The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through November 30. So far, the 2017 season has been an active one for the States. Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc despite multiple preparation efforts made by local governments, communities, and individual citizens.
The best time to prepare for hurricane season is prior to the season’s start. However, if the season is anything like the one we’re having – you and your family will find multiple opportunities to bolster your preparation plans.
Build An Emergency Preparedness Kit
Preparing a well-stocked kit will prove beneficial during any national disaster, an extended period without power, or in times of an emergency. Opinions vary on the timeframe for which you should prepare your kit but a good rule of thumb is to stock your kit with enough supplies to last anywhere from 3 to 5 days. You can find multiple suggestions on what to include in your kit or how to tailor it to your family needs here. Remember the power will likely be out so ATMs will not work and banks will be closed, you’ll want to carry cash with you (or have some on hand in your kit).
Unfortunately, life goes on while you’re being evacuated. You won’t know when you can return to your property. In severe situations, you may have to evacuate your home quickly while grabbing important items on the fly. For this reason, you may want to include a separate “kit” or binder for transporting important documents. In this binder, you can carry everything from extra house keys and bank account information to current bills, important pictures and/or birth certificates and social security information.
Create An Evacuation Strategy
Government agencies and local authorities often have to make the unfortunate decision to evacuate knowing what a “hot mess” it’s going to be with panicked travelers, canceled flights, outrageous gas prices and crowded gas stations, not to mention chaos on the highways. If you add flooded roads, heavy rain, and the possibility of tornadoes or heavy winds into the mix, the result becomes an all-out nightmare to get safely out of town.
Keep in mind that you really only need to get away from the evacuation area. Depending on the size of the storm, you may not need to travel hundreds of miles away. Fill up your cars’ gas tanks (possibly keeping an extra on hand). Research local evacuation instructions to make sure you are in line with ordinances. Many government entities already have evacuation routes, shelters and specific instructions on how to re-enter an evacuated area in place.
Include your pet in your plan. If you do not plan to take him or her with you, you’ll need to find a shelter that will accept pets or find somewhere along the route to board him or her. Build upon your local evacuation instructions to include a route farther away as well as a backup plan in case the main route is compromised. Communicate your plans to someone not in the storm’s path so that he or she will know where your family is headed and what way you are taking to get there.
Preparing Your Home
Maintenance and upkeep of your home and your land can significantly impact your property’s ability to withstand a storm. Keep your trees, bushes, and plants trimmed throughout the year making sure to remove any dead limbs or brush that could end up airborne in heavy winds. Investing in storm shutters or having the proper items on hand so you can board your windows and doors quickly could save time and money for when a hurricane actually hits.
Make an appointment to see your insurance agent a couple of times throughout the year to ensure your policies are up to date and provide you with adequate coverage. (Pro Tip: Regular homeowners insurance does not provide flood coverage. If you do not have a policy in place for flood coverage, get one. ) During your visit, ask for a copy of your insurance policy (which should include information on how to file a claim) and advice on any changes you can implement to prevent damage should a hurricane head your way.
The best advice we can offer: prepare for the unexpected. The NWS created a few handy checklists to give you an overview of what preparations to make. Even if you fare well this time, remember that hurricane season will faithfully return year after year. Treating every season as if the “100-year storm” will hit may seem a little paranoid. However, when it comes to weather events like a hurricane there is no real defense from Mother Nature. And, for those of us who live each summer into fall in the midst of hurricane alley, trust us when we say that you never know when it will come – but it is always worth it to be ready.