May 16, 2023

How to Prepare for a Hurricane: Safety Tips and Hurricane Checklist

Caitlin Sacasas

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Hurricane Preparedness Guide (2)In April, meteorologists predicted a “slightly below-normal” 2023 hurricane forecast. They predict 13 named storms, 6 hurricanes, 2 of which will be major hurricanes (category 3 and up). 

While this is below the recent average, it’s still a higher risk than in the past. According to the NOAA, before 2017, the average number of severe weather events in the US was only 8 per year. Now it’s 18. 

If you are only just starting on your preparations, it’s okay. 75% of the days with tropical storm activity and 95% of the days with major hurricanes occur between mid-August and the end of September. 

Still, it’s not safe to count on averages. In recent years, we’ve seen storms before and after the official hurricane season.  And many homes are flooded or damaged by wind from storms that never earn official names. 

In other words, you must be ready for anything and the best time to start preparing is now. 


Featured Resource: How to prepare for a hurricane. Essential safety tips and emergency supply checklist for hurricane preparation. Download the free checklist.


When is Hurricane Season? 

You may be wondering, when and how long is hurricane season? What qualifies a storm as a hurricane? 

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, spanning 5 months out of the year. 

A tropical storm forms when a storm has sustained winds over 39mph. It turns into a hurricane when winds exceed 74mph. Scientists, as well as insurance carriers, use a variety of tools, observations, and modeling to predict and mitigate the effects of these storms. 

Identifying a hurricane: Formation - Storms in disturbed area of ocean. Tropical depression - thunderstorms start to swirl around a center. Tropical storm - sustained winds over 39 mph. Hurricane - sustained winds over 74 mph. Hurricane strength: Category 1 - Winds 74 - 95 mph, Storm Surge 4-5ft. Category 2 - Winds 96 - 110 mph, Storm Surge 6 - 8 ft. Category 3 - Winds 111 - 130 mph, Storm Surge 9 - 12 ft. Category 4 - Winds 131 - 155 mph, Storm Surge 13 - 18 ft. Category 5 - Winds 155 mph+, Storm Surge above 18 ft.

Storm size and strength can influence the direction the storm will travel as it continues to change. But the margin of error when predicting a storm’s path has significantly reduced since 1990: 

This graphic shows the average error of predictions for landfall of tropical storms based on the original forecasted path, sourced from Weather Nation. The larger blue circle shows a 48 hr. track error in 1990, which covers Louisiana to part of Georgia and Florida. The smaller red circle, representing the average 48 hr. track error today, pinpoints the storm to where the panhandle of Florida and Alabama meet.

This increased accuracy has allowed for better preparation and warnings for local governments and citizens alike. 


Hurricane Preparedness: Pre-Landfall Preparation 

One of the best things you can do is create a hurricane emergency plan before the season starts. 

Having a plan is a key factor in your hurricane preparedness. Your hurricane prep list should include: 

  • Collecting copies of important documents such as the deed to your home, insurance paperwork, financial information, etc., and securing them in a safe location. You should also ensure you have a digital copy stored in two-factor authenticated cloud storage. 
  • Review your insurance coverage and keep updated photos and/or a video inventory of your personal belongings.  
  • Collect phone numbers for your insurance company, doctor, veterinarian, and family members. Make sure they are all saved in your cell phone contacts.  
  • Identify your evacuation routes. Have an alternate route planned in case the first option is not navigable.  
  • Stock up on necessary supplies and prescriptions for family members and pets. 
  • Identify the safest place in your home to ride out a storm and make sure everyone knows the location. 
  • If there is a risk of flooding in your area, consider getting sandbags for hurricane preparation. You can buy sandbags at home improvement stores. Some local municipalities have sand and sandbags for free during hurricane season.
  • Bring pets inside.
  • Reinforce windows and doors with storm shutters, duct tape, or wood.
  • Move your vehicle to covered parking.


How to Prepare for a Hurricane: Checklist 

After you’ve made your preparations and plan, you need to put together an emergency kit for any severe weather.  

Your emergency kit should include items that can assist you or your family during or after a storm. Here is a hurricane supply list of items to include: 

  • Batteries 
  • Flashlights 
  • Battery-operated radio 
  • Masks and gloves 
  • Hand sanitizer 
  • First aid kit, including bandages, gauze, disinfectant wipes, antibacterial ointment, etc. 
  • Garbage bags 
  • Fire extinguisher 
  • Non-electric can opener 
  • Extension cords 
  • Tarps 
  • Mosquito repellent 
  • Gas cans and/or propane 
  • Cash, in case of prolonged power outages 
  • Cell phone chargers and battery packs 
  • Rain gear 
  • Nonperishable food, such as canned food and beverages 
  • 1 gallon of water per day per person or pet 
  • Any necessities specific to your family, such as diapers, wipes, formula, pet food or litter 
  • Books, games, puzzles, and other fun activities for your family to stay entertained and calm 


Family needs vary, so once you have identified the essentials, tailor your hurricane preparedness checklist to meet your unique needs. Make sure it’s easily accessible, and check the contents are fully stocked, charged, and ready before the season’s start and any storm. 


Save This Checklist: Hurricane Preparedness Guide [Free PDF]


What to Do During a Hurricane: The 6-S’s of Hurricane Safety

1. Securing Your Home

Before a storm hits, look for ways to fortify your home to prevent damage from debris, wind, and rain. 

For annual maintenance: 

  • Shutters: Make sure your storm shutters are organized and ready, and locking mechanisms are in good working order.  
  • Roof tiles: Check for any cracks or shingles that need to be replaced or re-attached. 
  • Stucco: Look for any cracks and repair before rain can leak in. 
  • Garage door: Tracks and wheels should be greased and bracings secure to prevent damage. 
  • Generator: Have your portable generator serviced before hurricane season begins. A whole-house generator should be checked annually by a service provider and run weekly tests. 


Reducing potential damage and debris around your home: 

  • Trees and shrubs should be clipped back away from your home. Remove any dead limbs or other loose pieces, such as coconuts from palm trees. 
  • Clear your gutters of debris. 
  • Any furniture, planters, or decorative items weighing less than 30 pounds should be anchored down or stored away. 
  • Do not drain your pool or put patio furniture into it.
  • Move your vehicle to covered parking, if possible, away from trees and other potential hazards. If not possible, moving blankets can provide some protection from damage.


2. Supplies Before Demand

Stock up on supplies and put your hurricane kit together before hurricane season starts. This is especially true today with supply chain issues.  

Supplies can run low fast when a hurricane is about to make landfall. To prevent hoarding, supply issues, and to avoid the general chaos, shop ahead of time. You can fill your emergency kit over the course of the off-season, so you’re ready when the time comes.


3. Safeguard Your Documents

Get your documents together and keep them in a protected, dry place, such as a safe-deposit box or fireproof/waterproof safe. Or save items electronically in a secure cloud-based service. FEMA recommends as a resource on how to securely store your valuable information. 

Take photos of valuable items and the interior and exterior of your home as well.


4. Sign Up for Alerts

There are many apps out there that can notify you of oncoming storms. The American Red Cross – Hurricane+ app is recommended because it can check many locations and monitor weather alerts within a 100-mile radius.  

Also pay attention to your local weather services and government alerts as well. The National Hurricane Center and NOAA are helpful resources.


5. Safety

If you plan on riding out the storm, remember safety is priority number one: 

  • Do not go outside during the storm, or when you are in the eye wall. 
  • Do not use the barbecue grill indoors or in your garage. 
  • Do not use a portable generator indoors or place it within 4 ft. of an open window. 
  • Do not stand near doors and windows during the storm. 
  • Do not use candles unless absolutely necessary and do not leave them unattended. 


Check with your local municipality for hurricane preparedness recommendations. Many have hurricane preparedness plans on their websites, plus recommendations or rules for waste management, debris, power failures, emergency notifications, and road closures.


6. Start Your Preparations Today

In the event of a mandatory evacuation or elective evacuation, you will need to have your plan in place early. 

A mandatory evacuation may happen due to a storm surge rather than the hurricane itself. Some of the most catastrophic surge events have happened during CAT 1 and CAT 2 hurricanes.  

Know where you need to go if you must evacuate. Signs are typically posted along designated evacuation routes. Plan your route accordingly and choose your final destination out of the path of the storm.  

If you have pets you’re evacuating with, make sure where you are staying is pet friendly. 

Remember to bring your important documents and emergency kit. Don’t forget to fill your car up with gas and have cash available in the event that ATMs are out of cash or out of power. 

Secure your home before leaving, anchoring loose objects or bringing them inside and locking your doors.   

And, lastly, stay connected with friends and family. 


Post-Landfall Hurricane Safety Tips 

After a hurricane has passed, you still need to exercise caution. Some safety tips to keep in mind: 

  • Check outside for downed or dangling power lines and report immediately to your power company. Do not attempt to touch or move anything near a power line. 
  • Be mindful of overloading outlets, or using outlets damaged during the storm. This can lead to fires or electrical shock. 
  • Only use a portable generator outside in a well-ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. 
  • Keep an eye out for loose animals in your community. 
  • Avoid drinking the tap water until you are sure it is safe. 
  • Open cabinets carefully as items may have shifted and could fall off the shelves. 
  • Throw away spoiled food. If you are unsure whether something has spoiled, throw it away. 


Hurricane Damage 

If you have property damage, notify Vault as soon as possible to begin the claim filing process. 

Take photos or video of damage before cleanup. You can make temporary repairs such as placing tarps on damaged roofs or boarding up broken windows to avoid more damage. 

Hire only licensed, reputable repair companies and be sure to keep receipts for all repairs. If possible, keep damaged items so your claims adjuster can review them. 

To help with each of these steps, Vault has created a guide with straightforward checklists for each aspect of hurricane preparation: 

Featured Resource: How to prepare for a hurricane. Essential safety tips and emergency supply checklist for hurricane preparation. Download the free checklist.

We are available 24/7 to assist our agents and customers with claims. You can reach the Vault Claims team by calling or emailing:  

844.388.LOSS (5677)  


If you report a claim, a Vault adjuster will contact you the same day. 

Learn more or contact us at 844-36-VAULT (82858) 


While Vault believes the information provided in this article to be accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information provided. Vault is not responsible for, and does not adopt, endorse or approve any third-party webpages, or their content, that may be hyperlinked from this page. Nothing on this page alters any terms or conditions of an insurance policy and is not intended to be taken as legal, medical, or other professional advice. 

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