How to Prepare When a Hurricane Is Coming Your Way

August 29, 2023 by Dan McCue
How to Prepare When a Hurricane Is Coming Your Way
Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida. (NOAA photo)

WASHINGTON — Right on schedule, just as hurricane season enters its most active period, Hurricane Idalia is making its approach towards Florida’s Gulf Coast, Hurricane Franklin is slowly making its way towards Bermuda, and two more waves are in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa.

Those in the path of the storm should already have taken steps to prepare themselves and their property. Those living in hurricane-prone areas should be planning, packing emergency kits and preparing for the future. 

So Just What Should You Do to Prepare for the Passing Storm?

Nail down a plan for your family.

The experts agree, the first and best thing anyone can do long before a hurricane threatens the coast is to craft a personal storm preparation plan.

Emergency management directors have long maintained that it is essential everyone in the family knows early on what the plan is, and what each person’s role is in that plan.

Your first objective, of course, is to make sure you and your family are as safe as possible.

And your plan should cover not just what to do as the storm threatens and hits, but what you should do afterward.

Here are some things to consider:

Where do you want to be during a hurricane?

Your options are simple. You can stay home. You can go to a shelter. Or you can go to a friend’s home or a hotel.

If you do decide to get out of town, make that decision early. 

In 1999, when Hurricane Floyd threatened Florida, an estimated 2.6 million people in four states decided to hit the road, many of them at the last minute.

In the state of Florida alone there wasn’t a single hotel room — anywhere — by the time the storm brushed the coastlines. Most reservation clerks recommended driving as far as Alabama or Louisiana if you were in need of a room.

The point is, study all the alternatives and decide which is best for you and your family. Be specific in your planning. If you are leaving town, where will you go?

Do you have a backup plan?

Okay you’ve got a plan, but do you have somewhere to go if there’s a problem you did not foresee. If you’re going to an emergency shelter, know which one you’re supposed to go to and how to get there. If you’re leaving town, have locations in mind.

If you have pets, be sure to check if the shelter or hotel is pet-friendly. Many are not and you don’t want to be stuck sleeping in your car, or on the road, with your pets as the storm hits.

What will you do if your family gets separated?

Have a designated meeting place and a backup.

Who else knows your plans?

Friends and relatives, especially those living outside of your area, are going to be worried about you as they see reports of a hurricane bearing down on your state.

Long before the storm strikes, tell family members who live outside your area what you’re going to do in case of a hurricane. If you’re leaving town, tell them where you are going. If you’re staying put, let them know and try to communicate with them as soon as the emergency has passed. If you change plans, let them know.

Are your kids up to speed on their role in your family plan?

It is important to involve everyone in the family, especially the children, in your preparations. Each family member should have responsibilities so that work is shared and nothing is overlooked.

Who’s minding the kids?

There probably isn’t a more hectic time than when a hurricane is churning off the coast. Decide now who picks them up from school during a storm threat if both parents work. Start helping them now to deal with any fears. Explain what a hurricane is, what it can do and what preparations your family is making to contend with one.

Have you prepared your children emotionally for the coming storm?

Long before the season begins, parents should begin explaining to children what hurricanes are, the dangers they pose and the safety measures to take against them.

Explain to your children that a hurricane is a giant rain and windstorm, destructive and dangerous, but survivable with preparation and precaution. The more children know about the storm and safety procedures, the more confident they will be. But keep it simple — detailed information is useless if children can’t digest it.

Have you prepared for those with special needs?

Make arrangements right away for family members who have special needs. Remember that if someone depends on electrical life-support, there probably will be no power after a storm.

Where are your important papers?

Collect your important documents and items in the off-season. Put the papers and items into a waterproof container, then keep the container in a safe place, perhaps a safety deposit box. 

Among documents to gather are:

  • Birth certificates for all family members.
  • Insurance policies — homeowners, flood, life, medical, auto, boat, plane, and other documents that outline property insurance coverage.
  • Identification — including passports, visas, Social Security or voter registration cards — for all members of the family. If your neighborhood is damaged, you might need such identification to gain access to your property.
  • Utility bills, even for those you pay online.
  • Backup discs containing all important files.

Do you have a photographic or video recording of your belongings?

This will help speed payment of an insurance claim. Business owners should do the same for equipment in the workplace.

Additional tips:

Fill up your gas tank or charge up your car: Even if you are staying put, the power will most likely be out after the storm and if you need to travel for any reason, you will not be able to fill up or charge up.

Move methodically:  As you go from room to room, document their contents. If you are recording a video, state how much you paid for an item and where you bought it. If using still photos, make a list of the same information.

Keep receipts: Keep all receipts, especially for big-ticket items such as stoves, refrigerators, stereos, computers, printers, phones, etc.

Inventory storage areas: Inventory all storage areas — including the contents of closets and bureaus — the more documentation and detail you can provide in your claim, the faster it should be settled.

Keep records in a safe place: Keep all records and photographic evidence in a safe place off premises. Makes two copies of videos and photos. Update them occasionally, especially after holidays or at the start of hurricane season.

Have you set some emergency cash aside?

A hurricane could and very likely will disrupt banking schedules. Automated teller machines, credit and debit cards don’t work in a world without electricity, and even if they are up and running after a storm, they may run out of cash before the threat of an emergency is over.

Don’t charge your credit cards to the limit, you may need them to get more cash after the storm.

Planning is key to avoiding price gougers who appear after calamity strikes. Buy as many supplies as you can, especially big ticket-items like generators, before a hurricane threatens and demand skyrockets.

Above all, plan, prepare and pay attention! It could save your life.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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