How to Stay Safe During a Hurricane
After our first hurricane since living in Texas, we realized there was a lot we didn’t know. I know there are many more people out there who aren’t quite sure what to do in the event of a major hurricane. We’re sharing these with you in hope that they’ll help you stay safe and be as comfortable as possible in the event that you lose power or find flood waters seeping into your home. Here’s what you need to know:
Hurricane Survival Tips
1. Evacuate. Evacuate. Evacuate.
When you can and it’s safe to do so, leave low-lying areas or danger zones and move inland and to elevated areas. Call a friend, contact a shelter in another city or make plans to stay in a hotel. Fill up on gas and get out of town as soon as you are able to. In the event that you can’t get away, here are more tips to help you stay safe.
2. Fill your car with gas.
If you don’t plan to evacuate, at least make sure that you’re family cars or rentals are loaded and full of gas. It’s not a bad idea to fill a couple of gas cans and keep those in your trunk just in case. It’s always better to be prepared, than to need it and not have it.
3. Have plenty of cash on hand.
In the event that the power goes out, stores may not be able to sell you items by using a credit or debit card. Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand to buy emergency supplies, for hotel stays or to help another person in need, should the situation arise.
4. Make sure you stock up on water and food.
Sometimes power can be out for a week or even longer. Make sure you’re well prepared with plenty of fresh drinking water. Often times flooding will cause sewage and chemicals to infiltrate your water sources. Don’t rely on water from the pipes. Make sure you have gallon jugs of clean water on hand. You can also purchase items to help you filter and clean water, like a LifeStraw water filter or potable water purifcation treatment drops.
Buy food that doesn’t require cooking. You can also invest in emergency food rations. Bread, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, powdered-milk, sandwich supplies and snacks are always a good bet. You can also invest in emergency food rations. If you’re able, you can grill meats outside after the storm has subsided, even after you’ve lost power. So make sure you have grilling supplies like charcoal and fire starter. Canned goods that don’t require heating, like canned fruit, potted meat, etc., are also a good idea. If you have pets, make sure you stock up on food for them as well.
5. Plastic cutlery and supplies.
You won’t have access to clean dishes during a hurricane if the power and water stops running. Make sure you have plenty of plastic plates, bowls, utensils and cups on hand. Wrap them in plastic bags and tie them securely to make sure that the contents stay clean and dry. You can do the same with your food supplies.
6. Buy lots of bug spray.
After a flood or heavy rain, the mosquitos are out in force. You more than likely won’t want to stay indoors in the sweltering heat without air conditioning, so make sure that you get plenty of bug spray and repellent to keep pests away. I highly recommend REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent or OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent.
7. Have flashlights, candles, lanterns and extra batteries on hand.
If the power goes out, you’ll need a way to see to make trips to the bathroom at night, to eat or just to keep the kids distracted when they get scared of the dark. Make sure you have plenty of flashlights, candles, battery-operated lanterns and alternate lighting options to last you at least a few days. Also, stock up on batteries. AA, AAA and C batteries are usually the most common. We typically get a set of emergency LED flashlights because they’re just as bright and don’t use up as much battery juice. After a hurricane, the power can be out for 1-2 weeks at least, so make sure you have enough to be prepared for the worst.
8. Buy a weather radio.
Keep a hand crank or battery operated radio on hand so you can stay up to date with weather reports. You’ll probably be able to use your cell phone at least until the storm hits, but once the power is out, the battery dies or signal drops due to the storm, you’ll be completely in the dark. Make sure you have a back up device, like an emergency hand-crank weather radio, to keep you informed.
9. Keep your devices charged.
More than likely, you’re going to lose power at some point. Make sure you charge your kids tablets so they have something to do when the storm gets scary or the house is dark. Charge your cell phones so you can maintain what might be your only lifeline or way to check in with family and friends throughout the storm. You can also use a portable battery charger to keep your devices charged long after the power has gone out.
10. Stock medical supplies.
If you have medicines, prescriptions or other items you’ll need, make sure you stock up before the storm. Many stores may be closed for days or weeks after a major hurricane. In case of injury, you’ll want to have a waterproof first aid kit on hand. Getting to a hospital isn’t easy during a hurricane and it’s especially difficult when there’s flooding. Make sure you have medicines, antibiotic ointments, tourniquets and other supplies on hand in case of an emergency. And remember that allergies are at their highest in the aftermath of a hurricane, so make sure you have plenty of allergy medications and remedies on hand, especially for small kids who often won’t know how to cope with the effects. Keep kids well hydrated and order extra allergy medications ahead of the storm so you have them on hand.
11. Bring in all outdoor items and secure patio furniture so they don’t become projectiles.
Clean up your yard and patio area so that your lawn chairs, children’s toys and shovels don’t become projectiles. This is for both your protection and your neighbor’s. Make sure that all items are secured in your garage, basement, or in your home. We also tied down our trash can to make sure if wouldn’t blow into the streets and block traffic during the storm or cause any damage.
12. Board up your windows to prevent damage and exposure to the elements.
Make sure you have plywood or another solid type of covering to secure your windows. This will prevent fencing, branches or other debris from entering your home and will also hold back intense rain and flood waters. If you can’t board your windows, you can at least cover them with a mattress or heavy blankets from the inside if needed.
13. Place sand bags in front of your doors and in other areas where water might seep in.
Typically, your city officials will pass out free sand bags if you live in an area affected by a hurricane. Make sure you watch news reports and follow your city, police or fire department social media pages to find out when and where you can pick up your sand bags. Place them in front of doorways or anywhere else where water might seep in. This will hopefully prevent your property from being damaged. In the event that you don’t make it out, it may also help to slow flood waters and hopefully give you more time to get out.
14. Put things up away from flood waters.
Make sure you put up things that you don’t want to see destroyed by flood waters. Family pictures, memorabilia, heirlooms, electronics, etc. Put them up on top of furniture, desks, counters, in cabinets or the tops of closets when possible. If you have a safe, dry place to store important items, please get them put away well ahead of time.
15. Fill your bathtub with water so you can flush toilets.
During a hurricane, you may find that you can no longer flush your toilet or access water in your home. Make sure that you fill up your bathtub, sinks and washing machine with water so that you’ll be able to use a bucket to fill your toilet tank and flush in the event that you don’t have water. You may also be able to use this water to drink if it doesn’t become contaminated.
16. A closet is usually the safest place to go in the event of high winds.
Clean out a closet and make enough space for your family to sit comfortably inside. If your closets aren’t large enough, you can also use a bathroom. This will be a place where your family can escape the loud winds and comfort small children. It is also a safe space in the event that a hurricane or tornado may cause damage to your home.
17. Pack clothes and personal care items.
Whether you evacuate or not, make sure you pack a few pairs of clean, dry clothes (including undergarments and extra shoes) and supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. Pack as if you were going on a week-long trip and make sure that you also put these items in plastic bags and seal them tight to protect them from the elements.
18. Prepare important documents and records.
In the event of a hurricane, you’ll need to protect all of your most important records. Make sure you have your insurance policies, lease agreements, car title and registration, marriage license, birth records, forms of identification, pet records and any other important records packed in waterproof document bags and ready in case you need them. You can also purchase air-tight storage bags for medical supplies or a waterproof smartphone pouch.
19. Stock up on baby and kid supplies.
After the hurricane, most stores will be closed and you likely won’t be able to find a place to get supplies for weeks. Make sure you stock up on diapers, wipes, formula, sippy cups, snacks and other supplies well before the hurricane hits. You definitely don’t want to be without these in the event of a disaster.
20. Emergency contacts.
In the event of an emergency, make sure that you have the phone numbers, Facebook pages and Twitter handles of people who could help you if needed. Have contact info for the police department, city government and both national and local organizations that help with hurricane rescue and relief.
Are there any other tips you would share? Leave them in the comments below. Hopefully they can help someone stay safe!
Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas to this list!
This post was originally published in August, 2017 after Hurricane Harvey. It has been republished as a resource for families currently experiencing hurricanes, extreme weather and flooding.