In 2016, the 15 named storms – seven of which became hurricanes – unleashed 60% more energy than the average hurricane season. The storms caused over $11.5 billion in damage. According to research published in Environmental Research Letters, the cost associated with Atlantic hurricanes will keep increasing, with the average losses becoming three times greater by 2100. In other words, the “eye in the sky” is capable of creating an eye-watering bill for residents and communities.

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, with damage that exceeded one hundred billion dollars. With hurricane season in full swing (hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through November 30), and the recent news coverage of destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, most of us are reminded of the devastation that can be caused by a truly powerful storm. While you can’t predict or lessen hurricane season, you can control its impact on your community. A proactive approach to hurricane preparedness is essential to prevent extensive damage and ensure resident safety.

At-Home Hurricane Preparedness Kit

Preparation is the key to hurricane readiness and safety. You need to assess your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind, and understand National Weather Service “warnings” and “watches.” Being prepared also means that you have food, water and supplies to last at least 72 hours. An at-home preparedness kit is a collection of basic items that your household may need if a hurricane strikes. According to the National Hurricane Center, a basic supply kit should include the following:

  • Water: one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlights
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Any necessary medications
  • Food and supplies for your pets

Steps to Take During a Hurricane

Riding out a hurricane can be a scary ordeal. If you’re not in an area that’s recommended for evacuation, there are several things you can do to minimize damage during a hurricane. FEMA recommends the following safety tips:

  • Stay away from windows and skylights. Flying glass can cause serious injury.
  • Turn refrigerator/freezer to the coldest setting. If power is lost, your food will last longer.
  • Listen to the radio or turn on the TV every 30 minutes for weather updates.
  • If flooding threatens your home, turn off the electricity.
  • Don’t go outside until a community official gives the “all clear.”

Steps to Take After a Hurricane

The hurricane might be over but the devastation it leaves in its wake – flooded roads, dangerous debris and downed power lines – is every bit as hazardous the storm itself. Before you go outside to assess the damage, listen to local officials for updates and instructions and be sure that it is “all clear.” Other steps to take after a hurricane include the following:

  • Check in with family and friends.
  • Steer clear of debris and downed power lines. Contact police to report downed power lines, broken gas and water mains, weakened roads and bridges, and dangerous limbs.
  • Use phones for emergencies only.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
  • If there are power outages, don’t use grills or gas stoves as they increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Check refrigerator for food spoilage.
  • Photograph any damage done to your property for possible insurance claims.

Research suggests there’s been a “substantial” increase in hurricane activity since the 1980s. As the planet warms and sea levels rise, hurricanes are only expected to get worse and their destruction set to ratchet up further. While it’s difficult to keep pace with Mother Nature’s unpredictability, this guide to hurricane readiness and safety will keep you and your loved ones safe.

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