Flood Damage, Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, Water Damage

Hurricane Safety Tips: What to do Before, During, and After a Hurricane to Avoid Damage and Stay Safe (Updated for 2018)

Hurricane Safety Tips
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May 6 through 12, 2018 is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. The 2017 hurricane season was devastating, so take time to review these hurricane safety tips and make plans for the upcoming 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.

Predictions for the 2018 Hurricane Season

Researchers at both Colorado State University and North Carolina State University are both predicting a slightly above-average hurricane activity in 2018. It is expected there will be 14 to 18 named storms and approximately 7 hurricanes.

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.