4 Life-Saving Hurricane Preparedness Tips

Sure, areas like Florida, North Carolina and New Orleans are most at risk (according to AccuWeather), but like with most things left up to Mother Nature, no region is immune to hurricanes.

It's easy to think, "That'll never happen to me," but the reality is everyone needs an emergency preparedness plan.

"Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count," FEMA explains. In fact, the organization notes that far too many people think they don't need to worry about disasters like hurricanes.

Don't be one of those people. According to Peter Duncanson, ‎director of disaster restoration operations at ServiceMaster Restore, the following tips will help you to properly prepare for a hurricane, and could even save your life.

1. Have a communications plan.
Since power outages and even cell tower outages are common during hurricanes, it's important to communicate your plans (and evacuation procedure if necessary) with your family and friends beforehand.

• Pinpoint a meeting location or "emergency lodging area" both near your home and outside of your neighborhood. This way, if your family becomes separated, you'll know where to find each other.
• Also select an out-of-state relative or friend that can serve as the "official family contact." Be sure that all of your family members have this person's contact information both in their cell phones and on a laminated card. Taking it one step further, it's also advised that each family member has a current photo of all family members (including pets) and it's also a good idea to keep copies of your family's medical records.
• If you have pets, you will likely want to identify refuge sites that are pet-friendly, like boarding facilities, veterinary clinics, pet-friendly hotels, stables or homes of friends/relatives.

2. Secure the basic necessities.
It's suggested that you make sure to stock up on all the basics you would need for at least one week.

• Water: Each family member will need about a gallon of water every three days. If you have pets, you'll need extra.
• Nonperishable Foods: Have a ready supply of foods (and the tools needed to open them), as well as plastic utensils to eat them with.
• Be sure to refill any necessary prescriptions before a forecasted hurricane, with ample time to pick them up or have them delivered.
• Emergency Bag: Stock a bag with emergency essentials like cash, a first aid kit, medications and prescriptions, batteries for flashlights, disinfectants, blankets and a fire extinguisher.
• Be sure that cell phones are fully charged and include extra chargers in your emergency kit as well.
• Make sure your car's gas tank is full.
• Have a battery-operated AM/FM radio or TV on hand so you can stay updated on weather reports in case of power outages.

3. Protect your investments.
It's important to make sure that all of your insurance and financial documents are protected, so store them in water-proof containers. Be sure to take pictures of your home (inside and out) and all of your documents so you have a back-up record if needed.

• Double check that your insurance policy covers natural disasters.
• It's also a good idea to photograph all of your valuables so that you have a record of them if needed.
• If necessary, close and board up all windows with ½ inch marine plywood and remove all outside antennas. Also, turn off household electric and gas appliances in order to reduce the risk of fire.
• Clear rain gutters and downspouts and install traps to secure the roof to the frame of the house.
• Consider buying and installing an emergency back-up generator.

4. Put safety first.
During the storm:
• Consistently check for weather updates. If you're advised to evacuate, heed the advisory and take only what you need.
• Close and secure all doors and windows; turn off all electrical and gas appliances.
• If you live in a high-rise building, take shelter on or below the tenth floor.
• Limit phone and laptop use only for emergency situations.

After the storm:
• Hurricanes vary in severity, so when it's time to assess the damage, prepare yourself to the best of your ability. Never underestimate the power and strength of a hurricane.
• If you need help during the clean-up, it's best to call a professional who has the experience, training and resources to work with both you and your insurance company and can make the restoration process as stress-free as possible.
• Put on protective clothing before entering a hurricane-damaged home. Be smart and assess the situation. If there are electrical appliances in standing water or rooms that are saturated in water, call for professional help immediately.
• Begin water cleanup and removable as soon as possible — ideally within 24 to 48 hours — for the best chance at avoiding mold and further water damage. This includes: removing wet rugs and other floor coverings; using a wet/dry vacuum to soak up excess water; wiping furniture dry and propping up cushions to speed-up the drying process; discarding any non-valuable items that are wet; and using fans or dehumidifiers if the outside temperature is about 60 degrees.

More Reading:
How to Survive a Rip Current
The Most Hurricane Prone U.S. States
Survival Myths That Could Actually Kill You