A hurricane preparedness list! It will provide reassurance that you will have thought of the essentials.
A hurricane preparedness list will greatly reduce the likelihood that you will forget something during the stressful time immediately before a potential hurricane disaster.
Note: No list is a perfect or complete list. With that said, the following hurricane preparedness list will help get you thinking in the right direction. To help you make your own.
The list is intended to provoke thought and preparation.
Topics within this article include:
Staying Informed, Safety, Evacuating, General Supplies, Food and Water, Power Outages, Repair and Maintenance, Emergency Documentation, Special Needs, “Spaghetti” Forecast Models, Hurricane Force Winds & Damage, Storm Surge Flooding, When to Pack Up The Vehicle, To-do Before Hurricane Season, During a Hurricane Watch, Warning, During The Event, and After the Hurricane.
It’s all just meant to provide ideas to help you out…
Hurricane Preparedness List
First and foremost on the hurricane preparedness list is to stay informed of the forecast models. Initially there’s a large cone of possible landfall. The closer it gets, the more accurate the forecast. Know where you are located with regards to the projected landfall.
- Know the terminology: Know the difference between tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes so that you can follow the reports better.
- Listen for warnings: Heed the advice especially if ‘they’ are advising to evacuate. Listen for what the weather forecasters and/or emergency management people are saying.
- Stay up to date with a Weather Alert Radio: ( I recommend this one )
There’s lots of information at the National Hurricane Center
It’s common sense. But I put it on the hurricane preparedness list anyway.
- Head to a windowless room: Even if your windows are boarded up, stay in a windowless room while the winds are blowing.
- Stay downwind: This area is the opposite side of the house that the wind is hitting.
- Stay inside: Stay indoors for the entire duration of the storm. You should not go outside during the calm of the storm, when the eye passes over. Dangers lurk and the winds will pick up soon.
- Windows: Cover your home’s windows. Storm shutters are best. Plywood is another option (e.g. 5/8” plywood, cut to fit and ready to install).
- Have an evacuation plan: Think about WHERE you will go, long BEFORE you need to evacuate.
There is always an evacuation recommendation or ‘order’ for the general vicinity of landfall. Every hurricane preparedness list should include advice about the evacuation process.
- Get a real map: Don’t rely solely on your GPS. Get a Road Atlas of your region for your vehicle. ( Road Atlas Map For Each State )
- Let someone know where you’re going: Contact family or friends before you evacuate ( “bug out” ) and let them know your planned destination. If you lose contact, this will help alleviate questions and concerns.
- Keep your gas tank full: Fill it up all the way. Today. Also while you’re on the road try not to let your tank get below half.
- Pack a “Bug Out Bag” and/or “Emergency Kit”: Contents should be packed with essential supplies, food & water, clothing, and whatever you feel is important to have during an evacuation. There are lots of articles on our site with more specifics…
- Start packing your vehicle: If the hurricane forecast cone is anywhere near your location, give yourself some time and start packing essential supplies in case you have to evacuate. It’s much easier if you’re not rushed.
- Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes: Standard evacuation routes will get clogged. People wait until the last minute. So if you’re going to leave, depart early! Consider alternate routes.
- Plan to stay with friends or family outside the danger zone: Hotels will book up quickly, so if possible, arrange to stay with friends or family who live inland.
- Leave early if forecasts look bad for your area: Avoid the worst traffic and road closures. Don’t wait if it looks like your area will be in the hurricane.
- Plan for your pets: Pet food, bowls, collar/leash, vaccination documents, toys.
More things to consider and think about…
- Cash: ATMs and credit card machines may not work for a while after the storm.
- Battery-operated portable radio: Keep up with news & weather while on-the-go with an Emergency Radio. Make sure you have extra batteries too. ( 3 Emergency Radios )
- Secure a two-week supply of prescription medicine: Anyone on prescription medications should pack a two-week supply of their meds in a sealable plastic bag, clearly labeled.
- Flashlights, Headlamps, and lanterns: Make sure you have flashlights, headlamps LED lanterns ( I have several of these ) ( My Review Here ).
- Personal hygiene items: Stock up before things run out at the store. Toilet paper, tissues, soap and other sanitary items.
- Weeks Without Electricity: Plan for several weeks without electricity. I discuss this topic: ( 2 weeks without electricity ) and ( Without Electricity Level-1 Preparedness ).
- Basic First Aid Kit: Keep a general purpose First Aid Kit in your home and in your vehicle.
- Checklist: Customize your own hurricane preparedness checklist and print it out for your reference.
Food and Water
This is quite an important topic for any hurricane preparedness list. Food, and, safe drinking water.
- Food & Water – how much is enough?: More is better! Remember, power will likely be out for awhile. Plan your food choices around that thought. There may be lots of water around you (after all it’s a hurricane!) but is it safe to drink? Read on…
- Countertop Water Filter: Clean drinking water is a top priority. I cannot emphasize this enough. I highly recommend the Berkey Water Filter System from USABerkeyFilters.com.
- Be aware of “boil water” alerts: After a storm, you may be advised to boil water due to flooded wells, spilled sewage and other contamination. Note that a quality water filter will get the job done too.
- Get out your ice chest: Fill an ice chest with ice or dry ice before and after the storm to keep food cold.
- Chest Freezer: If you have one and you loose power, wrap the freezer with extra blankets / quilts / comforters… to keep cold for a longer time (may add 24 – 48 hours).
- Canned foods: Canned foods are all ready to eat, easy-to-prepare options. Canned meats, soups, stews, (variety is important!). Got a good manual can opener?
- Stock up on non-perishable foods: The power will probably go out, so acquire foods that don’t require refrigeration. Did you know that today’s modern MRE’s are pretty good?
- Cooking without electricity: Fill your BBQ grill propane tank. Do you have a camp stove? ( Single Burner Butane Stove Safer For Cooking Indoors )
- Baby formula, diapers: Don’t forget to store enough baby formula, baby food, diapers, if this applies to your situation.
You are virtually guaranteed to lose power. And it could be for a fairly long time!
- Do you have a portable generator? : They sell out quickly. Note: operate it outside – they exhaust carbon monoxide! ( Here’s a nice quiet 2250 watt from WEN )
- Know how to safely connect a generator: Be sure that you or someone understands how to do this, and the dangers and precautions if connecting to the home’s electrical system.
- Keep phone numbers of energy companies handy: Write down or store in your phone the numbers of energy providers so that you can notify them of an outage.
- Use grills and gas cook stoves outside: Gas grills and generators carry a carbon monoxide risk.
- Stay away from downed power lines: Don’t chance it! Let trained workers clean up the damage.
- Have a realistic understanding of restoration times: It may take longer than you think. Having MORE food and water than 72 hours is a very good idea!
Repair and Maintenance
More preventative measures…
- Plywood: Fastening plywood over windows is a good option for protecting the inside of your house.
- Sand bags: If you live in a low area, especially, use sand bags to dispel water. Check this out: Quick Dam Water Activated Flood Barrier – 10 feet
- Bring outside furniture indoors: Move patio furniture and other potential items that may become “kites” into the garage.
- Turn off utilities if you leave: Before evacuating, shut off power, propane gas and water. ( Gas and Water Shutoff Valve Tool ) Note that a licensed professional may be required to turn natural gas back on (leak check).
- Anchor mobile homes: Pre-1994 construction mobile homes probably aren’t anchored well enough to stand even Category 1 hurricanes.
- Lock windows and doors: Lock up your windows and doors for personal safety and to keep the wind from blowing them open.
- Prune trees and shrubs: Loose limbs and plants will fly around easily when the winds pick up.
- Get storm shutters: Place these over glass doors, windows and skylights.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Make sure these will work even if the power is out. Check the batteries – press the ‘test’ button.
- Tarps & Clothesline Rope: These may come in handy afterwards to cover damage (roof?) and prevent further rains from getting inside until repairs can be made.
- Fill bathtub with water: If you’re going to get hit pretty badly, give your family an extra supply of water by filling a sanitized bathtub. ( This product is designed for this )
You might end up needed some of this.
- Emergency contact information: Hard copy of all important phone numbers and other emergency contact information. Don’t rely on having a charged cell phone and it’s contact list.
- Prioritize what’s important: You can’t take everything with you, but consider important documents such as deeds, wills, birth certificates, passports, important financial statements, etc..
- Video your belongings: Walk through the house and video everything you own. Great proof for insurance claims.
- Use a USB thumb drive: A lot of scanned documents can fit on a USB thumb drive (your videos and photos too)! Good for insurance claims.
- Check home insurance: Do this before hurricane season starts, otherwise updated coverage may not take effect until the following year. Also look into flood insurance.
- Proof of residence: A driver’s license or mail should suffice.
- Use a fireproof / waterproof safe: A fireproof safe will keep your belongings protected.
A hurricane preparedness list is mostly about preparing for or mitigating against potential damage and devastation. But, don’t forget about the following…
- Board games / playing cards: Especially for kids, it’s a good distraction. Get out board games or play cards.
- Read a book: If the power goes out, your internet, TV & entertainment will too. Got books?
- Play with your pets: Give your pets extra attention, especially if they seem stressed or scared.
- Get to know your family better: A perfect time to ‘talk’ together instead of everyone’s head stuck in an electronic device.
Special Needs and Children
Got kids? They are going to be quite stressed…
- Minimize stress: Help children cope better by minimizing stressful situations and discussions.
- Limit TV time: Don’t let your kids watch scary footage of the storm on TV.
- Maintain normal routines: Keeping up with a somewhat normal routine helps soothe everyone from babies to adults, provided that you are already prepared.
- Contact home health care service: If you use a home health care service, call them and ask for advice regarding the impending storm.
- Answer children’s questions: Welcome questions from children about what to do, what a hurricane is, and how to prepare for it.
- Get older kids to help: School-aged children will feel more prepared and maybe even excited if they’re allowed to help gather supplies, find the flashlights & batteries, etc..
- Bunk with the neighbors: If you’re elderly, ask to spend the night at the neighbor’s house, or work out some kind of signal for help should you need it and if the phones go out.
- Stay hydrated: People who are sick and the elderly are especially at risk for dehydration.
- Know the risks: Disabled individuals will find it harder to evacuate, so know all the obstacles and risks involved in transporting them or keeping them safe in your home.
Hurricane “Spaghetti” Forecast Models
Know the forecast. The #1 recommendation while preparing for a hurricane is to keep up to date the forecast models.
One indicator of where a hurricane might go is what they call “spaghetti” model tracks.
It’s a map with a group of hurricane tracks, one for each of the many ‘super computer’ forecast models. When looking at all the tracks together on one visual it provides a pretty clear indication of possible locations where a hurricane might go next.
One weather page that I’ve bookmarked contains all sorts of information:
When Does Hurricane Season Begin and End
June 1 is the official beginning of Hurricane Season in the Atlantic basin (to November 30).
Do you realize that 49% of the United States population live within 50 miles of the ocean?
38% of the world’s population live within 100 km and 44% live within 150 km of the coast. Although not every coastline is affected by hurricanes (also known as typhoons or cyclones), a huge number of the world’s population needs to remain vigilant to the threat.
Hurricane – Cyclone Seasons
- Atlantic tropical cyclone season is from June to November with peak cyclone activity in September.
- Northwest Pacific tropical cyclone season year round but with more activity between July and November.
- North Indian basin tropical cyclone season is from April to December and reaches peak cyclone activity in May and then again in November.
- Southwest Indian basin and Australian – Southeast Indian basin tropical cyclone season is from November to May and reaches peak cyclone activity during January and again in March.
- Australian – Southwest Pacific basin tropical cyclone season is from November to May and reaches peak cyclone activity in March.
A typical hurricane contains the equivalent power of 200 times the total world-wide electrical generating capacity at any given moment of it’s existence! It is the greatest storm on earth. The many dangers of hurricanes include extremely powerful winds, torrential rain and flooding, high waves, storm surge, and even tornadoes.
Hurricane Force Winds & Damage
Unlike tornadoes whose winds are concentrated in a small tight area (and can be spawned within a hurricane), sustained hurricane winds can be felt far away from it’s center. Hurricane force winds can reach out 25 miles from the center of a small hurricane and up to 300 miles in a large hurricane!
While the entire field of a hurricane is windy, the hurricane force winds (74 mph+) are concentrated around the core.
The diameter and shape of the ‘hurricane force’ wind field will vary. However ‘typically’ they average about 100 miles across.
Tropical Storm force winds (39 – 73 mph) may range out farther – perhaps up to 300 miles from the core – depending.
CATEGORY 1 HURRICANE
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
CATEGORY 2 HURRICANE
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
CATEGORY 3 HURRICANE
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Storm Surge Flooding
Your geographical location to the coast is one of the most important considerations while preparing for a hurricane!
Obviously if you live on, or very near the coast and the hurricane projections are pointing towards your region, you better considering evacuation.
Storm Surge kills more people than hurricane winds!
A Category 1 hurricane may have a storm surge of 5 feet
A Category 5 hurricane may surge 18 feet or higher!
Either way, water rushing inland will destroy homes right quick.
Hurricane storm surge is extremely dangerous and the most deadly force to those living on the shoreline (and miles inland!), will creep up on unsuspecting coastal residents, potentially to the point of no escape from it’s destructive power.
As a hurricane travels across the water, it pushes the water in front of it which rises up higher than the sea around it. As a hurricane approaches land, this bulge of water ahead of it grows even higher as the bottom of the ocean floor rises up to meet the shoreline.
Storm surges are devastating in that as the high water, waves, and wind begin to tear apart structures on the shoreline, the water becomes filled with debris which acts as a deadly battering ram which will move onshore, up to many many miles depending on the situation, destroying everything in it’s path.
You are going to lose power
Plan on it! If you are within the tropical storm wind field of hurricane, or most definitely if you’re within the hurricane force wind field, trees are going to fall on power lines and you will likely lose power. And it could be weeks.
If you have chosen to stay put, you better plan for a period of time without electricity. Do you have a generator and do you know how to connect it to your critical systems in your home? Do you have enough fuel? Plan accordingly.
Torrential Rains & Flooding
Hurricanes carry extraordinary amounts of water. They’ve been feeding on very warm water (80+) as they make their way across the ocean. They’re loaded with rain.
Even if you live well inland and even if you are located away from the hurricane force wind field, you WILL be deluged with unbelievable amounts of rain.
If a hurricane slows or stalls, you might be looking at ‘feet’ of rain. Tremendous damage will result from flooding and torn up infrastructure. This will exacerbate power outage repair times. Plan for it.
Pack Up The Vehicle
If you have been watching the weather forecasts and if it looks like the hurricane spaghetti models are bringing it near where you live, one of the best proactive measures that you can take is to pack up your vehicle as though you are going to bug out and evacuate.
If you later choose not to bug out (maybe it will clearly miss you given updated forecasts), you can always unpack. Better safe than sorry…
Think about what you should pack.
The good thing is that all you have to do is drive far enough away to be in a safe region.
Be smart, and if it looks like you’re in the path of the hurricane’s core, then simply get out. Don’t wait until the last 24 hours to do it. 48 hours is better.
When considering a hurricane preparedness list, consider breaking down your preparations into these time-line lists. I have added some things to think about in each of those sections.
1. Start of the Hurricane Season
2. Hurricane Watch
3. Hurricane Warning
4. During the Hurricane
5. After the Hurricane
Start of the Hurricane Season
Have the ability to store and purify water: boil, or use plain bleach (instructions).
Pet carriers and/or leashes for all your pets.
A BOB (Bug out Bag) for every family member.
Have a sleeping bag for every member of the family.
Know how to shut off the utilities and have the tools stationed nearby to do this.
Tune up your generator.
Tune up your car.
Have a “Get Home Bag” in your vehicle.
Have pre-cut pieces of 3/4″ plywood for your “safe room” windows. (A “safe room” is a room in the center of the house (or down-wind) that has no windows or has covered windows where you can shelter and store most of the essentials you’ll need for the storm.)
Keep hard copy paper maps / Road Atlas in your glove compartments and know the route (with alternates) you’ll take in the event you need to evacuate..
Cut branches from trees near the house that may pose a danger.
Have a number of coolers on hand.
Rain gear for every household member.
A supply of good repair tools, hardware, chain saw, rope, contractor trash bags and tarps.
Have a good first aid kit.
Solar or other charger for batteries, cell phones, radios, flashlights, etc.
Have a NOAA Weather Radio with alert.
Have a crank/solar/battery operated AM/FM radio.
Digital camera to record damage.
Check your insurance coverage.
Have a variety of emergency lighting (flashlights, lanterns, headlamps, light sticks, etc.)
Working and tested smoke detectors and CO detectors.
A non-electric can opener.
A charged cell phone.
Alternate way of cooking (gas grill, charcoal, butane stove, Sterno, etc.)
Supply of matches or lighters.
Battery back-up or a generator for any sump pumps that are used in the basement.
A supply of sand and sandbags.
Manual method of getting water from your well or a generator for the pump.
Work clothing, work boots, knee pads, hats, bandanas and durable work gloves for each family member.
Fire extinguishers in strategic locations around the house and in the garage.
Establish plans for family communication for before and after the storm.
Have a per-established meeting place if the decision to evacuate is made.
Have material ready to brace your garage door against high winds.
(Hurricane conditions possible within 36 hours)
Fill up the gas tank in your car.
Get gasoline for the generator.
Start making ice in your freezer.
Begin loading the refrigerator with mass (containers of water, canned goods, juice, etc.)
Turn your refrigerator to the coldest setting.
FINISH ALL YOUR LAUNDRY! (You may not be able to do laundry later without power.)
Start storing water (For drinking and sanitation – there may be “boil water” warnings.)
Do your emergency shopping (Don’t forget paper plates, duct tape, moist towelettes, contractor bags, plain bleach, tarps, plywood, Sterno, charcoal,sunscreen, insect repellent, rope, ice, matches, emergency lighting, batteries, etc.)
Food shopping: (Non-perishable foods that can be eaten without cooking)
Bread, NF Dry milk, peanut butter, crackers, jelly, granola bars, cereals, instant tea and coffee,canned juices, fresh fruit, bottled drinks, koolade, cookies, pastries, canned puddings, apples, onions, tomatoes, eggs (you will need to hard-boil these), canned stews, chili, pasta, tuna, bean salad, soups, canned chicken, fresh fruit, dried fruit, and canned evaporated milk.
Hard boil your eggs to preserve them.
Prepare some sandwiches in advance for quick meals over the next day or two (put in coolers).
Refill your prescriptions.
Communicate with all family members.
Withdraw extra cash from the bank. Cash machine may not have power later. (2 wks worth)
Recharge all battery packs and rechargeable batteries.
Have important papers in waterproof containers and ready to go if you have to evacuate.
Check on elderly neighbors and help in their preparations.
Refill your propane tank.
If you use fresh whole bean coffee, grind enough for two weeks or have a manual grinder.
Identify radio stations the will give you the best general and local information and monitor for up-dates.
Prepare your vehicle for evacuation if it becomes necessary.
(A Hurricane is Expected Soon)
Finish all laundry
Finish loading refrigerator with mass (bottles of water, canned goods, etc.)
Buy additional ice and load your cooler with drinks and food items.
Tie down or bring in loose items from outside. (Bring in your front door mat).
Close your attic vents.
Close your storm windows.
Draw down the window shades and close draperies.
Cover windows ( especially the safe room) with 3/4″ plywood.
Bring the necessary items you’ll need to the safe room.
Test your radios, flashlights and have extra batteries ready.
Distribute a headlight and a flashlight for every member of the family.
If you have to evacuate, be sure to shut off all your utilities before leaving.
Brace your garage door using plywood and 2x4s.
Monitor radio broadcast about the storm.
During the Hurricane
All interior doors should be closed.
Unplug all appliances once the power is lost and post a note on each saying so.
DO NOT ANSWER ANY LANDLINE PHONES DURING THE STORM! (Sometimes lightning is inducted into the phone lines at the pole which might cause the phone to ring. This could cause electrocution.)
Stay off the phone during the storm unless there is an urgent need. Don’t tie up the lines.
Avoid opening the refrigerator. Use the cooler instead.
Monitor local radio broadcasts – particularly stations that usually give the best local information.
Stay away from windows, especially on the up-wind side of the house.
Keep all shades and draperies closed during the storm.
Stay in the safe room during the storm.
Be aware of the “eye of the hurricane” (Don’t venture out if it should pass over your location.)
(Hurricane winds on the other side of the eye wall will come from the opposite direction very suddenly.)
After the Hurricane
This hurricane preparedness list also considers a few thoughts regarding the aftermath…
Be sure that all stove burners have been turned (it’s best to unplug the stove when the power fails. After some prolonged power outages, house fires have occurred because the outage began while cooking was in progress. Later, during the power failure, items had been carelessly left on a non-operating stove and when the power was restored the heating elements ignited them.)
DO NOT GO NEAR ANY DOWNED POWER LINES.
Don’t eat any food from the refrigerator that has gone above 40 degrees.
Pay extra attention to sanitation after the storm. Paper plates and plastic utensils should be used during the recovery period. Keep surfaces clean using disinfectants and practice heightened personal hygiene.
Check for damage to the house, photograph it and begin making repairs.
Use alternative ways of cooking outdoors (gas grill, butane stove, charcoal, Sterno stove,etc.).
Test your CO and smoke detectors.
Conserve your battery power. The duration of the power outage may be a long one.
Check on your neighbors.
Call on family members.