As Hurricane Ian approaches the gulf coast of Florida, more than 2 million people have already evacuated. The storm comes less than two weeks after Hurricane Fiona barreled through Puerto Rico in what was, until that point, a relatively quiet hurricane season.
It’s easy to feel powerless when facing such epic proportions of natural disasters. Although evacuating early is the only proper way to avoid these dangerous storms, it isn’t always an option for everyone. If you have to stay, you can take measures to protect your home and family.
Stacker consulted official recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, the Red Cross, and other experts to compile this comprehensive list of steps to prepare for and recover from a hurricane. Take the following measures to ensure you have everything you need the next time disaster strikes — and to guarantee you’re able to return home, assess the damage, and begin to rebuild while staying safe. Remember: a hurricane’s adverse effects often linger after the weather clears.
From emergency supply kits to reporting losses, here are 30 ways to prepare for and recover from hurricanes.
1. Make an Emergency Plan
No matter where you live, you should have an emergency plan for natural disasters. Sit down with your family and friends to discuss how you will find shelter, where you will evacuate, and how you will communicate in an emergency.
2. Put Together an Emergency Kit
Every household should also have a stocked emergency supply kit, including a “go bag” for each person. That way, if you need to shelter in place or leave home in a hurry, you’ll have everything you need to stay safe and healthy.
3. Assess Risk Factors in Your Area
Some states, like Florida, get hit by multiple hurricanes every year, while others rarely experience this type of storm. Do some research on your county to find out how often your area experiences tropical storms, then check FEMA’s flood map to determine your risk of flooding.
4. Stockpile Useful Supplies
In the days and hours before a hurricane makes landfall, home improvement stores will be swamped by homeowners trying to purchase sandbags, plastic sheeting, batteries and other supplies to keep floodwater out of their homes. Buy and store these supplies in a safe place ahead of time, so you don’t have to join the mad dash.
5. Plan For Your Pets
Don’t overlook the nonhuman members of your family! If you have to evacuate, your pets need to evacuate, too. Make sure they’re all microchipped and have identification tags—and make sure you plan how to evacuate them.
6. Know Your Evacuation Route
As soon as you hear that severe weather might be possible, start thinking about where you will go. Can you stay with friends or family? Do you need to make reservations at a hotel? Consider your route out of town, as well. Normally open highways become parking lots as storms near.
7. Back Up Your Electronics
Hurricanes can fill your home with floodwater and debris, and leave it open to the elements. Damage to computers, phones, and other electronic devices is almost a given. Save essential documents by uploading them to an online backup service or external hard drive that you take with you.
8. Fill Bottles With Clean Drinking Water
Extreme weather can knock out utility services, so it’s best to prepare enough drinkable water to survive for several days without running water. You’ll need at least one gallon of water per person daily for at least three days. Having seven days’ worth is even better.
9. Keep Your Gas Tank at Least Half Full
If officials call for an evacuation, you will want to leave immediately—not to have to stop for gas like everyone else. Don’t let your gas gauge dip below half a tank to be safe.
10. Make Sure Your Home Insurance Is up to Date
Check your home insurance policy to ensure it’s valid and that you understand what is covered. Most standard policies cover damage caused by flying debris, falling trees, and high winds, but many don’t protect against flooding—a significant problem during hurricanes. Consider purchasing flood insurance if you live in a hurricane-prone region.
Also, you should be aware that most states restrict purchasing homeowners or flood insurance once a storm has targeted an area. To make sure you’re covered, check your policies prior to June 1st.
11. Learn How To Turn Off Your Home’s Gas, Water, and Electricity
Local officials might warn residents to turn off their utilities before a hurricane to prevent gas leaks and dangerous explosions. Make sure you know how to turn off your gas, water, and electricity.
12. Clear Out Gutters and Outdoor Drains
If stormwater has nowhere to go, it will return to your home. Remove debris and clogs from rain gutters and other drains to keep water moving and limit the potential for flooding.
13. Trim the Trees Near Your Home
A storm must have sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour to be considered a hurricane. Winds that high can easily topple trees, creating the potential for extensive damage to your home. Keep tree branches trimmed, and consider removing trees within 20 feet of your home.
14. Secure Your Doors and Windows
Once hurricane winds enter a property, the likelihood of severe structural damage rises dramatically. Residents of hurricane-prone regions might consider installing permanent aluminum or steel storm shutters. If such a project isn’t in the budget, make temporary covers for your doors and windows out of five-eighths-of-an-inch exterior grade or marine plywood. When meteorologists predict a hurricane, you can install your shutters quickly and efficiently.
15. Secure and Reinforce Your Roof
When was the last time you had your roof inspected? If you’re unsure, it might be time to call a contractor to ensure that your roof is sturdy enough to withstand hurricane force winds.
16. Take Photos of Every Corner of Your Home
If you eventually have to file an insurance claim for hurricane damage, you’ll need a detailed inventory of everything you own. The easiest way to prepare this quickly is through photos. Walk through your house and snap a photo of everything you can think of—that way, you won’t have to rack your brains trying to remember how many books you had on that bookshelf later on.
17. Bring Loose, Lightweight Objects Inside
Those 74- to 157-mph winds can lift patio furniture, garbage cans, and bicycles like they weigh nothing. Bring anything you can indoors, so it doesn’t become a flying projectile during a hurricane.
18. Secure Any Other Objects You Can’t Carry Inside
What about other things that are too heavy to lift? Anything you can’t bring inside by yourself should be permanently attached to the ground in your backyard if you have one. Use heavy chains to connect grills, swing sets, and other large objects to the bottom.
19. Turn Your Refrigerator and Freezer to the Coldest Setting
As soon as you hear of an approaching hurricane, set your fridge and freezer to the coldest setting. Chilling your food as much as possible will help it last longer in a power outage.
20. Roll Up Large Rugs
If your home floods, large area rugs will soak up stormwater like a sponge. Roll them up and set them upright to keep them dry.
21. Fill up the Bathtubs and Sinks With Water
Before you turn off your water supply, fill bathtubs, sinks, and even buckets with clean water that you can use for flushing the toilet, bathing, and cleaning. You might not need this water, but it could prove helpful if your water supply is off for several days.
22. Avoid Using Matches
Surging floodwaters can break gas lines or dislodge seals, causing dangerous gas leaks. When you return home for the first time, use a flashlight rather than a candle to light your way. That way, if there is a gas leak, you won’t accidentally cause an explosion. If you smell or suspect a leak, turn off the main valve and immediately call your gas company, police, and fire department.
23. Don’t Cook With or Drink Tap Water
Hurricanes and tropical storms can contaminate tap water with the same harmful bacteria found in floodwater. Don’t drink or cook with tap water until local authorities give the OK.
24. When It’s Safe, Inspect Your Home
Check for any damage as soon as you can return to your home. Walk through the house room by room, taking photos of any issues you notice. That way, you’ll be prepared to file any necessary insurance claims and begin repairs.
25. Report Any Losses as Soon as Possible
If your home has been damaged in the storm, you should notify your insurance company immediately. Provide a general description of the damage and any photographs you took of the losses.
26. Prevent Further Damage to Your Property
Even if the worst part of the storm has passed, lingering weather can still prove problematic. Once it’s safe to return to your property, take steps to prevent further damage. If falling trees puncture your roof, cover any holes with a tarp to keep out rainwater. Tape plastic sheeting over the opening if your windows have been blown out. Since most insurance doesn’t cover damage sustained after the storm, this step could be crucial.
27. Have Your Home Inspected
Ensure that your home is safe to inhabit before starting any cleanup or repairs. Contact a licensed contractor to check the building’s structural integrity, an electrician to check your wiring, a plumber to check the water lines, and the gas company to check for any gas line breaks.
28. Wear Protective Gear for Cleanup
Even if your home didn’t sustain much damage, you’d likely have to clean up a lot of debris on your property. And since that debris might have been contaminated by floodwater, you don’t want to use your bare hands. The CDC recommends wearing safety gear such as heavy work gloves, waterproof boots, goggles, and hard hats during disaster cleanup.
29. Throw Away Anything Wet
Start cleaning up by airing your home and throwing out any wet items that won’t dry quickly, like mattresses, couches, and books. If mold has already started to grow, clean it up with a mixture of bleach and water. Drywall and insulation soaked by floodwater have to go, too.
30. Take Care of Yourself
Experts also say you should be careful not to overexert yourself as you recover from a hurricane. Emotions often run high after a disaster, causing physical tasks to tire you out more quickly than usual.
This article was produced by Stacker and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.