Hurricane Safety

Why is hurricane safety important? You probably already know this, but just in case you don't, hurricanes are very powerful and if you aren't prepared, you are putting yourself and your family at risk.

How will you know if you are going to Shelter-in-Place or Evacuate?

Prepare for BOTH and when the time comes for the authorities in your area to make a determination, you will be able to handle either situation. If you are asked to evacuate, please don't try to "ride out the storm". Listen to recommendations of local officials on TV, radio and other media as well as the National Weather Service. You need to be realistic in assessing your risk.

Hurricanes are only part of the problem. Flooding, tornadoes, storm surges and electrical storms are other issues that have to be considered, too. Being safe is the most important priority. Protect yourself, your family and property by PREPARING ahead of time. Then, when it comes time to evacuate - if necessary - it isn't a problem.

More about Hurricane Safety

You need to be aware of these serious weather conditions:

  • Tropical storm watch: National Weather Service will issue a tropical storm watch when there is a threat to coastal areas of tropical storm conditions within the next 24 to 36 hour period.
  • Hurricane watch: National Weather Service will issue a hurricane watch when there is a threat to coastal areas of hurricane conditions within the next 24 to 36 hour period.
  • Tropical storm warning: National Weather Service will issue a tropical storm warning when a tropical storm is expected to reach a specified area in less than 36 hours.
  • Hurricane warning: National Weather Service will issue a hurricane warning when a hurricane is expected to reach a specified area in less than 36 hours.

Remember: Your most valuable source of information before, during and after any emergency will be your battery-powered radio (preferably a NOAA radio with tone alert).

Planning Prior to a Hurricane

Meet with your family to create a plan.

Consider how you will find each other if you are separated. Sometimes families get displaced. It could be due to the storm or for other reasons. One person may be at work or another may be at school. Decide ahead of time where everyone will meet if you do get separated. Choose two locations – one in your neighborhood and one outside of your neighborhood.

Determine how you will communicate with your family during the hurricane (if you are not all together). Remember that cell towers may be down or not working. Your best bet is to have all of your family members get in touch with an out-of-town friend or family member. That way, there is a central contact point and one person will know what is going on with everyone.

Post emergency phone numbers at every phone in your home and ensure each family member knows what each emergency number is for. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1.

Inform local authorities about any special needs, i.e., elderly or bedridden people, or anyone with a disability. That way, if they need to get to you, they know what your specific needs are ahead of time.

Make plans to ensure the safety of your pets.

Purchase or put together an emergency survival kit for you - and your pets - with items you may need in case of an evacuation. You will want to have enough medication and supplies to last at least 3 days. Do not minimize the need for this kit. It can be a life-saver all by itself. Think about Hurricane Katrina and so many people not having clean water, food, or medications for so many days. In some cases, having a disaster survival kit can save your life. In other cases, it can make your life incredibly easier for the time it takes until help arrives.

Implementing your Hurricane Safety Plan

  • Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them before the hurricane strikes. Take care of anything that needs to be fixed.
  • Have your family learn basic safety measures, such as CPR and first aid; how to use a fire extinguisher; and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home (such as when you evacuate).
  • Learn about your community's emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
  • Let your local officials know if you have health conditions which require electricity (i.e. oxygen-dependent) or other special needs (mobility disabilities, blind, deaf, insulin-dependent, etc.).
  • Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. You may want to store these documents with your disaster supplies kit.
  • Take steps to ensure the safety of your pets. Do not leave your pets behind. They cannot fend for themselves.

Emergency Hurricane Preparation

  • Fill your vehicle's gas tank.
  • If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation.
  • Make sure your cell phones are charged and if possible, have an additional way to charge your phone with you.
  • Set aside at least a week's worth of medications and put them in a plastic sealable container and store them with your disaster supplies kit. Make sure your medications are stored in their prescription bottles. If you have to go to an American Red Cross shelter, they require this.
  • Fill your clean water containers. Fill sinks and bathtubs with water as an extra supply for washing.
  • Secure any items outside which may damage your property or the property of others in a storm. Such items could be bicycles, grills or propane tanks.
  • Cover windows and doors with plywood or boards or place large strips of masking tape or adhesive tape on the windows to reduce the risk of breaking and flying glass.
  • If you have livestock, put them in a safe area. Due to food and sanitation requirements, emergency shelters are not able to take animals of any kind, not even pets.
  • If you have the ability to place your vehicles under cover, do so.

If you are ordered to Evacuate

  • Take only essential items with you.
  • If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water.
  • Disconnect your appliances to reduce the likelihood of electrical shock when the power is turned back on.
  • Make sure you have an emergency kit in your vehicle.
  • Lock your doors as you leave.
  • Follow the designated evacuation routes as provided by authorities.

If you are ordered to shelter in place

  • Monitor a NOAA radio or television for weather conditions.
  • Stay indoors until the authorities declare the storm is over.
  • Stay away from all windows and exterior doors, seeking shelter in a bathroom or interior room.
  • Lock your doors and windows as this can provide better protection from the storm.
  • Prepare to evacuate to a shelter or to a neighbor's home if your home is damaged, or if you are instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
  • Do not call the police or fire department for updates. Listen to your NOAA radio or your television for updates on current conditions.

Hurricane safety doesn't happen on its own. It takes a fair amount of time and effort. However, it can save your life. Don't put it off.