After every hurricane, you hear about the ways lives are lost. All of them are heartbreaking; many of them are preventable. This isn't about assigning blame; we all make mistakes, miscalculations and bad choices — and 99 percent of the time, those choices don't end up killing us. But there will always be a next time, which means there's always something to be learned. So if a hurricane is coming your way, keep these things in mind.

1. If your local government tells you to evacuate, get the heck out.

Despite warnings, many people remain in evacuation zones, and when the weather gets crazy, and they try to get out at the last minute, they can't. Some victims drown in their own homes because they weren't expecting the storm to be as bad as it was. Your life is worth more than your stuff, and spending a night away from home (even if a storm ends up being not-so-bad) is always the smartest choice. Hurricanes are just too hard to predict with pinpoint accuracy. Evacuate when advised to do so. When you don't, you not only put yourself in harm's way, but also the emergency personnel who will do their best to help you.

2. If you run a generator, you should have a carbon monoxide detector.

Several people have died in past hurricanes because they were powering their homes with generators that slowly poisoned them with carbon monoxide, which is tasteless, odorless and invisible. This kind of accidental death is entirely preventable, and the detectors cost all of $20-$25; so nobody should ever use a generator without a battery-powered detector in addition. In fact, you should be already have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, along with smoke detectors. (There are even combo units.)

3. Don't sleep or spend time in rooms susceptible to tree falls; be sure to remove dead or dying trees that threaten your home.

There is no way to prevent all deaths from falling trees unless we eliminate trees (and that's not a good idea because trees store CO2 and produce oxygen), but the next best thing is to be aware of dead or dying trees near your home. Have them or large dead limbs removed if possible; if not, take a look at where they could fall during a storm, and avoid those rooms. For instance, I work and sleep in the attic on the third floor of my house, which, considering the height of my home and the surrounding trees, is the only area that could be a safety hazard due to falling trees. When there's a storm, I sleep in my much-safer first-floor living room and work downstairs, too.

4. Don't wander around outside.

In past hurricanes, several people have been squashed by trees, electrocuted by fallen wires, washed away, or had heart attacks while outside during the storm; it's safer to be inside during a hurricane. (Honestly, my boyfriend and I took a walk on the evening of a hurricane's landfall, and almost walked under a huge flapping piece of metal flashing that was dangerous enough that the NYFD showed up later to pull it down; if our timing had been worse, we could easily have been hit by it.)

5. Avoid your basement.

This one sounds a bit weird, but in past hurricanes, high number of people have been found in their basements post-hurricane, having drowned there. If your basement is filling with water, don't risk getting trapped down there or risking a slip and fall. And don't go down to the basement if the water is rising.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

5 things not to do during a hurricane
We can all learn a lesson from the tragedies of the last big hurricane. Here are steps you can take to stay safe.