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Hurricane Preparedness Week in the U.S.

May 10, 2021

NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory has published the full record of hurricanes that have hit the U.S. coastline since 1851. The total is 298, and of those, 92 are classified as major hurricanes, rated as Category 3 and higher. That means their winds were over 111 mph.

Of those nearly 300 total hurricanes, 40 percent have hit Florida. Of the major hurricanes, 88 percent have hit either Florida or Texas. If you live in those states, there’s a very good chance you’ll see yet another hurricane, or two, maybe three, this coming season. There’s also a strong likelihood of seeing hurricanes hit any of the states on the Gulf or Atlantic coasts.

Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November 30. Fortunately, we still have time to prepare. Let’s get started. 

Prepare Your Home

Your home can be an excellent shelter from all but the worst weather. At that point, it’s wise to evacuate. 

Here’s a list of tasks for preparing your home along with a list of steps to take immediately before a hurricane. 

  • Review home insurance. Homeowners insurance typically covers flooding damage caused by burst pipes, overflowing tubs, and leaking appliances. It doesn’t usually cover floods from hurricanes and storms. Check with your insurance agent or the National Flood Insurance Program on coverage that’s available.
  • Set up weather notifications. Monitor NOAA weather radio or use a weather smartphone app to set up alerts for dangerous weather. FEMA also has a mobile app for keeping up with alerts and for finding open shelters.
  • Trim trees. In the strong winds of a hurricane, tree branches can break off, gather speed in the wind, and hit your home. Keep your trees trimmed to remove dead branches and to keep any branches from growing above your home.
  • Maintain your roof. Another regular maintenance task is to repair loose or missing shingles as well as damaged roof vents. That type of damage can allow rain into your attic, and onto ceilings and walls.
  • Keep gutters clear. Gutters and downspouts should also be cleaned out and repaired. They move rain off your roof and guide it away from the foundation. Any pooling around the foundation, particularly if the ground is already saturated, can cause basement or crawl space flooding.
  • Check the foundation drainage system. Make sure your basement or crawl space is waterproof using the necessary drainage systems. A sump pump with battery backup is essential during power outages.
  • Add an emergency generator. A small emergency generator can really help during the possible days without power after a hurricane. Use it to keep appliances running. Test it before a hurricane to make sure you know how to start it and that you have the needed extension cords. Never run the generator indoors.
  • Keep backup fuel on hand. Several days of fuel for the generator will be required to keep things going. It’s also wise to have propane on hand for an outdoor grill. A chainsaw can be useful in removing downed trees and large branches. Make sure you have gasoline for it.
  • Move vehicles. Move your cars and trucks to the garage or other covered protection. Fill the gas tanks just in case fuel is hard to come by after the hurricane. Make sure you know how to open the garage door manually since power may be lost.
  • Secure outdoor furniture. Move lawn chairs and patio furniture into storage. In the high winds they can become airborne and cause considerable damage to your home and your neighbors’ homes.
  • Cover windows and secure doors. Should a window break, it will not only let in rain but wind. Once the wind finds an opening, it can put a great deal of pressure on the walls and on the roof. Put plywood over your windows or hurricane shutters. Add a wind-load garage door.
  • Set up an emergency family shelter. Designate a part of your basement or an interior room without windows as a family emergency shelter. Stock it with emergency supplies and make sure your family knows where to take shelter.
  • Stock emergency supplies. Hurricanes can bring down power lines and trees, closing down everything for several days. That means you could be in your shelter for that length of time. Stock it with food, water, first-aid supplies, a flashlight, prescription medications, and so on. Ready.gov has a detailed listing titled basic disaster supplies kit.

Prepare Your Family

While you’re preparing your home for hurricanes, it’s important to also prepare your family. Here’s a list of steps to take now.

  • Write a family emergency plan. This document addressed what to do in the case of a major disaster such as a hurricane. It should have information not only about actions to take at home, but also address what to do if you’re away from home. Ready.gov has a superb family emergency plan as a starting point.
  • Add school and work plans. It’s also important to be aware of what’s happening at work and at school. Review those plans and add the highlights to your own emergency plan. This will help everyone in your family be prepared wherever they are when a storm or hurricane hits.
  • Read the community hurricane response plan. Your community’s hurricane response plan will have important details about notification methods, evacuation plans, and shelter locations. This should be included in your family plan.
  • Set up family emergency contact numbers. Incorporate everyone’s contact numbers in your emergency plan. This should include workplace and school numbers. It should also be on your smartphone. This document will serve as a backup in case something happens to your phone.
  • Establish an emergency meeting location. Your family may get separated due to sheltering in place wherever they may be. It’s wise to set up an emergency meeting location should your home be damaged or access to it restricted. It would also be prudent to set up backup meeting locations as well.
  • Practice your plan together. All too often, our plans can fall apart when put into action. It’s wise to conduct a practice session, or at a minimum, a briefing session. That will help obtain input from other family members who might catch things you’ve missed. You can make those corrections now before the hurricane.

Prepare for Evacuation

Hurricanes are not only ferocious but also completely unpredictable. It could be that you’ll be ordered to evacuate or that damage will preclude you from staying at home. In those cases, you’ll need to be prepared to evacuate your home and the area.

Your community’s hurricane response plan will provide the location of shelters. You’ll need to plan routes to those shelters as well as backup routes in case of road closure or flooding. Finally, have a subset of your emergency supplies that you can toss in your car and take to the shelter.

Find out how Groundworks experts are helping homeowners protect their properties from hurricanes and flooding.