What To Do During Your First Hurricane

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If you haven’t grown up near the ocean, then you’ve likely never experienced — or learned to prepare for — a tropical storm or hurricane. While the prospect of such a storm making landfall in your area can be quite frightening (and with good reason), knowing you’ve prepared your home and family well can go a long way in calming your spirit during hurricane season.

Understand Hurricanes and the Dangers

This time of year tropical weather systems can quickly intensify becoming monstrous storms called hurricanes. These storms develop over the water and then move inland, sometimes as far as 100 miles.

Producing violent winds, heavy rainfall, flooding and storm surges, hurricanes can cause a great deal of damage to your property and put your friends and family in harm’s way.

Know When Hurricanes Are Most Likely for Your Area

Knowing when your area might expect these powerful storms is the first step in preparing for them. Hurricane season varies by region:

Northwest Pacific:May 15 through November 30

Pacific: May 15 to November 30

Atlantic and Northeast Pacific: June 1 through November 30 (September is most active)

Atlantic: June 1 to November 30

Put Together a Hurricane Survival Kit

Have these emergency supplies ready in case a storm affects your area:

  • Baby supplies if needed
  • Can opener (manual)
  • Cash (ATMs may not be functional)
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Extra batteries (9-volt, AAA, AA, C and D)
  • Extra fuel for your generator
  • Family and emergency contact numbers
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight (s)
  • Food (3-day supply of easy to prepare, non-perishable food)
  • Masks for contaminated air
  • Medications (7-day supply)
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • NOAA weather or hand-crank radio
  • Personal documents
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Pet supplies
  • Water (three gallons per person set aside for evacuation, 14 gallons per person stored at home)

Pack your supplies in a plastic container with a lid that snaps securely, and make sure it’s both easy to carry and grab when needed.

Create a Family Hurricane Plan

Since hurricanes develop first at sea and are slow moving, you’ll have warning before they come ashore. Working with your family to put a hurricane plan in place can help reduce fear and anxiety, especially in younger children. It can also keep your family safe.

Through the news and forecasts, you can follow the storm as it moves your direction and enact your plan accordingly.

Here are lists of things you can do to prepare in the days and hours leading up to the storm making landfall.

36 Hours From Landfall

  • Fill up your vehicles’ gas tanks
  • Stay up to date on sheltering information
  • Know your evacuation zone and what route to take when evacuations are issued
    • If you’re in an evacuation zone, pack your belongings and leave right away
    • Plan extra travel time as roads may be congested and travel could be slow going
    • Drive safely and try to stay calm – everyone on the road will also be stressed and scared and you want to avoid accidents and incidents
  • Monitor local community warning system and National Weather System alerts
  • Place sandbags around your home if you live in a flood zone
  • Plan how to communicate with family during and after storm
  • Restock your emergency survival kit if necessary

18 - 36 Hours From Landfall

  • Add tie-downs to sheds and outdoor buildings
  • Board up windows with ½ inch marine plywood (or install storm shutters)
  • Clean debris from gutters, downspouts and drains
  • Consider turning off your central heating and air conditioner to avoid damage during power surges
  • Continue to monitor local community warning system and National Weather System alerts
  • Place gravel under downspouts to prevent washout
  • Remove awnings
  • Secure outdoor items
  • Unplug small appliances, computers and non-essential electronic devices

6 - 18 hours From Landfall

  • Charge your mobile phone
  • Continue to monitor local community warning system and National Weather System alerts

6 Hours From Landfall

  • Charge your mobile phone
  • Close storm shutters and doors not yet secured
  • Continue to monitor local community warning system and National Weather System alerts every 30 minutes
  • Let other family members know where you’re riding out the storm
  • Stay indoors away from windows, glass doors and skylights and be ready to move to your safe room
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest setting to preserve food for as long as possible once the power goes out

During the Hurricane

Do:

  • Continue to monitor local community warning system and National Weather System alerts every 30 minutes
  • Evacuate immediately if told to by authorities
  • If flood waters rise, move to a higher floor if possible
  • Inform your family of evacuation route
  • Keep your emergency supplies with you as well as pillows and blankets to cover yourself if necessary
  • Shelter indoors in your home’s safest location
  • Stay inside, in an interior room, closet or bathroom on lowest level of your home

Do not:

  • Drive on flooded streets or over downed power lines
  • Go around barricades
  • Go near windows, glass, doors and skylights

After the Hurricane

  • Avoid electrical equipment that’s near or in water
  • Avoid walking, wading or driving through flood waters (it takes very little water to pull you under or wash away your vehicle)
  • Continue to monitor local community warning system and National Weather System alerts every 30 minutes
  • Turn off power at main breaker
  • Use your mobile phone only as needed to inform family you’re safe (Cellular providers may have damage to their towers or their systems may be overloaded from high call volume)
  • Wear protective clothing when beginning cleanup both indoors and out

Learn More

For more information and preparedness resources — such as checklists, templates, evacuation routes and sheltering information — visit https://www.ready.gov/.

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