If you live in an area that could be affected by a hurricane or tornado, follow these 10 storm preparedness steps before the storm hits to help protect yourself, your family and your property:
1. People and pets before property
Have a plan to keep family and pets safe and practice it before severe weather arrives. If you don’t have one already, purchase a portable radio and extra batteries so you can hear broadcasted weather alerts and other important news. Your severe weather plan should specifically tell family members where to go and what to do if a worst-case scenario hits, including marking out evacuation routes and shelters. Make a contact list for family and friends and plan ahead for at least three days without power or running water.
2. Emergency preparedness
Stock up enough bottled water to provide each member of your family or your party at least 1 gallon of drinking water each day for three days at a minimum. If you have time before the storm arrives or utilities are shut off, fill up bathtubs and sinks with water for cleaning or other uses (not for drinking). If power outages are expected, set the refrigerator to its lowest setting. If and when power outages occur, open the refrigerator door only when absolutely necessary to preserve the cool temperatures. Set aside nonperishable food items, medications and other supplies such as blankets, spare clothes, candles and matches in an easy-to-reach location. Don’t forget food,water and medication for pets.
3. Secure important paperwork and documentation
Important documents such as insurance policies, passports, titles, deeds, and marriage and birth certificates should be placed in a secured lockbox you can reach easily if you need to evacuate. Spare keys and valuable jewelry can also be secured there.
4. Inspect and protect your home
Evaluate the strength and stability of your home before bad weather strikes. Look at the roof, hurricane straps if you have them, shutters, windows and doors, including your garage door. Look for things the wind can lift off or get through – loose shingles, doors without reinforcing bolts or kits – anything that seems vulnerable to the elements. Hurricane shutters will protect your glass. If you don’t have them, plywood will do until you can get them installed. Consider hiring a professional to do this examination and to do the maintenance or improvements if you don’t have the expertise, time or tools.
5. Do your trees pose a risk?
Don’t forget to check out your trees when evaluating your home. Diseased, dead or dying limbs can be hazardous flying objects in high winds. You may have time to get them taken care of ahead of the storm. Consider hiring a professional tree service if you don’t have the expertise, time or tools.
6. Know how to safely shut off your home's utilities
If you don’t already know how to shut off utilities such as the water supply, gas or electricity to your home, find out and be prepared to do so if necessary. If your home floods while the electricity is still on, or if you detect a gas leak, leave your home immediately for a safe shelter and call for emergency help.
7. Prepare windows
Tape up or board up windows if you don’t have hurricane shutters or other protective coverings. Tape will not stop glass from breaking, but it can help minimize the number of flying or loose shards from shattered window glass.
8. Secure loose outdoor objects
Store objects such as lawn furniture, patio umbrellas, potted plants and children’s toys indoors to prevent them from becoming flying projectiles in high winds. For items too dangerous to bring indoors, such as propane grills, chain or tie them down securely.
9. Gas up the car and park it safely
Fill up the gas tanks for all your vehicles ahead of time so you can get out in a hurry if you need to. If possible, park indoors in a garage or as far away from falling trees or branches if you must park outside.
10. Think ahead
If it's likely your home or property will suffer some sort of storm damage, do your homework now. Develop a list of possible contractors you'll want to contact after the storm has passed so you don't have to scramble later. The list should include: roofers, electricians, plumbers, tree service companies, window and door repair providers, and carpet or flooring experts. Review your insurance coverage. Flooding typically causes the most damage during hurricanes and tropical storms, but most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Check your policy before you assume you're covered.
For more information about hurricane preparedness and to get updates, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's ready.gov