If you're familiar with hurricane history, you know that anyone living along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico needs to know how to prepare for massive tropical storms.
And because hurricanes pose a variety of threats — flooding, high winds, storm surges, tornadoes — it is important to prepare in advance and to follow the hurricane safety tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other emergency management officials.
Before a hurricane
- Pack an emergency preparedness kit that will meet the needs of you and your family for three days. The kit, of course, will be handy in the wake of any natural or man-made disaster. An emergency preparedness kit needs to include food and water for each member of your family for three days, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, spare batteries, first aid kit, can opener, toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation. A complete list of recommended items for an emergency kit can be found at Ready.gov, FEMA’s emergency preparedness website.
- Store emergency supplies in an easy-to-carry plastic storage container or duffel bag, making them easy to grab and go should local emergency management officials order an evacuation.
- In addition to the essentials in the emergency preparedness kit, pack sleeping bags or blankets, paper towels, books, puzzles, board games and special foods that will make a stay in a shelter more comfortable.
- Board up windows using 5/8” marine plywood. Using tape on windows won’t prevent them from breaking.
- Fill the gas tank of your car.
- Know emergency routes and make transportation arrangements. Identify a place away from home where you can go if you have to leave.
- Get a supply of cash.
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting so that food will last longer should the power go out. Keep the doors closed as much as possible to hold in the cold.
- Gather and store inside anything that might turn into a missile: lawn furniture, lawn art, garbage cans, tools.
- Fill your bathtubs — and other large containers — to make sure you have a supply of water for cleaning and flushing toilets. This is in addition to your supply of drinking water.
- Follow directions regarding evacuation, especially if you live in a mobile home, a high-rise building, on the coast or in a floodplain.
Hurricane Sandy hits Marblehead, Massachusetts, in October, 2012. (Photo: Brian Birke/flickr)
During a hurricane
- Brace external doors.
- Close interior doors.
- Close all curtains and blinds, even if you have plywood over the windows.
- Wait out the storm in an interior, windowless room or closet on the ground floor.
- If the power is out, use flashlights instead of candles.
- Listen to news and weather reports.
After a hurricane
- Check everyone for injuries. Administer first aid, but don’t move anyone seriously injured unless they are at risk for further injury.
- Be alert to hazards created by hurricane damage such as broken glass and downed power lines.
- Stay off flooded roads.
- When returning to your home if you’ve been evacuated, walk carefully around the outside and look for damage such as loose power lines and gas leaks. Do not enter the house if it is still surrounded by floodwaters or if you smell natural gas.
- Throw out any food that was not kept at proper temperatures or that was exposed to flood waters.
- Take photographs of damage to your house and the contents to show when filing an insurance claim.
This story first appeared on MNN in August 2011. It has been updated to reflect additional information.