Hurricane Safety Tips: What to do Before, During, and After a Hurricane to Avoid Damage and Stay Safe (Updated for 2019)
May 5 through 11, 2019 is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. The 2018 hurricane season was the third consecutive above-average hurricane season. There was over $50 billion in damaged caused by 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. Now is the time to review these hurricane safety tips and make plans for the upcoming season.
Predictions for the 2019 Hurricane Season
In the Atlantic region, hurricane season is June 1 through November 30. The peak of hurricane activity typically runs from mid-August to late October. In the Eastern Pacific region, hurricane season is May 15 through November 30. The average hurricane season produces 12 named storms. 6 total storms become hurricanes, with 3 of them becoming major hurricanes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a near-normal hurricane season in 2019. This is due in part to warmer than average temperatures. They are predicting 9 to 15 named storms, 4 to 8 of which could become hurricanes. At this time, they expect 2 to 4 of those storms could become major hurricanes. NOAA is 70% confident in their prediction.
Hurricane Watch Versus Hurricane Warning
While the terms watch and warning can be confusing, knowing the difference is critical to staying safe during storm season.
Watch – It is possible that a hurricane may impact the identified areas within the next 48 hours. If the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane watch for your area, check your emergency disaster supply kit, review evacuation routes and emergency preparedness plan, and listen to local officials.
Warning – A hurricane is expected to impact the identified areas within the next 36 hours. If the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning, comply with evacuation orders from local officials and inform friends and family of your evacuation plans.
Planning in Advance for a Hurricane
The best time to plan for a hurricane is before the season even starts. You can complete these hurricane safety tips before there is any risk of storms.
- Plan where you will go – Plan an evacuation destination in advance, should local officials order an evacuation. Have a few options so you can adjust depending on the path of the storm.
- Pack a go-bag early – Pack a few sets of clothes, toiletries, copies of important documents, first aid supplies, a flashlight, an extra phone charger, and some money. Keep a checklist of medications you take with the bag so you don’t forget them.
- Stock up on supplies – In case you don’t need to evacuate, stock up on shelf-stable food, bottled water, batteries, and toilet paper. By planning in advance, you can avoid the rush when the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane watch or warning.
- Have a communication plan – Have a plan in place for communicating with your immediate family, as well as friends and family in the area and across the country. Talking with them in advance will save time and limit confusion before, during, and after the storm.
General Hurricane Safety Tips
The National Weather Service recommends the following actions when a tropical storm or hurricane threatens:
- Prevent damage by covering windows with hurricane shutters or marine grade ⅝ inch plywood. Consider installs roof straps or clips and reinforcing garage doors as well.
- Move patio furniture and other outdoor items inside or to a secure location to prevent them from blowing away or causing additional damage.
- Clean gutters and check that downspouts are working properly.
- Trim trees and plants around your yard.
- Stayed tuned to weather alerts and the latest storm news.
- Fill your gas tank. Consider storing extra gas for your car or a generator if you can do so safely.
- Follow instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if an evacuation order is given.
- Grab your hurricane emergency kit and remember to pack medications.
- Turn off your water, gas, and electric from the main shutoff valves and breaker boxes before the storm hits.
- If not ordered to evacuate, take refuge in an interior room, putting as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
- The eye of the storm may give a false sense of calm. Wait for the storm to pass completely before leaving your refuge.
What to do After a Hurricane
Even though the storm may have passed, your area could still be at risk.
- Continue to listen to weather and news alerts.
- Do not return to your home until given the all clear by local officials.
- Limit your phone use. Phone lines may be down or overloaded. Follow up with only one friend or family member and ask them to contact everyone else.
- Avoid driving unless absolutely necessary. Contact utility companies if you encounter downed power lines or other major obstructions.
What to do When Returning Home
Follow these post-hurricane safety tips to make your return home as safe as possible.
- Remain calm. The storm was stressful for everyone, including other residents and first responders. Avoid letting your frustrations get the better of you.
- Keep valid identification easily accessible. You may need to pass several checkpoints to reach your home.
- Take the most direct path back to your home. Stick to major streets and drive cautiously at all times. Do not drive through flooded areas and watch out for downed power lines and other hazards. Do not go sightseeing.
- Once you enter your home, do not use matches, machinery, or electrical items until you have verified there is no risk of a gas leak.
- Wear long pants and sleeves and use water resistance bandages on all open wounds to prevent bacterial contamination.
- Carefully inspect your home for damage and hazards before turning utilities back on. Do not turn utilities back on if there is damage.
- Document all damage for insurance claims. Keep receipts for items associated with your evacuation, including gas and hotels.
- Look out for rodents, insects, and reptiles displaced by the storm. Give wild animals space and avoid irritating or antagonizing them.
- Use bottled water, as bacteria from storm surge waters may contaminate municipal supply lines. Avoid drinking, cooking with, and showering with tap water until local authorities indicate it is safe. Allow water to run for the recommended period of time once given the all clear.
For more information about hurricane safety tips, review the Ready.gov Hurricane guide and the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Resources.
Get Hurricane Damage Restoration
If you need restoration after a hurricane, Restoration Local will connect you with a qualified water damage restoration company. Our on-call water damage restoration contractors offer water extraction, mold remediation, dry-out, and rebuild services. For emergency response, call 1-888-443-3110 now to speak to a contractor in your area. You can also choose a local water damage restoration company from our directory. We have listings for local restoration companies from major franchises like Belfor to independent contractors in your area.