You can't control a natural disaster, but you can be prepared for it. Here's what ready your house, pets, food, and more in advance of a hurricane.

By Jenny Krane
Updated August 28, 2020
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Natural disasters are scary, unpredictable events that can threaten the safety of your family, home, and community. Although we cannot control the weather, we do have control over natural disaster preparedness. If you live along the coast, you'll need to know what to do when weather forecasters are predicting a hurricane to hit.

Hurricanes are massive, swirling storms that form over oceans, according to NASA. They produce heavy rain and high winds that damage property and trees and can cause heavy devastation. The storms are broken down into different categories, depending on the severity, with the highest, a Category 5, producing winds higher than 157 miles per hour. However, even a Category 1, which causes winds from 74 to 95 miles per hour, can be very dangerous. The best thing you can do when a tropical storm is on the way is to create a plan and having the right supplies on hands. Here's everything you need to know and what you need to do to prepare for a hurricane.

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How to Prepare for a Hurricane

First, you need to come up with a plan for you and your family members. Decide on a meeting point if you need to evacuate your home, and create contact cards that everyone can keep in their wallet or pocket with essential phone numbers and medical information (for example, if a child has a severe allergy or preexisting medical condition that a shelter would need to know about.)

Always wait for officials to advise evacuation—you can put yourself in more danger if you try to evacuate before local officials tell you to. (And once they tell you to leave the area, you should.) Listen to weather radio or follow the Emergency Alert System. As you prepare for an emergency, research your closest emergency shelter and what evacuation routes are best (some roads could be susceptible to flooding).

Stock Up On Bottled Water

In a state of emergency, there may not be accessible clean water—and you might not have the resources to boil water. Keep a case or two of bottled drinking water ($4, Target) both in your home and in your car, so you have clean water wherever you go. If you have a bathtub, clean it and fill it with water for an extra supply of drinkable water.

Make a Natural Disaster Preparedness Kit

Keep disaster preparedness essentials in one easy-to-access spot. Look for a waterproof bag ($20, Dick's Sporting Goods) or suitcase ($29, Overstock), so all your necessities stay dry. Pack items such as candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, first-aid supplies, an extra phone charger, a blanket, and a multi-tool with a knife or scissors included. A set of clean (and dry) clothes will also come in handy if you get soaked. Also, get a map of your area to keep on hand. Also consider including a weather radio ($40, Amazon), so you can keep on top of what's happening in your area. If you know you will, for sure, be affected by a natural disaster, consider packing prescription medications, cash, and important personal documents.

Prepare Your House for a Hurricane

Heavy flooding can do a number on your home, and the damage is often inevitable. However, there are some steps you can take to hurricane-proof your home. Bring all the outdoor furniture inside. Secure the gutters on the outside of your house and make sure the drains are clear so they can work as they're supposed to. Keep tarps and rope handy in case you need to patch holes from storm damage. If you can, board up windows with plywood ($27, The Home Depot) and seal seams around exterior doors and windows with caulk. Check the edges of your basement as well to fill holes where water could come in.

Inside, make sure you have non-perishable food stocked up and in a place that won't get wet. Keep dry blankets and clothes handy. Unplug all small appliances and gas tanks to reduce the risk of fires from lightning strikes. Crank up the cold temperatures inside the fridge and freezer and avoid opening the doors in the case of a power outage. (Food in the fridge and freezer only last a few hours once the power goes out, so make sure you throw perishable items away after.) Some homeowners keep backup home generators ($4,000, The Home Depot) on hand in the event of loss of power. If so, make sure you have enough fuel (and stored in a safe location) to keep it running as long as needed.

Make a Plan for Your Pets

Keep your pets safe during an emergency. They are a part of the family, too—but their disaster plan varies a bit. In the event you evacuate, make sure your hotel is animal-friendly. If you can't find a pet-friendly hotel nearby, make a housing list of potential friends and family that could watch your pet if you need to evacuate. Make sure your pet has a collar with your contact information or a microchip so you can be reunited with your pet if you are separated. Also, keep photos of your furry friend on hand.

Create a pet emergency kit as a part of your family and home emergency kits. Make sure they have a few days' worth of water, food, and any medication they may need. Include a leash, litter, and litter pans as needed. Try to have a pop-up crate or kennel in your emergency kit—this will allow for safer transportation and may help your furry family member feel safer. As you are packing essential documents in your emergency kit, include your pet's records that prove they are up-to-date on their shots.

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