emergency preparedness

What To Do During a Hurricane to Stay Safe

Nadia TamaraA Little Bit of Everything, Do It Yourself, Emergency Preparedness, Evacuation, Hurricane Preparedness 2 Comments

emergency preparedness

Although it seems early to be talking about this, we’ve already entered into hurricane season. It’s vital that we begin to gear up for the next few months since there’s really no accurate way to predict what the future has in store.

The first hurricane of the season has already made landfall in Louisiana. Barry arrived as a Category 1 hurricane and was later downgraded to a tropical storm. Public officials recommended most cities, including New Orleans, to shelter in place even though the storm was predicted to bring in a lot of rain. The aftermath resulted in flooding and damage to homes.

Once a tropical storm is upgraded to a hurricane level, you have to be ready for anything. In some cases, it might be your safest bet to take cover at home, but if you live in low lying areas, you may be required to evacuate.

Winds at sea can pick up quickly. Within a very short window of time, a Category 1 hurricane can jump to a Category 2, and so on. Preparing to both evacuate AND to shelter in place for such an event is extremely important.

Hurricane, Typhoon, Cyclone…what’s the difference?

A tropical storm is a rotating storm that has formed in the tropics and has reached surface wind speeds of 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph). Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones are the names used when referring to tropical storms that have exceeded sustained wind speeds of 64 knots (74 mph) or more. The main difference between a hurricane, typhoon, and cyclone is the geographic location of the storm.

— A hurricane is a tropical storm that has formed over either the Northeast Pacific or North Atlantic Oceans. The spinning direction of hurricanes are counter clockwise because they form within the northern hemisphere. They heavily affect Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean region (such as Cuba and Haiti) and the Southeastern portion of the United States. Hurricanes are expected to occur between the months of May/June up until November.

— A typhoon is a tropical storm that has formed over the northern hemisphere of the Northwestern Pacific Ocean. Like hurricanes, the spinning direction of a typhoons are counter clockwise. They heavily affect Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Japan, and the surrounding regions. Typhoons can occur at any time of the year but they are more common during the months between July and November.

— A cyclone is a tropical storm that has formed over the Southwestern Pacific and Indian Oceans. The spinning direction of a cyclone is counter clockwise if it forms in the northern hemisphere. If it forms in the souther hemisphere, it will spin clockwise. Tropical cyclones in the northern hemisphere heavily affect India and its surrounding regions and they’re expected to occur between the month of May and November. In the souther hemisphere, cyclones heavily affect Southeastern Africa (Madagascar) and Australia. They’re expected to occur in those regions between November and April.

For the purpose of this blog and the region where the majority of our readers visit our site from (North America), I will use the term “hurricane” throughout this post even in the cases where it applies to all types of tropical storms.

Hurricane alerts you should pay attention to

In the United States, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) are responsible for informing the public and local government on hurricane watches and hurricane warnings.

A hurricane watch means that there are indications that a hurricane is possible within the next 36 hours. When a watch is issued (typically this happens 48 hours prior to winds reaching 74 mph), your family disaster plan should be put into action. Ideally, you should start preparing yourself and your home for an evacuation or for sheltering in place.

A hurricane warning is issued when there’s more of a guarantee that your region is expecting sustained winds of at least 74 mph. A warning (issued up to 36 hours prior) should prompt people to determine their final action plan.

How do you plan to proceed during the passing of the storm? Is your area under a mandatory evacuation warning? If so, evacuate! If you’re under voluntary evacuation, you should decide whether you prefer to bug-in or bug-out and prepare with the necessary supplies.

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What is the safest place to be during a hurricane?

The safest place to be during a hurricane is as far away from it as possible. That could be an evacuation shelter or any non-evacuated zone.

Under no circumstances should you shelter in place if your area is under mandatory evacuation. Also, if you live in a mobile home or trailer park, it’s highly recommended that you evacuate since these types of homes are not strong enough to withstand sustained high-speed winds.

Obey evacuation orders from the local government promptly and without hesitation. Hurricanes are extremely powerful and are capable of causing lots of damage, as I’m sure you already know. The following image is from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

emergency preparedness

The dos and don’ts of hurricane safety

Note: The following dos and don’ts apply to all tropical storms, including typhoons and cyclones.

The severity of hurricanes varies greatly. Your home will likely experience a lot more damage if it lies within the path of the eye of the storm, versus if you live several miles away from it.

I recommend you start thinking of a plan today to determine how you will proceed in case your home is located within the path of the approaching hurricane. If you receive a voluntary evacuation notice, will you leave your home or would you rather shelter in place?

These are not decisions you should make on the spot. They have to be well-planned and thought out. Natural disasters are stressful, especially if your life and property are at risk. Make these plans with your significant other (or any other adults you live with) with a clear and stress-free mind. 

In my opinion, local authorities have your best interest and safety in mind. I recommend you listen and obey their orders, whether that is to evacuate or to shelter in place.

In any case, I believe it’s wisest to prepare for both scenarios.

I plan to evacuate! What should I do?

As soon as the “mandatory evacuation” order is set in your city or community, you need to be ready to flee your home.

These are some tips to help you prepare for a quick and orderly evacuation.

  • Go to a shelter or a relative’s home


    • Tune in to the local news to receive the latest updates on the storm. You can get information over the radio, TV, and social media. Listen for evacuation updates and be ready to go at any time.

    • Fill up your car with gas as soon as possible. Gas will run out quickly right before the storm and fuel is a priority if you want to get anywhere with your car.

    • Purchase or print accurate maps of your area. If you prefer to download them on your phone, use an app that lets you use the map without mobile data or WiFi. One of the apps I recommend is maps.me. When you need to evacuate, it’ll give you the best directions to get where you need to go, even if the phone lines are down. I recommend you have at least two or three evacuation routes in mind, in case traffic, flooding, or debris blocks the other routes.

    • Take the folder that contains your important family documents. These are the documents you should take with you when you evacuate.

    • Evacuate with enough food and potable water to last you a minimum of 3 days or more. You should never rely on the idea that someone else is going to feed you, especially when you get to a shelter. Food and other supplies might be minimal during the first 24 to 72 hours, and in some cases, longer than that.

    • Turn off the electricity at the main breaker and unplug all connected devices before leaving your home.

    • Evacuate before the storm hits. Once a hurricane makes landfall, it’s possible that evacuation routes will be closed off. Listen to local alerts and make sure to evacuate as soon as authorities say to.

    • When it’s time to evacuate, go over your family communication plan with everyone in your household. It’s not at all uncommon to get separated from your loved ones during an emergency, especially if you’re evacuating in separate cars. Decide how you plan to communicate (other than your cell phone) and choose a location where you plan to reunite in case someone gets lost. Note that phone lines might not be reliable during the storm. These are some tips on how to communicate during disasters.

    • Use your phone only in the event of an emergency. This will help lower the amount of people using the phone lines and keep them active for disaster relief teams and emergency personnel.

    • Travel with extreme caution. Whether you’re traveling to an evacuation site or returning home after the disaster, you may experience numerous hazards, such as downed power lines, broken gas and water pipes, widespread flooding, and debris blocking road access.


    • Do not return to your home until it is safe to do so.

    • After the storm has passed, do not turn on the main breaker and use the outlets. Have a professional inspect your electricity and wiring first.

    • Do not drink water from the tap.

  • Babies, toddlers, elderly, and persons with special needs


    • Make sure each person has extra supplies to last them a minimum of 10 days. This means extra diapers, changes of clothes, medication, and possibly some form of entertainment to help them get by. Stock up on baby wipes!

    • Have extra food and water for each person under your care. Consider any possible dietary restrictions and plan accordingly.

    • Do they require medication? Contact their doctor ahead of time to order enough of their prescription medication to last them past the projected end date of the storm.

    • Look into special needs shelters that provide medical monitoring for those who require extra medical assistance.


    • Do not leave anyone unattended. If someone is under your care, keep them with you at all times. If they become separated from you, it can be much harder to find them and tend to their needs.

  • Pets


    • The majority of shelters do not allow pets, unless they’re service animals. Make sure you secure a place of evacuation long before the storm has approached. Staying with family or friends outside of the affected area may be your safest bet, but look into pet-friendly shelters as a backup option. I highly recommend buying a kennel for each of your pets and getting them accustomed to using it.

    • Have enough food and water for your pets to last a minimum of 10 days. Even if you stay at a pet-friendly shelter, the shelter itself might not provide them with food and water.

    • Keep a sanitation kit ready to safely dispose of animal waste. I recommend having some wet wipes to keep their paws clean too.

    • Make sure your pet has everything they need with a pet kit like this one!


    • Do not leave your pets at home to ride out the storm.

Your should also check out these tips on how to secure your home before an evacuation!

I can’t evacuate! What should I do?

If you are unwilling or unable to evacuate or are ordered to shelter-in-place during a hurricane, you may end up living in survival-mode until the storm is over. It’s possible that the power will go out for hours or days at a time, and your home or place of refuge might suffer some storm damage. Take extra precautions and stock up on supplies to make your “bug-in” experience better.

Finding shelter is the single most important thing you can do to stay safe during a hurricane. Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, make sure take cover in a sturdy structure or building that is not in a low-lying, flood-prone area. You will have to use your best judgement to find the safest place, especially if evacuation is not an option for you.   

I hope the following tips are helpful for those of you who are sheltering in place.

  • Stay at home, an apartment, or a secure high rise building


    • Cover your windows with permanent storm shutters before the storm hits. If you don’t have shutters, board up your windows from the outside with plywood. If you have straps for your roof, fasten them to prevent your roof from getting torn out.

    • Clean out the storm and rain gutters from foliage and other debris to prevent flooding. If possible, set out sand bags in vulnerable places around your property to prevent the water from flooding the inside of your house.

    • Have plenty of potable water, for drinking and sanitation. You should have enough to last you a minimum of 14 days. Also, I recommend a filtration and purification system of some kind. Store the water in a small interior room of the place you’re staying in. You can also line your bathtub with a plastic sheet (a plastic curtain works!) and fill it up with water a couple of days before the storm hits. This is a way to hold a large quantity of water that can be used for sanitation.

    • Have plenty of food to feed your household for a minimum of 72 hours, but preferably for 10 days or more. Also, have the necessary supplies so you can prepare them. Store the food alongside the water.

    • Keep your emergency kit on hand, including a headlamp and several fully charged batteries in case of a power outage. A headlamp is much more convenient than a regular flashlight since it frees up your hands for other things. Keep this kit with your food and water supply.

    • Prepare a sanitation area for safe waste disposal. Make sure it’s not in the same room where your food, water, and emergency supplies are being stored, but if possible, in a small interior room like a bathroom. 

    • Stay inside the home or building during the entire passing of the storm. Seek shelter in a floor located just above flood waters. If you live in a high rise building, get down to a lower floor (below the 10th floor) until the storm passes because winds will be stronger at higher elevations.

    • Take refuge in a small interior room that is surrounded by walls. The innermost room is the safest in protecting you from the wind. This can be a closet, hallway, or bathroom.

    • Set the fridge and freezer to the highest setting while there is still power. If the power goes out, keep the fridge doors shut as much as possible to retain the cold temperature of the food. Eat all the perishables from the fridge as soon as possible. If more than 4 hours pass without electricity, your food might be spoiled or contaminated. It would be wise to throw it out at that point. Don’t put your health at risk.

    • Charge all electronic devices while you still have power. If the power goes out, turn off and unplug all the devices that are connected to the outlets. This includes the water heater, air conditioner, your computer, and mobile devices. 

    • Turn off the electricity at the main breaker. There may be flooding so prevent getting electrically shocked in the water.


    • Do not get near any windows, mirrors, glass doors, or garage doors. Do not open a window to “feel how strong the wind is.”

    • Do not use a portable generator, a propane stove, or a grill indoors.

    • Limit the use of any electrical equipment, including kitchen gadgets, your phone, and your computer. It’s okay to check up on the weather alerts and send updates to your loved ones from time to time, but save your battery and free up the phone circuits. Do not use landline phones or other electronics that connect to an outlet to prevent electric shock.

    • Do not drink water from the tap.

    • It’s recommended that you do not use the shower until the storm has passed.

    • Do not leave the house, or place you’ve taken shelter in, until authorities say it’s safe to do so. If it feels like the hurricane has significantly calmed down, it might actually be the eye of the storm passing through. Soon enough, the wind and rain will pick up again. Stay put until you get the green light from the local government.

    • Babies, toddlers, elderly, and persons with special needs


      • Prepare an emergency kit specifically designed for each person in your care. Make sure to have a first aid kit, diapers (if necessary), several changes of clothes, and toys (if applicable). Include supplies that will last them a minimum of 72 hours, but if possible 10 days or more. Buy extra wet wipes! They’re incredible for sanitation when your resources are limited.

      • Take into consideration the food sensitivities or dietary restrictions that each person under your care has. Plan accordingly.

      • Do they require medication? Contact their doctor ahead of time to order enough of their prescription medication to last them past the projected end date of the storm.

      • Keep extra heavy-duty bags to safely dispose of any dirty diapers, needles, etc.


      • Do not leave persons under your care unattended.

    • Pets


      • Have enough food and water for your pets to last them a minimum of 10 days.

      • Set up an area with newspapers and towels where they can pee/ poo and keep it properly sanitized.

      • Make sure your pet has everything they need with a pet kit like this one!


      • Do not allow pets to go outside until authorities have given you the "all clear" signal.

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    In conclusion

    No one can foretell with precision what this hurricane season is going to be like. We hope it will be mild but reality is that anything can happen.

    In any category hurricane, you should expect power outages, flooding, lightning, and lots of flying debris smashing against your home and windows. Therefore, I encourage you to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

    I hope the tips discussed in this blog help you prepare your home and family for both scenarios: having to evacuate or riding the storm out at home. I’m certain that being ready ahead of time will make a huge difference in the end.

    Have you survived a hurricane or other tropical storm? Did you evacuate or shelter in place? What tips do you have for others?

    Are you living in a hurricane-prone area? What concerns do you have?

    We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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    Comments 2

    1. If I were to protect my house from hurricanes, I would make sure to invest in impact windows. Thank you for sharing here as well the importance of keeping its windows and rain gutters clean. I also agree with you that it would be smarter to have permanent storm shutters.

    2. Although I am from California I would like to know the states in America with a higher degree of hurricane activity in case I travel to those states. Is there a list of those states somewhere and their seasonal activity?

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