FEMA provides extensive resources for hurricane preparation. See their hurricane pages for more details on the advice below.

Terms You Should Know

  • A hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible in your area. Be prepared to evacuate. Monitor local radio and television news outlets.
  • A hurricane warning is when a hurricane is expected in your area. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.
  • Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.

Insure Your Home

  • Find out if your home is at risk; check FEMA's flood hazard maps that outline your community's different flood risk areas.
  • Purchase a flood insurance policy if you do not already have one or review your current insurance policy to ensure your home and contents are adequately covered. Visit FloodSmart.gov to learn more about individual flood risk, explore coverage options, and to find an agent in your area.

Secure Your Home

  • Cover all of your home's windows with pre-cut ply wood or hurricane shutters to protect your windows from high winds.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans, and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Keep all trees and shrubs well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Secure your home by closing shutters, and securing outdoor objects or bringing them inside.
  • Secure and brace external doors
  • Turn off utilities as instructed. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency by visiting FoodSafety.gov.

During a Hurricane

  • Listen to the radio or TV and check the Internet for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.· Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.

You should only evacuate IF:

  • If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure--such shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes no matter how well fastened to the ground.
  • If you live in a high-rise building--hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an inland waterway.
  • If you feel you are in danger.

If you are unable to evacuate, go to the safest part of your home.

  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors; take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Close all interior doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm--winds will pick up again.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.

After a Hurricane

Don't return home until the area is declared safe by local officials.

Don't enter your home if you smell gas or if it is still surrounded by floodwaters.

Going Home
Be wary of your footing -- loose boards or slippery tiles may pose a hazard.

Check your home for damage, in particular:

  • If you smell gas or hear it hissing, open a window and leave immediately.
  • Turn off the electricity at the fuse box, but only if you are dry and don’t have to stand in water to do so. You may need to have your wiring checked by a professional -- obvious signs of damage include sparks and broken or frayed wires.
  • Look for cracks in the roof, foundation and chimney. If you’re worried that your home is structurally unsound, leave immediately.
  • Inspect appliances and unplug any that are wet. They may need to be checked by a professional before being restarted.
  • Inspect water and sewage pipes for damage. If you find cracks or leaking, turn off the main valve where the water supply enters the house.

In addition, take pictures of any damage for insurance purposes, and contact your agent. Remember to save receipts for all repair and cleaning costs.

For more information, see the Federal Emergency Management Agency's page on returning home.

Cleaning Up
To protect yourself from health hazards posed by mold, be sure to wear:

  • Goggles without vent holes (to prevent mold getting into your eyes)
  • An N-95 respirator (protects against mold spores; available at hardware stores)
  • Gloves (to avoid touching mold)
  • Long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and boots or work shoes

During clean up:

  • Throw away anything wet that can't be cleaned.
  • Clean surfaces using a disinfectant cleanser and dry them thoroughly. Never add bleach to other cleansers.
  • If you are running a portable generator, avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by keeping it outside, far from your house and your neighbor’s, away from windows and in an area with good air circulation.

For a basic overview, read the Environmental Protection Agency’s guide "Flood Cleanup and the Air in Your Home."

Drinking Water
Check with your local authorities before using any water, because it may be contaminated.

The Food and Drug Administration provides detailed advice on keeping food and water safe after flood conditions. In particular, if you don't have bottled water on hand, boil water for one minute to make sure it's safe to drink, after filtering out any sediment. This will kill most pathogens.

You may also disinfect water by adding 1/8 teaspoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water; stir well, then let stand for a half hour.

After flooding, well water should be tested and disinfected. To find a certified lab, see NRDC’s Smarter Living guides.

Food and Utensils
If you lost power and/or suffered flooding, make sure your refrigerated food is safe:

  • Discard any food that has or may have come into contact with flood water. Discard damaged canned goods.
  • Thoroughly wash pans, dishes and utensils using soap and hot water (if available). Rinse and then sanitize by immersing them in clean boiling water or soaking them for 15 minutes in a gallon of clean water mixed with a 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach.
  • Wash and sanitize countertops the same way.
  • If you have an appliance thermometer in your freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40°F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
  • If your freezer doesn't have an appliance thermometer, you will need to check each package for safety. Look for ice crystals -- a sign it’s still cold -- or check the package with a food thermometer to see if it is 40°F or cooler. If it isn’t, discard the item. If it is, go ahead and refreeze it.
  • Refrigerated food will be safe if the power was out for less than four hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. But discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) stored above 40°F for two hours or more.

Hurricane Resources

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