How to Prepare for a Hurricane


hurricane preparation hurricane preparation
In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan struck the Gulf Coast as a powerful Category 3. Homeowners like Jason Huffman (seen here) did all they could beforehand to prepare their homes to withstand the brunt of the storm. STEPHEN MORTON/GETTY IMAGES

There's not much that can rattle a New Yorker. Most have seen enough to know they've seen it all. So when Hurricane Irene took aim at New York City and its environs in 2011, most New Yorkers didn't bat an eye. But some did. They prepared. Allen Ortiz, from Queens built a cinderblock wall several inches high to keep water from flooding his driveway. If floodwaters poured into his basement, Ortiz was ready, too: He had not one, but two pumps at the standby [source: Fenton, Livingston and Sanderson].

In Ozone Park, Clifford Singh stocked up on flashlights and batteries. He bought extra water and food. Members of the City Island Yacht Club in the Bronx received e-mails to check their moorings and to batten down the hatches. "Sustained winds of this strength will find any weakness – count on it," the message said [source: Fenton, Livingston and Sanderson].

Once upon a storm, the only time people knew a hurricane was going to strike was when the wind started blowing and the rain started falling. By then it was too late. Entire cities and towns were swept away.

Things began to change in the 1950s when the science of storm prediction took a radical leap forward. Thanks to aircraft that could provide accurate data on the position of a hurricane, and the development of nascent computer technology, hurricane forecasting became a lot easier. Scientists used these and other techniques to develop statistical and atmospheric models of the storms. It didn't take long for scientists to predict, with reasonable certainty, the exact track of a hurricane. People were able to get out of Dodge when the sun was still shining, saving thousands upon thousands of lives over the years [source: HurricaneScience.org].

Having a secure home is all well and good, but it's only one piece of the hurricane-preparation puzzle. No matter how storm-proof your home, there's always a chance you'll have to evacuate it – or be stuck inside it for days during a massive power outage. So, you're going to need a detailed family plan and an emergency supply kit.

Family Plan

Here are the crucial components of a family hurricane plan:

  • Think of safe places to meet in the event of a hurricane if you're unable to stay in your home.
  • Identify a safe room in your house where everyone can gather during a hurricane. It should be an interior room, preferably a bathroom or in the basement; stay flexible, though, and be ready to move to an upper floor in case of a strong storm surge.
  • Memorize evacuation routes from your home, office or kids' school to a safe place, whether it's a motel, a friend's house or a shelter. The shorter the trip, the better.
  • Have all emergency phone numbers stored in your cell phones. This includes an out-of-state friend or relative that the whole family can use as a point of contact.

Emergency Kit

Your emergency supply kit should include [source: Ready.gov]:

  • enough water and nonperishable food for each person for three to seven days. Everyone should have a gallon of water per day.
  • flashlight and batteries
  • first aid kit
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio (batteries should be replaced every six months)
  • multipurpose tool
  • personal hygiene items
  • a week's supply of medications, baby supplies and pet items
  • car and house keys
  • clothing, hats, shoes and blankets
  • copies of personal documents and insurance paperwork
  • cell phone chargers
  • moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal hygiene
  • manual can opener
  • paper plates and cups; plastic utensils
  • purification tablets for water

Ninety-nine percent of your job will be complete once you've secured your home, figured out your plan and stocked your emergency kit. At the start of hurricane season every year, double-check your supplies and replace batteries to ensure that you'll be ready to hit the ground running if a hurricane does come your way.