Hurricane season is a big issue for people living in the Caribbean and the Southern United States. Hurricane season runs fron June 1st to November 30th, peaking around early to mid September, during which the aforementioned places are routinely pounded by tropical storms.
And even if you don’t live in these areas, you aren’t guaranteed safety- hurricane Hazel in 1954 reached as far as Toronto (!) as a Category 1. Hurricanes can create massive destruction, so it’s important to have a plan in the event of one.
BEFORE A HURRICANE
Your first big decision is whether to evacuate or not. Generally speaking, if you’re in the path of a hurricane, evacuating is a good idea. There are some instances where you MUST evacuate:
1) When the government has issued a mandatory evacuation order
2) When a category 3-5 hurricane is headed your way and you live within 100 miles of the coast, and
3) When you’re home cannot be adequately secured (ie you live in a mobile home).
In any of these instances, your only option is to evacuate.
If you do evacuate, try to leave as soon as you can. Traffic will be bad, so if you can get moving while most people are still in shock/denial, you’ll be much better off. Off times (ie early in the morning) are a good time to leave to minimize traffic.
Make sure you have a working vehicle with a full gas tank ready to go when you need it. Have a plan to stock your vehicle quickly with:
3) Emergency supplies
4) Extra gas if possible (gas stations will run dry quickly, and may not be available for days or even weeks after a hurricane).
Make sure you have a fully charged cell phone on you, as well as extra cash (banks may not be open for a while) and all your important documents.
Have a previously-arranged place you can stay at in the event of a hurricane, far enough to be safe but close enough to get there in a reasonable time and with minimum gas. Know the different routes to get there, as some may be unavailable are backed up with traffic in the event of a hurricane.
As I said above, evacuating is probably your best option in the event of a hurricane. But sometimes staying put may be best (ie there isn’t enough time to properly evacuate), and if that is your choice there are some things for you to consider.
This section will cover what items you will need to store briefly, for more detail check out this article on making a hurricane survival kit.
FOOD & WATER
The first thing you’ll need is a well-stocked home. You’ll want at least a couple weeks worth of water stored, at least 56L per person in your family (that’s 4L/person/day for 2 weeks). For more information, check out this article on emergency water supply and storage.
You’ll also want at least two weeks worth of food stored. You’ll want non-perishable, high-nutrient, high-calorie foods stored, and a decent variety as well. For more information, check out this article on emergency food supply and storage.
This should all be taken care ahead of time, as stores will be cleared out quickly when a hurricane approaches. The last thing you want is a frantic trip to the supermarket to fight for scraps, when there are other things you need to take care of.
If a hurricane is approaching, cook all the meat in your freezer, then put it back in. It will last longer this way, and allow you to eat it without cooking, which could be difficult if you lose power. Fill any gaps with ice and frozen water bottles, to maximize how long things last.
A barbeque or gas powered stove is a great idea, as it may be your only way to cook if you lose power. A fire place can also serve as a makeshift stove during an emergency.
A back up power generator is also a great idea, to help you cook food, run air conditioning, etc in the aftermath of a hurricane.
FORTIFYING YOUR HOME
Some steps to take to make your house a lot safer during a hurricane:
1) close your storm shutters, or board up all your windows.
2) Fill your bathtubs with water
3) Turn off the gas and power
4) Bring in all objects in your back and front yards that could turn into projectiles.
5) Close and lock all of your doors, external then internal. If there’s a breach, this will stop a wind current from running through your house.
DURING A HURRICANE
Once you’ve prepared your house, find a central room on the lowest floor possible to hole up in. Keep tuned into a battery-powered radio, which may be your only access to information when the power goes out. Stay there until it’s been confirmed that it’s safe to go outside again.
As a final note, remember to purchase flood insurance in the off season, as the price will sky rocket as hurricane season approaches.
Good luck and stay prepared!