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National Preparedness Month 2020: Hurricanes

Author: ServiceMaster Restore

What are hurricanes?

Hurricanes are powerful storms that can cause widespread devastation within a matter of minutes. High winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, flooding, rip currents and tornadoes can attack your community with full force, leaving you vulnerable and unsure of what to do next. Also known as typhoons or cyclones, hurricane season starts and ends in varying seasons, depending on where you live. Don't be devastated by the effects of a hurricane. Prepare yourself, your family and your home with the following hurricane preparedness tips.

Hurricane preparedness tips

1. Know your risk.

Find out if your area is susceptible to hurricanes and flooding. As a general rule, hurricanes typically affect all Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, parts of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast and the U.S. territories of the Pacific. If you need help determining your community's flood risk, use the interactive flood map created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

2. Learn what to do before, during and after a hurricane. has a detailed list of what to do when a hurricane approaches, strikes and recedes. Share information with your loved ones about the differences between hurricane watches and hurricane warnings, as well as what to do at each stage of an approaching hurricane, to prep for the worst. Then, identify key things you should do when it's time to evacuate in the face of a hurricane. Finally, learn what to do after a hurricane to keep your family and your home safe throughout the entire process.

3. Consider buying flood insurance.

In the event of a flood, most homes aren't protected by their typical homeowners insurance policy. Unfortunately, if a hurricane or other flood event occurs, these homes could easily suffer thousands of dollars' worth of repairs. In fact, according to FEMA, just one inch of floodwater could cost a homeowner an average of $27,000 (or more) in losses. To reduce your risk of out-of-pocket expenses after a disaster, talk to your insurance agent about adding flood insurance to your plan.

4. Make an emergency kit.

Stock it with non-perishable food, bottled water, batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies and medication, pet supplies and anything else you may need if you have to leave your home quickly. Store all of your emergency items in a waterproof and lightweight container. Then, place it somewhere that can be easily accessed during an evacuation. If you aren't sure what items you should include in a hurricane supply kit for your family and pets, start with our hurricane emergency supply kit checklist.

5. Prepare your home.

You can reduce the risk of damage to your home by reinforcing certain areas, including your doors, windows, walls and roof. Removing or securing outdoor items can also keep your home's structural integrity intact. Finally, protect your home from flood damage by waterproofing your basement and elevating all critical utilities.

6. Consider building a safe room.

A FEMA safe room provides near-absolute protection from hurricanes. Check with your local community to determine if your area has already built one nearby, or consider building your own.

7. Create an emergency communication plan.

Usually, hurricanes can be detected and tracked days before they actually hit the ground, so you'll have plenty of advance notice to start putting your disaster-response plan in motion. However, in the event that your family isn't together when the evacuation orders are given, it's important that everybody knows how to get in contact with each other and where you all can meet.

Your communication plan should identify safe meeting places within the town, as well as places your family can meet outside of the city in case evacuation orders require you to stay away for long periods of time. For all the information you need to include in your communication plan, including questions to consider and printable action plans, go to

8. Learn about your community.

Contact your local emergency management system to find out if pre-existing hurricane evacuation routes exist in your community. You should also identify any secondary escape routes you can take in case roads are blocked during the hurricane. Finally, get maps of the community's hurricane shelters so you know where you can seek refuge during a disaster if you don't have enough time to leave the area.

9. Spread the word.

Make sure your friends and family are just as prepared as you are, so that everyone in the community knows what to do in case a hurricane hits. Include your loved ones in your communication plan so you know how to stay in contact with one another in the unfortunate event that a hurricane does strike.

10. Stay informed.

Listening for timely information can make all the difference when preparing for a hurricane. Be on the lookout for National Weather Service (NWS) broadcast alerts for watches and warnings in your area, and sign up for your community's text or email alert systems for emergency notifications.

11. Practice, practice, practice.

Rehearse taking shelter and practice how you will communicate with family members. That way, everyone will feel confident that they'll know exactly what to do if a hurricane hits your area. While you're practicing your evacuation and communication plans, consider other ways you can assist in emergency situations. Research local first aid training and emergency response classes that can help you help others if the unexpected happens.

While there are many myths about hurricanes out there that make these natural disasters even more terrifying to think about, knowing what to do before one strikes can help keep you safe. If you and your family are ready with a thorough hurricane preparation and response plan, you'll be able to anticipate, respond to and recover from the effects of a hurricane with confidence.

Don't forget to participate in this year's National Preparedness Month and National PrepareAthon! Day to discover everything you should know about preparing for and recovering from hurricanes, floods and other disasters. Go online to register your preparedness activities, take action and spread the word with FEMA's specified social media hashtags. For all information, visit's hurricane seasonal preparedness digital toolkit today.