A hurricane is barreling toward the coast and you’re trying to decide whether you should evacuate or hunker down at a home.
The decision-making process should be driven by information being provided by local emergency managers, who are in charge of managing evacuations.
Most emergency managers agree that you should hide from the wind and run from the water. In other words, if you live in an area that will become flooded during a storm, you should evacuate. If the storm’s impacts will primarily be from the wind, you may decide whether to ride it out.
The best advice — if you’re being told to evacuate, you should heed those warnings and stay safe.
If you opt to stay home during the storm, here are some hurricane safety tips to help you weather it.
Assemble an emergency kit now
A kit of emergency supplies is the foundation of any disaster plan, but it becomes an even more critical part of the strategy if you opt to stay at home during a hurricane.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, your safety supply kit should include food, water, flashlights, medications and important documents. You can get a much more exhaustive list of supplies for your emergency kit here.
Gather food and water
This is so important, that it needs to be said twice. According to FEMA, you should have at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food in your emergency kit. You might want to add more if you decide to ride out a storm at home as you may be cut off from a reliable food supply for a while. The same goes for water. FEMA recommends that you have a gallon of water per person per day and the supply should be enough to last several days.
Prepare your property ahead of time
If you decide to hunker down, making sure that your property is ready for the hurricane ahead of time is critical. Any damage to your home can put the people inside at a health and safety risk.
FEMA recommends you clear all your drains and gutters of debris. You should also trim back trees in your yard to reduce the chance of a limb falling into your home.
It is also recommended you should clear your yard of any loose items such as patio furniture, garbage cans, bicycles and grills. Those items could become airborne during a hurricane and damage your home. Bring those kinds of things indoors.
FEMA also recommends people use hurricane shutters to cover their windows and doors. If not shutters, nail plywood over windows and doors to protect you from glass that may be shattered by high winds. Don’t forget about your garage door. It is one of the most vulnerable parts of a home during a hurricane, according to FEMA.
You’re on your own during a hurricane
Bottom line: if you've been told to evacuate, you should. If you need help finding your evacuation zone, check out this guide.
If you’ve been told to evacuate and you don’t, you’ll likely be on your own during the hurricane. Most emergency agencies will be staffed during the storm, but conditions won’t allow them to respond to emergencies in a safe way. Once the storm lets up, emergency crews will usually start fanning out across the area to address issues stemming from the storm. Keep in mind that fallen trees or power lines could block the roads that emergency crews would use to get to you. It could be a while before the roads have been cleared enough for them to reach you during the disaster.
You’ll want to have a first aid kit on hand. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any minor injuries should be quickly treated in order to prevent infection. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible for major injuries.
Plan on losing power
Losing electricity at your home during a hurricane is almost a given. Before the storm hits, keep your portable electronics fully charged for as long as possible. Consider buying a portable battery that you can use to recharge your devices after you lose power.
You’ll also want to have some activities that don’t require power on hand when the lights go out, especially if you have children. Board games, puzzles and activity books are a few suggestions.
Stay informed during the hurricane
It’s imperative that you have a way of getting information and news reports during and after the storm. Your cellphone is a great option as long as you can keep it charged and have service. A battery-powered or hand-crank radio is another way of getting information. There are also televisions that run on a rechargeable battery. That’ll work as long as you can keep recharging it.
Anticipate disruptions to your daily life
Don’t expect to be able to run out to the grocery store and replenish your supplies or fill up your gas tank after the hurricane has passed. Long-term power outages, damaged utilities and blocked roads will likely lead to disruptions in the supply chain. It may be several days before stores and gas stations can restock and reopen. Plan accordingly.