Determine your risk
Do you know if you live in a hurricane zone? If you live in Florida, Texas, Mississippi, or Louisiana, the answer is probably yes. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), determining the likelihood that a hurricane will strike your home is the number one step in preparedness. Hurricanes often bring heavy flooding, winds, and even tornadoes
, so don't just assume that you won't get hit by a hurricane if you don't live on the coast. "Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Their impacts can be felt hundreds of miles inland," says NOAA. If you're wondering if a hurricane in headed your way, NOAA has awesome tracking tools
that can show you exactly where the storm will be and around what time, as well as check out hurricanes that already occurred and see the danger zones.
Develop an evacuation plan
If you know that you live in a hurricane prone area, you should make a hurricane evacuation plan ASAP as a precaution. Hurricanes are very unpredictable and you don't want to be scrambling last minute to put together an evacuation plan if a hurricane is heading your way. Kathy Phillips, a Senior Underwriter at USAA
, recommends creating a family evacuation plan that includes figuring out more than one escape route to your destination and calling ahead to shelters to make sure they can take your entire family, including pets. Part of your evacuation plan should also include telling family and friends where you're heading, ensuring the cars are full of gas, and having extra cash on hand. Check out this expert guide for navigating life's scariest perils and everyday frustrations
Build an emergency kit
You should have an emergency kit or two no matter where you live, but they are an absolute must if you live in an area frequented by hurricanes. "Don't wait until the hurricane is at your door to figure out what you do," Phillips says. You can either purchase a pre-made emergency kit (Phillips recommends the American Red Cross kits), but if you can also make your own. According to Phillips, your kit should include enough water for three days (one gallon per person per day), three days' worth of non-perishable food items, necessary medications, important documents and paperwork, a regular first aid kit, flashlight, and either a weather radio or regular radio (make sure you have batteries for it, too!). And brush up on these common and dangerous first aid mistakes
Understand your homeowners insurance
If you think getting hit by a hurricane is bad, try having your entire home destroyed by the storm and not having insurance cover the damage. If you completely and thoroughly understand your homeowners insurance coverage, you likely won't ever find yourself in the above circumstance. Phillips says that while most standard home insurance plans cover wind damage, flood damage is often left out. So, if you're in an area prone to hurricanes, consider purchasing an additional flood coverage. Be aware that the policy won't go into effect for 30 days, so it's crucial to buy your insurance way before a storm is coming. Reviewing homeowner's insurance annually is one of the things smart homeowners do every year
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Inspect your roof
If a hurricane is heading your way, you should make sure your roof is in pristine condition. So what exactly are you looking for on the top of your house? Michael Rimoldi, senior vice president of educational and technical programs at FLASH
, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, says to make sure you don't have any missing shingles or tiles. "Look for shingles near the roof edge that are brittle or loose," he advises. Grab a pair of binoculars and take a good look or go up to your attic where you'll likely get a better view of your room than from the ground. (Here are 11 things contractors want all homebuyers to know about
Use sandbags for flooding
You can almost always expect severe flooding when a hurricane hits. When it starts pouring, there's not much you can do besides wait it out, but you certainly can prepare for the rain ahead of time by purchasing sandbags at your local hardware store. Or you can make your own with sand, and plastic bags. According to Rimoldi, while the sandbags won't completely prevent flood damage, they will divert flood water away from your home if properly placed. Here's how to make and use sandbags, according to FLASH
Clean your gutters
No one likes cleaning their gutters, because who knows what you'll find up there. Unfortunately, this dreaded task is important to do if you live in a hurricane prone zone. "Having them flow properly allows water to move away from your home," says Rimoldi. "Keeping them clean also prevents water from splashing back up against the roof and under the roof covering and causing damage." You can shell out $150 to $250 to have them professionally cleaned or you can opt to do it yourself. If you notice that your gutter doesn't seem to be working properly or it needs repairs, now is the time to do it. (You should know how to handle these everyday emergencies
Secure outdoor items
It's easy to forget about the outside of your house and yard when you're frantically trying to prepare for a hurricane, but while taking your outdoor furniture
inside may seem like a mundane task, it's something that should not be overlooked. If you don't want to bring everything outside in, then be sure it's tightly secured to the ground. Besides the outdoor furniture, don't forget about the dog house, any tools, and your grill. "We always hear the story about the homeowner who thought they had everything addressed, then forgot one lawn chair in the yard and it ends up blowing around and broke a window," says Rimoldi. And if you have loose branches or tree limbs hanging over your house, they should be trimmed ASAP to prevent damage to your roof.
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Prepare for power outages
During strong hurricane winds, power lines and phone lines might fall down, creating power outages. While candlelight is find and dandy for an occasional date night, if you want to avoid finding yourself without electricity, consider purchasing a generator. Just be certain that you're buying a properly made generator and use it according to directions to prevent carbon monoxide issues, warns Rimoldi. Check out these 14 tips that will help you survive an electrical outage
Add storm shutters to your window
Both Phillips and Rimoldi highly recommend adding storm shutters to your window. Although they do come with a hefty price tag, (ranging anywhere from $200 up to $1,000, depending on material and whether you have them professional installed), they are definitely most worth it. Storm shutters are usually some type of metal, like aluminum or steel and can be purchased at most hardware stores. You should know that it does take time to install the shutters and storm-proof windows, so it's not something that should be done at the last minute. If you find yourself in a pinch, you can also build temporary emergency plywood shutters. And no, taping your windows won't work.
If the storm breaks your windows: Use a hammer to remove the broken glass. (Make sure you've got protective gloves and eyewear on!) Place dust sheets on both sides of the window to catch the glass. If you can't contact a repair service immediately, tape plastic sheeting over the window to keep rain from coming in until the window is fixed. (Of course, this is only for after the storm has passed; plastic sheeting will be useless during a storm.)
If your door gets broken: If the storm damages the locks on your door, there are still ways to keep your home secure. If you have an inward-swinging door with a mail slot, you can keep it closed until you can get repairs. Nail a sturdy piece of wood to the floor. Brace a 2 x 4 against the piece of wood and put the other end against the mail slot. If you have a wooden door and door frame, but no mail slot, you can keep the door shut with a barrel bolt. When the contractor does arrive, make sure to have your lock fixed in addition to the door itself. And make sure the contractor is trustworthy; scammers are all too common after natural disasters.
Talk to your neighbors
A hurricane is coming, so you're busy worrying about your family, but don't forget about your neighbors. After all, they don't say there's strength in numbers for nothing. Speaking with your neighbors, especially elderly ones, before, during (if possible), and after the storm is very important. "Many Americans rely on their neighbors after a disaster, but there are also many ways you can help your neighbors before a hurricane approaches," says NOAA. So how do you help your neighbor beforehand? It's simple, talk to them. Ask them how they're preparing, what supplies they're using, and their evacuation plan before the hurricane hits. If it's possible, keep your neighbors updated during the storm. Maybe your house starts flooding and you need to run to theirs, or maybe they ran out of food. Here are 32 signs you live in one of the nicest small towns in America