How to Survive a Hurricane: Hurricane Safety Tips

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What to do Before, During and After a Hurricane

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What to do if a hurricane is in the forecast? 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.

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

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 5/8” 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 floodwater will knock a grown man down. Do NOT underestimate the power of moving waters.

Learn More

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

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

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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