With only three more days left in September for our National Preparedness Month, we thought that we’d continue our focus on preparing for emergencies and natural disasters (especially since preparation doesn’t have to just be one month a year). Today we’re focusing on Hurricanes and what those of us that live in areas known for Hurricane activity can do to better prepare. Much of the information we will pull can be found on FEMA’s website, ready.gov. For today’s post, we thought we’d break up preparation according to what we should do before, during, and after a Hurricane.

Before a Hurricane

As with most emergency and natural disasters, preparation occurs best long before the winds change, the clouds roll in, and the storms hit. An emergency or 72-hour kit, just like in any other disaster, is an important thing to keep up. But what you include in this kit may be very different depending on where you live. Are you in an area that may be prone to increased flooding during or after a Hurricane? Maybe an inflatable raft might be something to include in your kit. Is it a rural area that may be difficult for emergency crews to get in and out of? Perhaps you want to include a little more food, water, and medical supplies than the average kit would have. Remember, tailor fit your kit to you and your family’s needs. For more ideas, check out our post on creating your own 72-Hour Kit.

When a Hurricane does come, a big part of preparation involves securing your property. Covering all windows in your home with storm shutters or plywood boards, securing all doors, and strapping down or bringing in equipment outside is also important. Keeping trees and shrubs on your property trimmed and clean also helps eliminate possible debris that could cause damage to your home or others. Are you close to levees or dams? Sandbags set up around your home may be needed.

During a Hurricane

A big question that usually pops up when a Hurricane draws near is “Do I evacuate and, if so, when?” According to FEMA, evacuations should occur when you are directed by local authorities. In other cases, evacuation should be considered if you 1) Live in a mobile or temporary structure, 2) Live in a high-rise building (hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations) or 3) Live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.

If evacuation is not ordered or if you choose to stay, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, turn off all utilities if instructed to do so. If you have a propane or gas tank on your property, turn it off. Keep your emergency supplies and water close to you. You may also want to fill your bathtub and sinks with water before the Hurricane hits, and lie on the floor or under a sturdy object. When the Hurricane hits, stay indoors, in a small interior room away from windows or glass doors and close all interior doors. Do not be fooled if there is a lull in the weather or wind. This could be the eye of the storm directly over you. Winds will pick up again as soon as it passes.

After a Hurricane

Just as with other natural disasters, communication is extremely important. This is where a hand crank radio comes into play. Keep it tuned in to your local news station for updates on the Hurricane. This is also when a family emergency plan is critical. Who do you contact if you are separated from family members? What people do you need to communicate with if your family chose not to evacuate. Emergency or pre-paid cell phones are a great tool to have in your emergency kit.

If you evacuated, remember to only return home when officials say it is safe. When you do return, and for those who may have chosen to stay in their home during the Hurricane, use only battery-powered flashlights for light and not candles. Broken gas or propane lines may be ignited with a burning flame or spark. As well, never use a gas powered generator inside your home, no matter how well the ventilation may be. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up.

Inspect your home for any damage or anything that may make it unsafe and take photos of the damage found. If you choose to leave, avoid roads or walkways that may be close to loose or dangling power lines, washed out bridges, or fallen objects.

Remember that a common trait in preparing for any natural disaster is that preparation doesn’t need to wait until the disaster is at the door. Preparation now equals readiness in the future!