During these storms, local government and news organizations will regularly update citizens with information related to areas affected. They often use specific terminology and it’s important to understand and identify these sources in order to be prepared — see our checklist below:
Understand Terminology and Alerts
National weather services will issue alerts to areas impacted by tropical storms or hurricanes. These notices are meant to inform the public and allow them prepare accordingly. Listed below are descriptions for the types of alerts you could see while monitoring a tropical system:
Hurricane Watch and Warning
- Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours.
- Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours or less. Prepare for winds of 74 mph or higher and a possible storm surge.
Tropical Storm Watch and Warning
- Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical conditions are possible within 48 hours.
- Tropical Storm Warning: Topical conditions are expected within 36 hours or less. Prepare for wind speeds of 39-73 mph.
Storm Surge Watch and Warning
Storm surges occur when tropical systems push water toward the shore with strong winds. This water is often over the predicted tide depth and can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas. See the differences between a storm surge watch and warning:
- Storm Surge Watch: A storm surge is possible within 48 hours. Coastal areas affected by this watch should continue to monitor the situation.
- Storm Surge Warning: A storm surge is expected within 36 hours or less, prepare accordingly.
Boil Water Advisory/Alert
During and after extreme weather events, microbial contaminants can corrupt public water systems. Health departments and other regulatory agencies will monitor these water systems, and will issue boil water advisories when they suspect contamination. Even though these alerts can be precautionary, they should always be taken seriously.
If a boil water advisory is issued for your area, disinfect water from the public water supply by boiling it or by using filtration methods. It may also be a good idea to use bottled water for the duration of the advisory.
Voluntary and Mandatory Evacuation Orders
Local government will issue evacuation notices to residents who live in areas that will likely be impacted by a hurricane or tropical storm. It’s important to know what each type of evacuation order means so your household can react appropriately.
- Voluntary Evacuation Order: Dangerous weather conditions exist or will likely exist in the immediate future. Residents are not required to leave, but it should be considered.
- Mandatory Evacuation Order: Life-threatening weather conditions exist. All individuals must evacuate in accordance with instructions from local officials.
Identify Weather Information Sources
During a tropical weather event, being aware of threats to your area is crucial. Here are some useful sources you can use to stay informed:
Local and National Weather Radio Stations
Radios are a necessity. They are relatively inexpensive and provide access to local and national weather broadcasts — without relying on a public power grid. Be sure to identify and save local weather radio stations for future reference.
TV - Local News Channels
If the power is still on, local weather and news channels are an excellent source of information on your area’s status. In addition, these news organizations will likely have related web or social media pages with relevant storm information.
Gather Important Contact Information
Communication is important during emergency situations — it allows your loved ones to know your status, and enables you to reach out for help in dangerous situations. Here are a few contacts you should consider saving:
- Friends and Family
- County or Parish Fire Department
- County or Parish Law Enforcement
- Local Emergency Management Offices
- Local Government
- Local Hospitals and Urgent Care Centers
- American Red Cross
- Local Utility Companies
Plan For Emergency Situations
Having a plan for potential emergency scenarios can improve your confidence and security when your household is affected by tropical systems.
Evacuation is an option you should always consider, especially if your household includes elderly individuals, pregnant women, or small children. It is usually the most stress-free scenario, as well as the safest option. If you do evacuate, let someone know where you are going. If you need to leave abruptly, leave a note saying where you are going.
Steps you can take to make sure your family is prepared to evacuate in an emergency:
- Create an evacuation plan with members of your household as early as possible.
- Know if you live in an evacuation area, or if your area is prone to flash flooding and other weather-related threats.
- Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes.
- Monitor information sources for threats and evacuation orders.
- Plan for pets and their needs.
Fill Your Car’s Gas Tank Early
Gas stations are often very busy in the days leading up to a hurricane or tropical storm. It is not uncommon to see large lines and empty pumps. Fill up your gas tank as soon as possible to ensure that you can evacuate if necessary.
Research Routes to the Nearest Shelters
When a community is affected by a tropical system, local emergency management organizations will designate evacuation shelters for individuals that need to leave their residence. The locations for these shelters are chosen for their increased protection from high winds and relatively low chance of flooding. It is a good idea to know where your local emergency shelters are, in case you need to quickly evacuate your location.
Withdraw Extra Cash
Since power is often lost during hurricanes and tropical storms, many electronic payment systems become unavailable, making cash the preferred medium for transactions in emergency situations. ATMs are often busy or out of order in the days leading up to a tropical weather event, so withdraw cash as soon as possible.
Gathering the correct supplies will improve your household’s preparedness and comfort during extreme weather events. Each situation is unique, but this list should cover most of the items you will need.
Cooking and Eating Supplies
Preparing and eating food during tropical weather events can be a messy task. Below are a few items that can help make preparation and cleanup a more manageable experience:
- Manual Can Opener
- Paper Plates
- Plastic Utensils
- Paper Towels
- Plastic Cups
- Small Propane Camping Stove and Filled Propane Tank
To ensure that your household is adequately fed, it is important to stockpile at least 3 days worth of nonperishable foods for each member. Here are a few suggestions:
- Peanut Butter (great source of energy)
- Nuts, Dried Fruit, and Trail Mixes
- Granola Bars
- Canned Meat and Fish
- Canned Vegetables
- Canned Soups and Chili
- Sugar, Salt, and Pepper
- Instant Noodles
- Baby Supplies (baby food, formula, etc.)
- Comfort foods
Public water systems can become compromised with harmful microbes during severe weather events. It’s important to ensure that you have backup water and beverages for the whole family.
You will need at least a 3-day supply for each member of your household, 1 gallon per person per day.
Alcohol and Mixers
When used responsibly, alcohol can be a fun way to pass the time. Consider low-maintenance drinks that do not require perishable ingredients. Make sure you have pain relievers and budgeted water for recovery!
During extreme weather events, medical professionals may not be readily available. Therefore, you must prepare for possible health concerns. Here are some health-related items worth considering:
Gather a 7-day supply for all prescribed medication and medical supplies. In addition, make sure you have the following non-prescription medications:
- Pain Relievers
- Allergy Medication
It is advisable to keep a first-aid kit in your house at all times. Some recommended items you should include in yours:
- Latex Gloves
- Sterile Dressings and Gauze Pads
- Antibiotic Ointment
- Burn Ointment
- Adhesive Bandages in Various Sizes
- Eye Wash
- Small Scissors and Tweezers
- Petroleum Jelly
- Cold Pack
- Emergency Blanket
Emergency Prep and Cleanup
Emergency situations are more likely to happen during hurricanes and tropical storms. You and your family’s safety could depend on whether or not you have the proper equipment available. There are also potential dangers involved in assessing and cleaning up your property after a major storm event.
Emergency Preparation Supplies
Here are some recommended supplies that can be useful in weather-related emergency situations:
- Rain Gear
- Sleeping Bag, Air Mattress, and Warm Blanket
- Basic Tools: Wrench, Pliers, Multipurpose Tool, etc.
- Duct Tape
- Emergency Ladder (for multi-story buildings)
- Matches in Waterproof Container and Lighter
- Charcoal and Propane
- Map of the Area
- Needles and Thread
- Water Filter
- Fire Extinguisher
- Extra Set of House and Car Keys
- Portable Generator: If you have to run a generator, make sure it’s outside. Running a generator in a closed space is a major threat for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Cleaning up after a hurricane or tropical storm can be full of unpleasant surprises. Here are a few items that can help make this a safer and more efficient experience:
- Heavy Gloves
- Dust Masks
- Close-Toed Shoes
- Chlorine Bleach
- Garbage Bags
- Tarps and Plastic Sheeting
- Insect Repellent
Power is often unavailable during and after impact from tropical systems. However, there are still a few electronic devices that can be very useful.
- Cell Phones and Chargers
- Radio: (Battery-Powered or Hand-Crank)
- Flashlight and/or Lantern
- Clock: (Wind-Up or Solar)
- Digital camera: (to assess damage)
- Extra Batteries for Everything
Staying entertained during a hurricane or tropical storm is necessary for curbing stress and passing time. Here are a few low-maintenance items to consider:
- Board Games
- Portable Electronic Gaming Systems (with extra batteries)
- Pet Toys
- Download movies/podcasts on devices before internet goes out
- Playing cards
Pets are important members of the family. Here are a few supplies you can gather to improve your pet’s comfort and safety:
- At Least a 7-day Supply of Food
- At Least a 7-day Supply of Medications
- Hygiene Products Such as Puppy Pads, Litter, and Litterbox Bags
- Current Tags and Identification
Home and Property Preparation
Outside of the personal safety of you and your family, damage to your home and personal property can be one of the most devastating effects of a natural disaster. From physical property, such as furniture or other household belongings, to perishable food or even important documents, preparing your home for a storm is an absolute necessity. Some simple steps to help you weather the storm as best as possible:
A few steps you can take to better secure your house during a hurricane or tropical storm:
- Close and lock all windows, doors, and hurricane shutters.
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep them closed as long as possible. It’s also a good idea to freeze a few bottles of water and place them in your freezer to keep cold if the power goes out.
- Clear your gutters of debris for optimal drainage.
- Wash all dirty laundry.
- Clear out all trash.
- Empty rain barrels.
- Cook all meat.
- Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Fill bathtub with water, you can use this to flush the toilet if there is no water pressure.
- Board up windows and reinforce the garage door.
- Anchor mobile homes.
- Record video of your belongings.
Yard and Property Preparation
Preparing your property can minimize external threats. Many times in these storms, the worst damage can be collateral — the winds might not destroy a home directly, but objects or branches swept up by high winds can inflict severe harm. Use this checklist to make sure your property is secured:
- Clear your yard of all items that aren’t anchored.
- Trim dead branches from trees.
- Tie down and anchor boats.
- Record video of your property.
Waterproof Important Paperwork
Store your important paperwork in a waterproof container. In addition, thumb drives are a great portable option for storing copies of important documents. Here are a few items you should consider protecting:
- Social Security Card
- Proof of Residence
- Insurance Policies
- Birth and Marriage Certificates
- Stock, Bond, and Other Financial Certificates
- Tax Returns
- Updated Health Records for Family and Pets