The Guide to Hurricane Preparedness

Lena Borrelli
Updated Sep 14, 2020
6 min read

Between the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, the 2020 hurricane season is shaping up to be one for the record books. Already, Hurricane Laura has plowed her way through Louisiana, flooding entire neighborhoods and knocking out power to millions. Before the official start of hurricane season on June 1, there were already two named storms, and experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center predict many more before the season concludes on November 30.

It is more important than ever that you are prepared with everything you need to survive this hurricane season intact. From preparing for a hurricane to actually riding out the storm, this is everything you need to know to keep your family safe this hurricane season.

The Difference Between Hurricanes and Other Storms

NASA calls hurricanes “the most violent storms on Earth.” One hurricane alone can spawn other types of storms such as tornadoes and dangerous wave activity called storm surges, creating a series of natural disasters from just a single storm.

Depending on where and how they form, hurricanes may also be called typhoons or tropical cyclones. These storms are a low-pressure system that form over tropical or subtropical waters, feeding off the warmer waters to gain strength and speed. A storm must reach maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or more to qualify as a hurricane. 

The storm’s strength is rated from Category 1 to 5, according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Categories 4 and 5 are considered major hurricanes.

CategorySustained WindsDamages to Expect
174-95 mphSome
296-110 mphExtensive
3111-129 mphDevastating
4130-156 mphCatastrophic
5157mph and higherCatastrophic

When to Evacuate

You should always follow national and local guidelines and evacuate as necessary. While Category 1 and 2 hurricanes pose their share of risks, downed trees and snapped power lines hardly compare to the catastrophic damage that a Category 4 and 5 hurricane can bring. These extreme storms can make entire areas uninhabitable for weeks and even months, like we saw with Hurricane Katrina. These low-lying and coastal areas are especially susceptible to a hurricane’s wrath. 

These storms originate within the North Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic basin, including the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. 

How to Prepare for a Hurricane

  1. Know the dates.

Hurricane season varies, depending on where you live. There are actually three different seasons depending on the separate regions, although they vary only slightly.

  • Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season: May 15-November 30
  • Atlantic Hurricane Season: June 1-November 30
  • Central Pacific Hurricane Season: June 1-November 30
  1. Check the risks.

It is important to be aware of the risks for your area, whether that may be rain, wind or water that can wreak havoc upon your home. 

  1. Confirm your coverage.

Your insurance provider can help ensure that you have the coverage you need to protect your property from a hurricane. Be sure to keep a copy of your insurance policies and identification on-hand, either in a secure, digital space or secured within a plastic bag on your person.

  1. Take the necessary COVID precautions.

When you venture out into public, be sure to practice all of the normal coronavirus precautions. Social distancing, quarantine and face covering use should still be reinforced during shopping. 

“It's almost always best to try Amazon first, but sometimes you don't have that option,” says Bailey. “Barring that, if a store near you will do curbside delivery, that's a good option. If not, go during a time when you know there won't be as many people there.”

  1. Develop an emergency plan.

Together with your family, make an emergency plan that includes things like shelter and evacuation routes, as well as a family communication plan.

  1. Create an emergency preparedness kit.

To help, we have a hurricane checklist for purchasing supplies, a task that is not so easy these days during COVID. Don’t forget your soap and EPA-approved disinfectant.

“I recommend buying the usual things first. Lots of bottled water, both for drinking and for washing your hands,” says Bailey, as he lists off your COVID hurricane must-haves. “Flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food, and anything you need to keep up with good hygiene. You'll also want to add disposable masks, hand sanitizer, and potentially gloves to the mix.”

  1. Ready your vehicle.

 "Having a maintained and ready-to-go vehicle can make all the difference in getting you to safety, should you need to evacuate during a hurricane,” Erik R. Olsen says. He is the President and CEO of TBC Corporation, the parent company of automotive maintenance and tire service centers Tire Kingdom Service Centers and NTB Tire & Service Centers. "That means making sure all fluids are topped off, the battery is in good working condition and the car has been inspected, including brakes, exhaust system, fuel and air filters, thermostat and lights before any storm hits. Be sure to get an oil change if you are due or near due and install new windshield wipers."

  1. Prepare for special considerations.

Different members of your household may have different needs; for example, keeping babies and toddlers safe is an entirely different matter than keeping your pets safe during a hurricane.

Tips for Riding Out a Hurricane

When a hurricane comes barreling your way, you need to be prepared just in case you don’t — or can’t — leave. 

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) is a leading independent, nonprofit and scientific research organization. We spoke with IBHS representative Rachel Jimenez for exclusive tips on how to protect your home this hurricane season.

  1. Charge your devices.

You never know how long you have until you lose power, so make sure your devices are charged to full power. External batteries and chargers can also be an enormous help.

Jimenez also advocates for a battery-powered radio. “Local radio stations are a powerful source of information during and after a hurricane when power may be out,” she explains but warns you to keep your local maps handy. “Maps are used to communicate critical weather information. Know where you are on a map and know your county name.”

  1. Sign up for alerts.

Be sure to download the FEMA mobile app and follow the National Weather Service for real-time alerts. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) are also enormously helpful.

“Find a reliable source for hurricane updates. Pay attention to hurricane forecasts from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), and follow the NHC on Facebook or Twitter, tuning in to local news often,” says Jimenez. “Enable wireless emergency alerts on your cell phone, and be sure location information is enabled.”

  1. Protect your home.

There’s only so much you can do against a Category 5 hurricane, but there are still some precautions to take. Bring in all unsecured outdoor items, and clean out your drains and gutters. Hurricane doors, windows and shutters can also be a worthwhile investment.

“The simple action of closing interior doors can reduce pressure on the roof by up to 30% which gives the roof a better chance of staying intact during a storm,” Jimenez tells us. “Secure weak or loose fencing and mailboxes; anchor heavy objects deep into the ground; and make a storage plan for loose objects. For example, plan to bring items like bikes, benches, and plant pots into a garage or storage building, and put pool furniture inside or into the pool so it won’t be blown away.”

  1. Get to high ground.

Storm surge can be even deadlier than hurricane winds, so you want to go as far inland as possible away from low-lying areas and bodies of water. If that is not possible, try to get to high ground.

  1. Invest in a generator.

A generator can also be a crucial investment. Ellie Aldous of Method Communications highlights this need, citing a recent Goal Zero survey. “With Hurricane Laura and other tropical storms hitting the south and the East Coast and widespread power shut-offs across California, the new study highlights a major problem as more than 61% of Americans have no form of back-up power for emergencies,” she explains. “This can spell disaster for those with medical needs and hamper a lot of people’s ability to effectively work from home.”

Adem Selita, CEO and Co-Founder of the Debt Relief Company, echoes this need. “You really do not know how long you have to stay confined to your home so it’s always better to be overprepared,” he says. “Although they may be in short supply, generators can make your life 100 times easier during any type of natural disaster or hurricane. I definitely regret not having one during Hurricane Sandy, and it really may be worth the price tag if the power goes out.”

The Bottom Line

With a busy hurricane season ahead, it is important to take every precaution possible to safeguard you and your family. Preparing for a hurricane during coronavirus can become even more challenging, but these tips can help protect your entire household.

Contributing Writer

Lena Borrelli

Lena Borrelli is a freelance journalist who has covered home security, safety, and other topics for, TIME, Microsoft News, ADT, and Home Advisor.

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