Surviving a Hurricane
A hurricane is a type of tropical storm that develops over the subtropical or tropical waters of the North Atlantic Ocean (including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea) and Northeast Pacific Ocean that brings high winds and heavy rain. A hurricane can range anywhere from an exaggerated rainstorm to a full-fledged storm with a body count.
With these storms having the ability to bring on a deadly situation, it is silly not to take them seriously. As natives of Florida, the team members at Prepper Life are used to hurricane season and can often forget how unpredictable and dangerous they can be. That is why we are here to make sure everyone in hurricane-prone climates can get real about their hurricane preparedness.
The first step to being prepared for hurricane season is knowing when to be prepared and what to be prepared for.
The hurricane season for the Atlantic lasts from June 1st to November 30th and from late May to early November for the Pacific. Following the guidelines of the National Hurricane Center, wind speeds principally determine the class of a hurricane. A storm must have sustained winds of 74 mph or higher to qualify as a hurricane; anything less is just a tropical storm.
- Category 1 74 – 95 mph
- Category 2 96 – 110 mph
- Category 3 111 – 129 mph
- Category 4 130 – 156 mph
- Category 5 157 mph +
Steadily falling rain and storm surge (rise in seawater level caused by intense storms) from hurricanes may result in flooding, causing damage to vehicles, structures, roads, and underground pipes. The accompanying high winds can damage trees, buildings/homes and power lines. Usually, what stands between you and disaster is how well you prepare for the hurricane.
Family Disaster Plan
You should always have a plan in place for you and your family (including pets) in the event of a hurricane. It will be too late for many preparation tactics once the storm begins. It’s important to know precisely what to do when the time comes, so consider making a checklist and detail plan document. You should consider the following:
- What is our shelter plan?
- What is our evacuation route and destination?
- What is our family/household communication plan?
- Where do we meet if we get separated?
- Where is our emergency survival kit and is it fully stocked?
- What emergency phone numbers do we need to be aware of?
To make sure everyone thoroughly understands this plan and knows how to check off the items, it is recommended that you run drills every year.
Elderly, Children, and Pets
Part of your plan needs to include details regarding any special accommodations for elderly family members, children and pets. Of course, you need to have enough food, water and other basics, but apart from that, these individuals will all have separate needs and some may need extra attention. For example, if anyone in your household is on special medication, be to get them all filled ahead of time, if possible.
Food and Water
Arguably, the first and most important items to stock up on are water and food. Make sure you have at least three days’ worth of water, per person and pet, and non-perishable foods. Don’t forget pet food!
The power grid is usually the first casualty when the storm hits. You will want to stock up on battery-operated torch lights and backup batteries to ride out the storm. Don’t forget to charge them in plenty of time before the hurricane is scheduled to hit. You will also need a battery-operated or hand-crank radio to keep up with important information.
Also, go to your ATM and get enough cash to last you at least 3 days. If electricity and internet go down, you may not be able to pay for anything post-storm with cards until your community can restore all normal functions. You will also want to gather all of your important documents and sources of identification into a safe (and waterproof) location.
Other items that are often overlooked while preparing for hurricane season are supplies for a potential flood. You should have knee-high rubber boots for everyone in your home, and maybe even some waders. Take a look at our Surviving a Flood article if you live in a location where you could find yourself in an extreme flood situation.
Once you’re stocked for the hurricane season, it’s time to give your property a chance to withstand the weather. Start by decluttering your drains and gutters. They will need to be working at peak performance for all the rain coming through. Next, prepare your doors and windows by stocking up on plywood or installing permanent shutters. Lastly, get up on the roof and check for any flaws. If you see any loose shingles, nail them down or use roofing cement to put them back in place. You may also want to have clips and straps on hand that you can use to securing the roof to the frame of the house prior to an incoming storm.
Ongoing Hurricane Safety Guidelines
Even with all the preparation before the hurricane storm, the reality can still be daunting. It’s critical to have foolproof guidelines to follow when a hurricane hits. Below are some important bits of information that will help keep you safe.
Note: If the local authority advises you to evacuate the area, do so without delay. If the storm isn’t severe enough to warrant evacuation, please follow the guidelines below.
1. Stay Informed
You can’t afford to be cut off from the world during a hurricane. Keep your radio on to receive updates about safety measures and other important information.
2. Stay Inside
Once the storm gets close, hunker down at home. This is not the time to run and get supplies. You should not be driving in the storm, and you should stay inside until the storm has passed. While inside, stay away from doors and windows.
This goes for pets too! Make sure all your pets are inside and comfortable. For dogs, there are turf patches you can purchase for inside the home or garage where they can go potty.
3. Secure Windows and Doors
Make sure that you properly secure your doors and windows. Check your storm shutters and/or plywood one last time, checking for any weak or exposed spots. DO NOT TAPE YOUR WINDOWS! Many people believe that taping your windows in the face of a hurricane will effectively prevent shattering; this is false. Doing it will waste your time and could even put you and your family at greater risk if the windows do break.
4. Keep Refrigerator Closed
When the power goes out, keep the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible. The reason for this is simple; the food inside stands a better chance for at least another 4 hours if it’s left unopened.
5. Avoid Open Flames
Since power is usually the first thing to go out during a storm, you will need to light your house one way or another. To survive the storm, you will want to avoid open flames and gas lanterns. Candles are great at providing light (and pleasant smells) in dark areas, but they can become hazardous if you predict you will be without power for an extended period of time.
For example, extended use of candles without proper ventilation can limit fresh oxygen in the home (and if your power is out, there is no A/C and you can’t open your windows). Candles and gas lanterns can also get knocked over, making them direct fire hazards. Hurricanes have been known to damage gas lines and cause leaks, as well, making open flames in the home very dangerous.
6. Get to the Lowest Level and Shelter or Barricade
The lowest level in your house is the safest place to be during a hurricane. Basements are ideal but for us Florida natives, basements are rare. At the very least, get yourself, your family and your pets to the lowest floor of your house and keep as much distance between you and the doors and windows as possible. If you live in a mobile home, evacuate to a safer location. If the storm has become a severe threat, barricade everyone in a bathroom with no windows, a closet or any small, central area. Stay put until you hear otherwise from local authorities.
7. Watch Out for Floodwaters
While you’re doing your bit to ensure you and your family survive a hurricane, don’t forget that flooding that can occur as a result of the storm. While the lowest level in your house is the safest place during a hurricane, it ceases to be so when flooding starts. You should move to higher ground when flooding occurs. Doing so will help you to avoid being trapped by rising water.
A hurricane, like all disasters, will always come to an end. How do you handle the aftermath? First things first, it’s time to return home if you were evacuated when the hurricane hit. You should only return when your local authorities say it’s safe to do so.
Tend to Injuries
Hurricanes are dangerous. The high wind is not nearly as dangerous as the debris it quickly turns into projectiles. Tend to those loved ones and neighbors that were injured in the process or call for help if the injuries are life-threatening. Keep in mind, first responders will be very busy, so do what you can to keep everyone clean, dry and comfortable until help arrives.
Survey Damage and Outages
Once you know everything has settled down and everyone is safe, evaluate just how much the hurricane destroyed. Check for broken doors and windows, water damage, downed power lines and trees, and any harm to your vehicles.
Evacuate Unsafe Structures
If after your evaluation, you find that your property is no longer safe, evacuate immediately. Stay away from damaged power lines and anything coming in close contact with them, especially water.
As soon as you confirm everything is in order on your property and in your area, commence the cleaning process. Be very careful of sharp debris, standing water and creatures that may have been displaced.
When all is said and done, the hurricane season will always come. The best anyone living in hurricane-prone areas can do is prepare. Be sure you know what to do before, during, and after a hurricane. Check with your city and county prior to every new hurricane season for updated guidance; check your emergency lists and kits regularly; talk to your family about your plans. It is always better to be safe than sorry.