A hurricane preparedness checklist will provide reassurance that you will have thought of all the essentials and will greatly reduce the likelihood that you will forget something during the stressful time immediately before a potential hurricane disaster.
Note: We all have our own unique circumstances, concerns, and existing resources, so no list is a perfect or complete list. With that said, the following hurricane list will help get you thinking in the right direction. The list is intended to provoke thought and preparation.
- 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 )
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ( like this one ). 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.
- Flashlight and lanterns: Make sure you have a couple of flashlights, LED lanterns ( I have several of these ) ( reviewed 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 ( here ) and ( here ).
- Basic First Aid Kit: Keep a general purpose First Aid Kit in youir home and in your vehicle. ( This year’s ‘best’ general purpose first aid kit )
- Checklist: Customize your own hurricane preparedness checklist and print it out for your reference.
Food and 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 this ( BERKEY ) drinking water filter (or equivalent).
- 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? ( this one is awesome )
- 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.
- Do you have a portable generator? : They sell out quickly. Note: operate it outside – they exhaust carbon monoxide! ( Here’s a nice quiet 2000 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
- 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 ‘WaterBOB’ is designed for 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.
- 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
- 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 neighbors’ 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.