Just how much can you prepare for the unexpected? In the case of a hurricane, quite a bit. Unlike tornadoes and earthquakes, hurricanes are often forecast days ahead of landfall, giving residents no excuse not to take precautions.
And just like with most things in life, preparedness is key. You may have to evacuate. You might be confined to your home. What will you do if water, gas, electricity or phone services are shut off? How will you keep in touch with family? And on the lighter side, how will you keep drinks cold? Here’s a roundup of our top hurricane preparedness tips, as well as a few less-conventional household “hacks” for staying for more comfortable in a serious storm.
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- Find out if you live in an evacuation zone and recognize your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind
- Understand National Weather Service forecasts and NWS watches and warnings
- Put together a basic disaster supplies kit and consider storage locations for different situations
- Have an emergency kit in your car
- Have a Family Emergency and Communication Plan (account for at least three days of food and water at home)
- Pet owners should have plans to care for their animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer information on animal health impacts in evacuation shelters
- Be sure to safely store or bring all important documents – birth certificates, insurance policies, etc.
- Know how to shut off utilities
- Board up windows and secure loose items like patio furniture
- Review the FEMA Evacuation Guidelines. Follow instructions given by local officials
- Consider your protection options to decide whether to stay or evacuate your home if you are not ordered to evacuate
During the Storm
- Take shelter in a sturdy building; avoid isolated sheds or other small structures, open areas, hilltops, the beach or boats
- Listen for warning sirens, stay away from windows and exterior doors, and seek shelter in a bathroom or basement
- Avoid contact with electrical equipment, cords, metal and water
- Wait until an area is declared safe before returning home
- Remember that recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process
- Learn about safe cleanup from local authorities, or visit www.cdc.gov
Tampa Bay Times Executive Editor Mark Katches asked readers for tips and “hacks” that would help Florida newcomers get ready during hurricane season. Here are excerpts from those reader submissions.
- Use the time before the storm to catch up on laundry. Plus, you can use the empty washing machine for your impromptu beverage cooler
- Fill a bathtub with water you can use to flush the toilets
- Freeze bags of water in case you need ice later
- Keep all the essentials, including cash and important papers, ready in case you need to leave
- An emergency bag should also include bedding and pillows you can use at a shelter
- You may want to invest in — gasp — actual physical maps. Have real paper maps so when you evacuate, you can take back roads. Your smartphone may do you no good
Batteries, Fans, Headlamps
- Battery-powered fans will save your sanity after the power (and air conditioning) goes out
- A headlamp can also come in handy when it’s pitch black at night
- Purchase a few pieces of sod to give dogs a safe place to go to the bathroom
- For insurance purposes, take photos of your home before damage hits
- Acquire renter’s insurance if you don’t already have it