How to Prepare for a Hurricane at the Last Minute
By: Danny Lipford
Here are some tips on what to do in a short time to keep your family and home safe if you’re caught unprepared by an approaching hurricane or tropical storm.
- Secure Outdoor Furniture: Loose items in your yard can become flying projectiles during a hurricane due to high winds. Move any unsecured items in your yard – including patio furniture, lawn chairs, bird feeders, hanging plants, and toys – inside your house or garage if possible. If you can’t move outdoor item in, use a strong rope or garden hose to tie them securely down.
- Move Cars to Safety: Cars are often damaged or destroyed by falling trees or windblown debris during a hurricane. If you have a garage, park your cars in it and close the garage door. If not, position cars close to your home on the lee side of expected winds and away from trees to provide some shielding from the storm. Avoid parking cars near power lines or trees.
- Find Utility Cutoffs: Identify the cutoff switches and valves for your water, power, and gas; and know how to turn them off in case of an emergency. Severe damage to your home from a hurricane can cause a short or power surge in your electrical system, and may also result in ruptured water or gas lines. Cutoffs for water and gas are usually located at or near the meter for each utility. To turn off the power to your home, flip the main breaker in your circuit breaker box.
- Make Ice: Power is often disrupted for days or weeks after a hurricane, and ice to keep food from spoiling will be in short supply. Set your freezer on the coldest setting, and make as much ice in the ice maker or ice trays as possible while the power is still on. Also, fill plastic containers or clean milk and water jugs with water (don’t fill to the top to allow for expansion), and put them in the freezer. Once the power goes out, place containers of ice in your fridge or an ice chest to keep your food fresh longer. Open refrigerator and freezer doors as little as possible.
- Charge Cordless Devices: Charge batteries on cordless tools, flashlights, cell phones, laptop computers, cameras, radios, iPads, iPods, MP3 players, and portable electronic games. Your cell phone may become your only link to the outside world if regular phone service is disrupted during and after a storm, so keep it with you at all times. A 12-volt DC battery charger will allow you to charge devices back up from your car after the power is out.
- Document Home and Valuables: If you don’t have a home inventory backed up with video or photographs, take photos or video now for insurance purposes in case your home suffers extensive damage during the storm. The camera on a cell phone can also be used to photograph your home. Send or email the photos to someone outside the area of the storm for backup, and put them on a portable USB flash drive to keep with you. A visual record of your processions and the condition of your home prior to the hurricane will be invaluable when dealing with insurance claims.
- Fill Bathtub with Water: Whether you’re on city water or a well, water supplies can be disrupted or contaminated following a hurricane. Use the water in the bathtub to fill the tank on your toilet for flushing or for washing in the aftermath of a storm, but not for drinking. Lining the tub with plastic before filling will keep water from leaking out of the tub drain. Five-gallon buckets and pots from your kitchen can also be used to store water. After the storm has passed, water from a pool can be used for flushing toilets. If your house is on a grinder pump, don’t flush toilets or use drains in the house when the power is out to prevent overflowing.
- Gather Emergency Supplies: Gather the following items together in a laundry basket or small suitcase so they will be handy during and after a storm: flashlights, batteries, first aid kit, battery powered radio, cell phone car charger, hand sanitizer, prescription drugs, games, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, duct tape, toilet paper, important documents (including your homeowner’s insurance policy), pet and baby supplies.
- Close Curtains, Shutters, and Blinds: To reduce the chance of flying glass if a window is blown out by high winds or flying debris, close shutters and blinds – both inside and out – along with drapes and curtains.
- Go to Safe Area of House: If you’re not able to make it to an evacuation shelter before the storm hits; take refuge in a windowless hallway, bathroom, or closet located in the interior of your home. Bring mattresses from beds with you, bot for comfort and for use as protection in case your home suffers severe structural damage.