get downed and crossed? Who wants to find out? The best thing to do, if at all possible, is to get those laptops and phones fully charged when you know that a hurricane is on the way, and then turn off the power to your house. The less live juice there is around, the more live you and yours there are going to be around. We can also report this: One time in big wind storm, a local low voltage line got dropped onto a higher-voltage one. This not only blew out power to our whole village, but blew out all the surge protectors and outlets in our house, which had that burning smell. There was smoke coming out of the outlets. No fire, thankfully, but it wasn't pretty. We commend you for even thinking about electricity in a hurricane -- it's one of those lurking dangers that no one ever thinks about!

You have to be careful if you

You have to be careful if you live in a lower elevation. I knew people who were killed in a storm surge flood.......they can sometimes even destroy safe rooms.

Natural dissters

Why do natural disasters occur?

natural disasters

The Editors's picture

Natural disasters usually occur because of movements in the Earth (such as earthquakes) or extreme weather events (such as hurricanes or floods).

Coming from someone who has

Coming from someone who has been in the middle of two hurricanes I cannot back up this article enough. This is sound advice and I hope everyone listens. If you study the weather patterns enough and know what the high pressure ridge is then you will know when it is time to prepare.