Every year, as the days get longer and the temperatures climb, families across the southern United States start getting a little anxious. The reason? Two words: Hurricane Season. The Atlantic sees dozens of hurricanes each year from June to November – and when they make landfall, the results can be devastating.
In the past three years, the U.S. has seen 15-18 hurricanes per season. While the high incidence rate may make them seem common, it certainly doesn’t detract from the damage they cause. Hurricanes are the most devastating natural disasters in the U.S., tearing families from their homes in terrifying evacuations and causing billions of dollars in property damage each year.
How can you protect your family and home this hurricane season? FEMA and The Red Cross agree that the best protection is a plan! Creating a disaster plan before a hurricane strikes can help provide peace of mind, ensure your family’s safety, and make recovery a little easier.
Here are a few tips to help you create your family’s disaster plan.
Tip 1: Create Your Home Preparation Checklist
Hurricane preparedness is all about keeping your loved ones safe during the disaster, but it’s also about mitigating some of the possible property damage. If you prepare your home at the start of the hurricane season, you can avoid suffering serious devastation and speed up your family’s recovery experience.
The end of spring is a great time to begin your home preparation. Start by making a checklist of all the different steps you need to take to protect your house, including:
- Move hazardous chemicals to watertight bins and store them a high place
- Unplug electrical items and move them at least 12” off the floor
- Turn off electrical at the main breaker
- Shut off gas at the meter, as well as any propane tanks
- Close storm shutters and cover all windows
- Bring loose outdoor items inside
- Unplug outdoor electrical items
- Empty the ice bin in the refrigerator
With this checklist, everyone in the family can take part in getting the home ready for a hurricane. Just remember to prepare as soon as possible; no one wants to be rushing to close storm shutters as the storm arrives!
Tip 2: Create an Evacuation Checklist
Evacuating your home during a hurricane can be a very stressful experience. However, if you are prepared to pack up and go, you can avoid some of the chaos and fear that accompanies an evacuation notice.
While you may not know when the notice is coming, you can be prepared for the moment it does – and the best way to do that is with an evacuation checklist. Write down a list of all the things you’ll need to bring with you, including:
- Medications and Medical Devices
- Change of Clothes for all family members (include jacket, sweater, and long pants)
- IDs/Credit Cards/Cash
- Medical Insurance Cards
- Spare Food and Snacks
- Blankets and Pillows
- First Aid Kit
- Cell Phone Charger
- Pet Supplies
- Ways to pass the time (deck of cards, games, etc.)
Once you’ve finalized your list, post it somewhere that the whole family can see (like the refrigerator). This way, anyone in the house can start packing as soon as possible.
Tip 3: Have an Evacuation Plan
When a family is preparing for a natural disaster, the people (and pets) in the house are always priority number one. For this reason, it is important to have a practiced family plan that keeps everyone together and safe. Your family evacuation plan should have two main components: a set of meeting places and an evacuation route.
Your set of meeting places gives the whole family a place to gather and check that everyone is safe. Most families use their own homes as their primary meeting place, but it is important to have a second location in mind. After all, it’s not always easy to get back home during a storm (particularly if the person was away at work or school), and if the neighborhood is already evacuated getting home may be impossible. Select a second location to meet in case these scenarios occur.
Use a map of your neighborhood to plan an evacuation route the entire family can follow. Look for a location that’s at least 20-50 miles inland – like a shelter, hotel, or loved one’s house – and design a route that is both safe and easy to remember. This will ensure that everyone gets to a safe location quickly.
Finally, once you’ve settled on an evacuation plan with your family, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you review these plans again and again. Make sure everyone knows the plan by heart (especially young children) and review the plan at the start of each hurricane season. This will prevent your family from panicking at the moment and keep everyone safe.
Tip 4: Store Documents Online
In the aftermath of a hurricane, many families are surprised to discover that their personal documents have been destroyed. They can be damaged by flooding, lost to the high winds, or otherwise damaged beyond repair. Therefore, it’s important to securely store your files digitally, either on a thumb drive or in an online storage system.
Before a hurricane hits, double-check that you have digital duplicates of all your personal files. These include:
- Driver’s Licenses
- Passports/Citizenship paperwork/Visas
- Military IDs
- Social Security Cards
- Marriage License
- Birth Certificates
- Home Title or Deed
- Vehicle Title and Registration
- Insurance (homeowners/renters, auto, umbrella, etc.)
- Professional License/Board Certifications,
- Pet ID Chip Numbers
Even if your hard copies are lost to the hurricane, the digital files will make it much easier to retain your info and get back to your everyday life.
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Download our LifeExec Immediate Evacuation Checklist and LifeExec Emergency Kit Checklist and use them to help prepare your household for an natural disaster.
Please feel free to share them with anyone in your life they may help.
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