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Are You Prepared for Hurricane Season?

Photo credit: John Middelkoop on Unsplash

Florida has a long history of hurricanes and tropical storms making landfall. But hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. The impacts of hurricanes can be felt hundreds of miles inland. Tropical storms can also leave a wide wake of destruction in their paths. This hurricane season, take these six steps to ensure you and your neighbors will be ready to respond to an emergency situation.

1. Assess Your Risks

The first step is to accurately assess your risk. This is especially important in areas where a recent disaster is not fresh in our minds. Hurricanes bring many hazards to our coastlines as well as inland areas, including:

  • Storm surges along the coast
  • Inland flooding due to heavy rainfall
  • Tornadoes and strong winds
  • Rip currents and large waves

To find out what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live, check out the National Hurricane Center’s page on Hurricane Return Periods.

2. Make an Evacuation Plan

Find out today if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone. If your county is in an evacuation zone, think about where you would go in an emergency and plan several evacuation routes. Have a go bag for supplies and a plan for your pets. If you live in a sturdy home outside an evacuation zone, your best bet is to shelter in place rather than risk traveling in unsafe conditions.

To find your evacuation zone, go to SERT’s interactive evacuation zone map and enter your address.

3. Gather Disaster Supplies

You’re going to need supplies not just to get through the storm, but for the potentially long aftermath, when utilities are out and gas stations are out of gas or don’t have electricity to operate the pumps. Have enough supplies on hand to last each person in your family for at least two weeks. A solid disaster kit should include:

  • A two-week supply of non-perishable food and a can opener
  • A gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • A tarp and duct tape
  • Wet wipes for sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

When a storm threat is imminent, also be sure to gas up your vehicle, fill your prescriptions, and have cash and local maps on hand. If you need to go to a public shelter, the CDC recommends bringing masks and hand sanitizer with you to protect you and others from Covid-19.

4. Get an Insurance Checkup

Check in with your inurance company before hurricane season is upon us. You want to make sure your homeowners insurance will cover repairs in the event of a disaster. Remember, standard homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover flooding, so that must be obtained separately. It’s important to act in before hurricane season to obtain flood insurance, which requires a 30-day waiting period.

It’s not too late to protect yourself from costly damages this hurricane season. Find available coverage at the National Flood Insurance Program’s website.

5. Fortify Your Home

There’s a lot you can do yourself to protect your home from hurricane and tropical storm winds. If you plan to ride out the storm in your home, as many seasoned Floridians do, make sure it’s in good repair. Before hurricane season, trim trees around your property and get approved window coverings. Astroguard fabric panels, accordion shutters, roll-up shutters, and Bahama shutters are all solid options. Have plywood on hand to board up windows and doors when the time comes.

Ahead of a storm, secure loose outdoor items like patio furniture, secure all doors and windows (the garage door is the most vulnerable to strong windows), and move your vehicle to a safe location. The folks at Guildbrook Farms, an off-the-grid community, have thought of everything to get you through a disaster. Take a cue from them in this video guide to preparing for a hurricane.

6. Assist Your Neighbors

Older Americans and folks with limited mobility rely on their neighbors to help them in the event of a disaster. Assist your neighbors by helping them gather the supplies they’ll need to ride out a storm. Include them in your evacuation plans, if possible, and don’t forget to check in on your senior neighbors after the storm has passed.

7. Share Your Plan

If all of this sounds like a lot to remember, you might want to write down your hurricane plan while you’re not under pressure or duress. Know who issues evacuation orders, what supplies you’ll need, and where your important documents are. Have a contact list of family and friends, doctors, veterinarians, and utility companies. That list should include at least one person who lives outside of an evacuation area. Most importantly, share your plan with the people in your household and your emergency contacts. Being prepared before a hurricane makes you resilient, and can mean the difference between being a hurricane victim or a hurricane survivor.

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