While many natural disasters strike without warning, those in the path of a hurricane often have time to prepare. Here are some things to consider:
- Yard: Bring any lawn furniture, grills, bikes, toys, garbage cans, potted plants, and other loose items inside or store them in a garage or storage shed.
- Windows: Remove screens from windows. If available, screw 5/8-inch thick exterior plywood over them.
- Trees: Trim overhanging limbs away from the house.
- Boats: Take tarps off boats. Remove any loose items and tie down securely.
- Cars: Park cars away from trees and power lines.
- Utilities: Locate cut-offs for gas, electricity, and water. Have adequate tools on hand to turn them off if necessary.
Most deaths during hurricanes are caused by rising water from rainfall, which can occur far inland from the coast. If you live in an area prone to flooding, be prepared to evacuate well before the storm arrives. Store the following information and documents in a plastic bag or waterproof container to take with you when you leave:
- Insurance Policies: Car, homeowner’s, boat and life insurance policies.
- Financial Records: Statements from checking and savings accounts, stocks and bonds, loans and retirement plans. Don’t forget your checkbook and keys to safe deposit boxes along with ATM and credit cards.
- Medical Records: Include allergies to medications and medical histories for each member of the family.
- Personal Identification: Birth certificates, Social Security cards, computer passwords, and contact information of friends and relatives.
- Household Inventory: A recent list of your home’s contents, along with photographs, will prove invaluable when dealing with the insurance company. A DVD or videotape of your home and possessions is also helpful. (See Documenting Your Valuables)
The only thing worse than having your sensitive personal information destroyed in a storm is for it to be lost or fall into the wrong hands, so guard it carefully on the road and in shelters.
Other important items to take with you are sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, extra clothes, and a carrying cage and leash for pets. If you have extra room, consider including irreplaceable items like family photo albums and scrapbooks.