Survive a Hurricane

A tropical storm officially becomes a hurricane when winds get above 74 miles an hour. A hurricane can appear anywhere along the eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane winds are just one danger. The storms can cause devastating flooding and surges of seawater that destroy everything in their path.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 claimed over 1,500 lives in Mississippi and Louisiana. Services weren't restored in many areas for weeks, and in some ways, New Orleans hasn't yet recovered.

Most storms won't be as bad as Katrina, but they still require preparation. Here are 10 steps to prepare for and survive a hurricane:

Step 1: Secure Your Yard and Windows

10 steps to survive a hurricane

Trim trees and shrubs to minimize the risk of damage from flying branches and debris. Clear loose and clogged rain gutters. 

Don't fall for "old wives tales" about taping your windows. Tape will not prevent breakage. Secure your windows with at least 5/8 inch of marine-grade plywood. You can secure your roof with straps or clips to minimize roof damage. 

Step 2: Secure the Inside of Your Home

10 steps to survive a hurricane
Move your furniture and valuables to higher levels of your home to reduce flood damage. Know how to turn off your utilities and do it if and when you are advised by authorities. Unplug any small appliances and store and secure them. Consider building a safe room: that is a topic for a complete post. At the minimum, make sure you have a safe area inside your home for the duration of the storm.

Step 3: Pets and Livestock

10 steps to survive a hurricane
Bring any pets inside and secure them. Make sure livestock are secure and consider moving them to higher ground ahead of the storm if possible. Include pet and livestock supplies in your emergency kit.

Step 4: Know When and Whether to Evacuate

10 steps to survive a hurricane
If you live in a mobile home or in a high-rise building, waiting out a storm isn't the best option. If you are not absolutely certain your home is secure, evacuate when told by authorities to do so. If you are unable to evacuate, take refuge in your safe room or safe location.

Step 5: Make Sure Your Emergency Supplies are Well Stocked

10 steps to survive a hurricane
You probably heard stories of the people in New Orleans or in New York who had no food or water after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Add your other necessary supplies to this list. It isn't just food and clean water (including knowing how to purify and make your water safe), it's also medical supplies and home protection against looters. Make sure you have all supplies prepped and stored in a safe location (above water in case flooding occurs).

Step 6: Look into Flood Insurance

10 steps to survive a hurricane
Regular home insurance generally doesn't cover flood damage, especially if your area is prone to hurricanes. Check out options for adding flood coverage. If the prices make sense to you, this is one option to obtain funds to rebuild after a big storm.

Step 7: Be Aware of Water and Food Contamination

10 steps to survive a hurricane

Hurricanes tear apart the infrastructure people count on to drink safe water and eat safe food. Your essential food and water safety supplies and equipment like filters will help protect you from the diseases that come with floods of contaminated water and spoiled food.

Step 8: Have a Family Safety and Evacuation Plan in Place

10 steps to survive a hurricane
As with any other disaster, it's crucial to have a plan for what to do if your family is separated when the storm hits or what to do after the storm. Have hurricane drills for all the important steps pre- and post-storm.

Step 9: Know How to Communicate Off the Grid

10 steps to survive a hurricane
It may sound crazy, but some people don't understand that their cell phone won't work after a big disaster. Off-grid experts advise learning how to use some type of ham radio technology, and have independent power available to operate it. Another alternative is satellite phones.

Step 10: Be Mentally Prepared

10 steps to survive a hurricane
Watching a documentary about an event like Hurricane Sandy makes us shake our heads in amazement at how unprepared so many people were for the event. Families sat in their flooding living rooms making no attempt to get to higher ground or even higher floors. They expected someone to come rescue them. When fires started in Queens after Sandy hit, they burned uncontrollably until a few prepared citizens started fighting them on their own. 

Having the right attitude and focus on surviving, and understanding the challenges you could face if a hurricane strikes, is probably your single most important preparation step.