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Seven safety tips to prepare for hurricane season

In hurricane-prone areas, everyone should think about their local risks

A rescue team looks for people on a flooded street in Havana after Hurricane Irma passed in September 2017. (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

High winds, heavy rainfall, coastal flooding, storm surge and rip currents.

Hurricanes bring numerous threats to life and property across the United States, causing billions of dollars in damage. With the start of the Atlantic hurricane season nearing, now is the time to prepare.

From May 1-7, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is sharing safety tips for Americans to get “hurricane ready” as part of National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

While it’s especially important for people in hurricane-prone areas to prepare, everyone should think about their local risks. According to NOAA, since 1950 there have been 123 hurricanes that have directly affected the continental United States, ranging from Texas to Maine — and the risks extend well beyond just wind.

“Nearly 90 percent of deaths involve water, and not wind. This includes storm surge, inland flooding, rip currents and rough surf,” Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, says in a 2021 hurricane preparedness safety video.

With 21 named storms, 2021 was the sixth consecutive year with an above-average Atlantic hurricane season. An average season typically sees 14 named storms, seven of which become hurricanes, and three of which become “major” hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). Early outlooks for this year suggest we’re in for another busy season. Colorado State University is projecting 19 named storms, including nine hurricanes in 2022. NOAA will release their first hurricane season projection in late May.

Scientists predict seventh straight above-average hurricane season

These tips from National Hurricane Preparedness Week will help you get ready and plan ahead before a storm threatens.

Determine your personal hurricane risk

Identify your personal risk from tropical systems. Determine what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live, and then start preparing how to handle them. While you may think hurricanes are mainly a threat to communities at the coast, impacts can affect both coastal and inland communities, potentially hundreds of miles from landfall.

Tropical systems and their remnants can produce many hazards, such as extreme winds, flooding, storm surge, prolonged power outages, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Know your risks, and plan ahead to protect yourself and your property.

Develop an evacuation plan

If you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, a flood-prone area or a mobile home outside a hurricane evacuation zone, you may need to leave if a storm threatens. Now is the time to plan where you would go and how you would get there.

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) has an evacuation zone “quick guide” to help get you started. Your city or county website may also offer helpful guidance for your location. Remember, depending on your risk, you may not need to travel hundreds of miles to evacuate. Your destination could be a friend or relative who lives in a well-built home outside flood-prone areas. Be sure to account for your pets in your plan, since some storm shelters do not accept furry residents.

Assemble your disaster supply kit

Whether you’re evacuating or sheltering in place, you will need supplies to get through the storm and the potentially lengthy aftermath. You should have enough nonperishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of three days (or longer, if space allows).

Electricity and water could be out for days or potentially weeks following high-impact storms. Other important items may include cash, a battery-powered radio, flashlights, portable crank or solar-powered USB charger for your cellphones, a first aid kit and (if needed) supplies for children, infants or pets.

FEMA offers a handy disaster supply checklist to get ready.

Review/update your insurance policy

Often overlooked, this tip might be the most important to protect your property and finances following a storm. Call your insurance company or agent now and ask for an insurance checkup to make sure you have enough insurance to repair or even replace your home and/or belongings. Remember, home and renters insurance doesn’t cover flooding, so you’ll need a separate policy for it.

How to decide if flood insurance is necessary for your home

Flood insurance is available through your company, agent or the National Flood Insurance Program at floodsmart.gov. Don’t wait to get started, since flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period.

Prepare and strengthen your home

With warmer weather ahead, why not include storm preps in your spring home projects? Make sure your home is up to local hurricane building code specifications to withstand wind impacts, especially if you live in vulnerable hurricane zones. Simple home upgrades and retrofits can be inexpensive and may help protect your home from potentially more damage later.

Instead of waiting until a storm threatens, consider having the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up windows and doors ahead of time. Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand the winds. FLASH offers more helpful tips to protect your home.

Designed for disaster: These homes can withstand a Category 5 hurricane

Generators can be an important part of your home preparations and help if you lose power during or after a storm. But safety first — remember, carbon-monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms. Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage. Review generator safety as you prepare your home for hurricane season.

If you’re a renter, work with your landlord now to prepare your home for a storm.

Help your neighbors prepare

Neighbors helping neighbors will get all of us through a storm. Many people rely on their neighbors before and after a disaster, and there are many ways you can help them. Learn about all the different actions you and your neighbors can take to prepare and recover from the hazards associated with hurricanes.

Start the conversation now, but remember you may need to adjust your preparedness plans based on the latest health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your local officials.

Write a hurricane plan

Finally, write down your hurricane preparedness plan now. The best time to prepare for a hurricane is before a storm threatens, when you have the time and are not under pressure. If you wait until a hurricane is on the way, stress may lead to poor decisions.

Know who issues evacuation orders for your area, determine locations on where you will ride out the storm, and start stocking up on supplies. FEMA’s Make a Plan and FLASH Family Disaster Plan are helpful resources to get you started.

It is important to learn your risks now and prepare yourself, your home and family for the season ahead. Remember, it takes only one storm to make a “bad” season and potentially change your life or community forever.

The National Hurricane Center will begin issuing routine tropical outlooks for both the Atlantic and Pacific basins May 15.

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