Respect the ConeThose familiar with hurricane watching know what "the cone" is, but for those who don't: It's the projected areas that NOAA forecasters think will be impacted in some way by a hurricane. Sometimes the cone is off a bit - these storms can change course rather quickly, and it's difficult to predict an exact hurricane path days in advance. Nevertheless, if you live in an area included in the cone, OR near one, respect it. Know that things can change, but be smart enough to take precautions ahead of time.
Make a Go BagvWhat the heck is a "go bag," you ask? A "go bag," or a "grab and go bag" is basically a kit that you can put together well in advance of any storm, especially a hurricane. You'll need it if you are asked to evacuate an area in the path of a potentially dangerous storm. Your go bag should have some essential items, including:
Plenty of water (approximately one gallon for each person in your household, per day, for at least 3 days)
Non-perishable food (canned goods and a can opener, crackers, bread, chips, fruit - anything that won't spoil)
Medication (be sure to refill any prescription medications you need before the storm hits, and include any over-the-counter meds you take regularly, along with a first aid kit, if possible)
Important documents and cash in small bags. You know that lock box you keep in the office closet? The one with insurance papers, mortgage papers, etc.? Get it out and have it ready to take with you if you need to evacuate.
An emergency radio, with extra batteries
A cell phone with a charger
Plastic baggies: You should put your important documents and cash, along with your phones, in plastic bags to protect them in case they get wet
Moist towelettes: If you don't have running water handy, these little towelettes can be heavenly, allowing you to clean up after munching out on your canned goods and/or freshening up if you can't take a shower.
**Another tip: Gather some blankets and pillows if you're heading for a shelter.
Have a Flashlight and Batteries on HandMost of us do have at least one or two flashlights lying around the house. Time to dig through the kitchen drawers now. Make sure you have a working flashlight, in the event you lose power. Also, please check to make SURE you have extra batteries. Stock up!
Another tip: Candles are always a good idea. Have an ample supply. Also, make sure you have lighters and matches on hand. And please, don't leave candles burning unattended. Just keep them lit in the areas where you and your family are - not in additional, unoccupied rooms.
Make a Family Emergency PlanvEvery family should have some sort of emergency plan in place, be it for storms or any other disaster. If things get rough and a hurricane slams into your area, you may not be able to get good cell phone service. Make sure everyone in your household knows where to meet, if the worst happens. Designate an emergency contact person (preferably someone who lives out-of-town) and make sure everyone knows that person's number.
Make sure everyone in the family knows how to text message. If phone systems get overwhelmed (and they definitely do in the wake of any disaster), texting may be the only means of communicating with others.
Grab Some Extra CashIf a hurricane does impact your area, ATM machines may go down (they need power, like everything else). Even if your local grocery store is open immediately after the storm, they may not be able to accept debit and/or credit cards - just cash. Go ahead and visit the bank or the ATM now and withdraw some cash. No need to flip out and withdraw your savings, but have enough on hand (small bills are great) to make purchases.
Get Fuel: Gas and PropaneYes, gas up the vehicles. Don't freak out and hoard (meaning don't bring 18 gas cans and fill them all up), but make sure that the vehicles you have are fully fueled up. Prolonged power outages can cause big problems at the pump and temporary gas shortages do happen.
If you've got a gas grill, grab a tank or two of extra propane. If the power goes out, you'll be able to cook (and use up the stuff in the freezer that may go bad quickly).
Charge Your Cell PhonesIf you lose power, you won't be able to charge your cell phone when the juice runs out. Be sure that all portable devices, especially cell phones, are fully charged well ahead of the storm. FEMA also recommends that people try to limit cell phone use in storm-ravaged areas - at least initially - so your cell phone/smart phone can be extremely important, allowing you to text and use social media to communicate with others.
**Another tip: If you live in a particularly storm-prone area, consider investing in a portable cell phone charger for your car.
Have a Weather RadioThose who live in storm-prone areas likely already have weather radios - but if you don't, get one. These devices are truly life-savers. You'll be able to keep track of all updated weather information in your specific area. Don't plan on relying on the TV - if you lose power, you'll be stuck in the dark, literally and figuratively.
Keep a Portable Radio AroundMost of us are wired in to the Internet and 24-hour television channels to get information, but remember: If the power goes out, these things go bye-bye. Remember portable radios? No? Well, they're handy-dandy devices that let you listen to...the radio. Local radio. Meaning, they're a way to keep in touch with the outside world if Mother Nature decides to put the whammy on your town. Keep a portable radio around and, as with all "old school" devices, be sure you have enough batteries on hand to keep it going!
If Asked to Evacuate, GOIf your state and/or local government officials ask you to voluntarily evacuate your area ahead of a storm, strongly consider doing it. Grab your "go bag" and go. If you are in a mandatory evacuation zone, you must leave. You may think it would be cool to "ride out" a hurricane by sheltering in place, but believe me, about an hour into the storm's onslaught, you'll regret your decision to stay. Just get to a safe place, hunker down, and ride the storm out in safety.
Have a Pet Plan in PlaceSome hurricane shelters don't allow pets. What to do? Get a plan in place now if you have to evacuate with Fido and Fluffy. If you have friends/family members within a reasonable driving distance, check with them to see if they'd let you hang for a bit with your furry friends. Also, some hotels DO allow pets - so surf around now to zone in on some. Make a reservation. You may need to use it. And sure, being holed up in a small hotel room with a dog and three cats probably won't be a picnic, but it's much better than leaving your besties behind. Don't do that. Just don't.
**Another tip: Find your pet's most updated vaccination papers and take them with you.
**Still another tip: Be sure you have enough pet food and water to last 3-7 days.
Get a Cooler, Fill It With IceAs long as you're making preparations, consider getting a large cooler and filling it with ice (obviously you can't do this days ahead, but if you have time, this will be well worth it). Sure, the ice will eventually melt, but if you lose power in a hurricane, you'll at least have some cold drinks and cheese for all those crackers you bought!
**Another tip: Larger blocks of ice will melt much more slowly, so try to fill up your cooler/ice chest with big blocks of ice, if possible. Suggestion: Fill large Ziploc baggies with water and, while you still have power, freeze them to make large ice blocks!
Board Up The HouseIf you live in an area that may take a hit from a hurricane, try to grab some wooden panels to place on top of your windows. While it's not always practical to do this, if you can, it's just another layer of protection for your home from a hurricane's punishing winds.