Hurricane season is ramping up, and it's right on track to be active in September and October. During this time of year, people who live in hurricane-prone areas need to be prepared well in advance of an incoming storm to help them evacuate quickly or protect their homes.
Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of FLASH, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, said "We always tell families to start by preparing the people, so when it comes to getting the family ready the first thing that they need to do is decide where you are going to be."
Chapman-Henderson emphasized the importance of following evacuation orders when they are put in place for a location. Besides knowing where you will go when you evacuate, it is also important to know how you are going to get there. Plans should extend beyond just taking cover at your local shelter, as spaces may be limited.
Make sure you prepare an emergency kit, including food and water supplies, medicine and pet supplies. Remember to have easy access to important documents, paperwork, family photos and items that are not easily replaced should damage to the home occur.
If evacuation is not an option, an emergency kit is also a critical step for those who plan to stay home and ride out a storm. Often the real danger in surviving a hurricane is not just about lasting through the storm, but staying protected in its aftermath. Powerful hurricanes can knock out power, bridges and roads for days that can leave those behind stranded and without provisions. An adequate supply of nonperishable food, medicine, batteries and clean drinking water (a gallon per person, per day) should be enough to last many days after a storm.
When staying behind in a hurricane, people should always stay indoors and make sure that pets are kept inside.
Even those who are not in the direct path of the storm are at risk of power outages, so those near a storm's target area should take steps to ensure protection should they lose power. Generators can be incredibly helpful to those facing the possibility of a long term power outage.
"We tell families to just close their eyes and think about what would you regret not doing if you were sitting right now and a storm was coming, and that will tell them 'oh, I should get my flashlights out and get some fresh batteries'," Chapman-Henderson said.
It will be much easier to get these plans and supplies together while it is still relatively calm, rather than trying to fight through crowds and the panic that comes with last-minute planning. By having plans in place early, people can face a storm with more calm knowing that they are already prepared.
Chapman-Henderson recommends staying prepared all year round, regardless of location, in case of any kind of natural disaster.
This includes having plans in place to protect your homes and property.
One of the biggest threats to a home during a hurricane is wind damage. Before evacuating, or if trying to ride out a storm, closing storm shutters or boarding up doors and windows will help to prevent this damage. Hurricane winds can exceed 157 mph. Winds of this magnitude can easily blow out doors, especially garage doors, and windows and can tear through a house. By giving these entry points extra protection, you may be able to minimize damage to your home.
Roofs are also susceptible to high wind damage. Checking your attic before a storm comes in can help assess the vulnerability of a roof. Water stains or loose nails can signal weak points in a roof that a professional may need to come in and repair before a storm arrives. Anchoring a roof is another option for protecting it during a storm. FLASH.org has instructions for how to DIY repair weak spots in a roof.
The most damaging aspect of a hurricane is typically flooding and storm surge. For many homes in areas where flooding is likely, home owner's insurance will not cover the damage that comes with storm surge when a hurricane hits. Having supplemental flood insurance can help. This insurance can take up to 30 days to go into effect, so having it ahead of a storm is crucial.
"So often, evacuation decisions can make the difference between life and death," Chapman-Henderson said. "At the minimum, they make the difference in comfort."
She stressed that regardless of how often your area is hit by storms or how well you may have been able to ride out a storm in the past, each threat should be taken seriously and prepared for adequately. She citied Sandy as an example, explaining that many people in the Northeast may have prepared for Hurricane Irene and not experienced very much damage. This led some to put their guards down when Sandy moved through, which may have contributed to unnecessary losses of life.