Most of the time, living along the southeastern coast of the United States is a heavenly, peaceful environment full of stunning sunsets, nearly year-round warm temperatures, and a booming real estate market. For a few months of the year, however, the risk of hurricanes or tropical storms threatens these idyllic surroundings. It’s important to make sure that you have a plan in place (even in the sunny weather) so when bad storms do appear, you and your home are prepped and ready. Here are some tips to make sure you ride out the storms like a pro!
If you need to evacuate
Sometimes, a storm is bad enough that you are encouraged or required to evacuate. Here are the steps you should take to prepare:
• Pay attention to the news: hurricanes luckily give you some time to evacuate. Keep your eye on the local news and weather stations leading up to the storm’s landfall to see if an evacuation is imminent. Pre-pack your bags and car if you think an evacuation might be called for so that you’re ready to go.
• Find pet-friendly shelters: many emergency evacuation shelters are not pet-friendly, so if you have a furry friend, you’re definitely going to want to do your homework ahead of time to find space at a pet-friendly hotel, shelter, or boarding facility.
• Plan your evacuation route: whether you’re going to stay with friends and/or family, at a hotel, or at a shelter, be sure to plan your route ahead of time, keeping in mind different road closures.
• Turn off utilities: before you leave your home, turn off your gas, electricity, and water to prevent internal damage to your home. Also plan to board up your windows and doors to prevent breakage from the wind / debris.
If you plan to stay
A majority of the time, the hurricanes aren’t bad enough to necessitate an evacuation (note: if an evacuation is called for, be sure to get out of Dodge!), meaning that if you want, you can choose to ride it out. Hurricanes and tropical storms often carry high-speed winds, rain, tornadoes, and hail, which can be damaging to your property.
Make sure you always have the following on hand:
• Emergency kit: this includes first aid, bottles of water, non-perishable food, flashlight and extra batteries, battery-powered radio, garbage bags, extra prescription medications and glasses, battery-powered cell phone charger, and fire extinguisher. More tips for packing an emergency kit can be found here. Having a backup cell phone battery charger is smart too!
• List of emergency contacts: hurricanes and tropical storms can get worse really quickly, so be sure you have a list of people to call in case you end up needing to evacuate.
• Wooden boards to board up windows & wood screws: one of the most expensive and easiest to prevent hurricane storm damage is window damage. Store your wood boards in your garage or storage shed during sunny days, ready to install when the time comes. Some insurance companies even give you a discount for having the boards in your home!
• Gas up your car: If the call comes to evacuate, many gas stations might be low or completely out of fuel. Skip having to wait in line and make sure you car is gassed up and ready to go, just in case.
• Non-perishable food and water: even in storms that are not hurricane-level, you may experience power outages for extended periods of time. Be sure to have some non-perishable food that can be eaten without the use of a stove in case you do lose power. Bottles of water are always a good investment, too! Also, consider stocking up on extra pet food.
• Set up camp: right before the storm comes, it’s a good idea to set up camp in a room on the ground level, away from windows and doors. Consider moving a mattress to the middle of the room, and perhaps placing a table over it for protection from debris, should there be any.
• Move valuables up high: If you have expensive electronics or other valuables, be sure to move them off the ground, in case of any flooding.
Host or attend a Hurricane Party
If you plan to stick out a storm that doesn’t have mandatory evacuation (seriously, if they tell you to evacuate, you should evacuate), you might consider throwing or attending a hurricane party if you live on high ground or know someone else who does and is planning to stay.
Elements of a successful hurricane party include:
• Friends / family who are planning to wait out the storm
• Alcohol of some sort (bonus points if drinks are hurricane-themed)
• Non-perishable snacks / food (a potluck is a good way to go)
• Games that can still be fun if the power goes out
• Battery-operated speakers (for playing music)
• Sleeping arrangements for your guests
• Lots of fully-charged external battery packs for cell phones
• Emergency contact list
Remember, always pay attention to your local news outlet during hurricane season so that you know when to start making immediate preparations. When in doubt, plan to evacuate. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! Visit Ready.gov for more detailed information on Hurricane Preparedness.