Before You Get Caught in a Hurricane

What You Need to Know

hurricane elena
Hurricane Elena in the Gulf of Mexico. Internetwork Media / Getty Images

Surviving a hurricane requires preparation. If you live near the coast and are in danger of being caught in a hurricane, here are some suggestions to help you survive.

Before a Hurricane

Preparing your house for a hurricane requires boarding the windows and strapping the roof. If a hurricane watch is in effect (meaning hurricanes are possible), prepare for evacuation by packing essential supplies in your vehicle.

Take care to pack enough water and food in the event you are unable to completely evacuate the area. Plan evacuation routes. Get phone numbers and road maps to your evacuation destinations.

Should You Evacuate?

Deciding to evacuate can be tough. FEMA offers these guidelines to help you decide when to evacuate:

  • Listen to weather broadcasts and evacuate if directed by authorities to do so
  • Evacuate if you live on the coast, in a floodplain, near a river, or near an inland waterway
  • Evacuate if you live in a mobile home or temporary structure
  • Evacuate if you live in a high-rise building
  • Evacuate if you feel you are in danger

Get to the highest ground you can reach away from the coast and other waterways.

What You Should Take

If you must evacuate, take these items with you:

  • bottled water (2 - 3 gallons per person if possible)
  • prescription medications & necessary medical supplies
  • first aid kit
  • documents (driver's license, passport, social security cards, insurance information, tax records, birth and marriage certificates)
  • flashlight
  • battery-powered radio
  • cell phone
  • extra batteries
  • road maps and phone numbers
  • cash (especially small bills and change for vending machines)
  • bedrolls or sleeping bags

    During the Hurricane

    If you get caught in a hurricane, follow these FEMA guidelines:

    • Stay away from windows and glass doors.
    • Close all interior doors - secure and brace external doors.
    • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Don't be fooled by the eye of the storm.
    • Stay in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
    • Lie under a table or other sturdy object.

    A word of caution: if you are in an area that is in danger of flooding, do not seek refuge below ground level (such as a basement or storm cellar).

    After the Hurricane: Your Home

    Once the storm has passed, services may be disrupted due to damage. Each situation will be different. Here are some ways to settle in after the storm:

    • Listen to radio or TV for vital information.
    • If your home is safe to occupy, make sure the address is clearly marked.
    • Only use 911 in a true emergency. Roads may be blocked with debris and road signs may have blown away.
    • Use generators correctly to avoid carbon monoxide gas. Learn how to recognize carbon monoxide poisoning.

    After the Hurricane: Your Health

    Water systems are often contaminated after a hurricane. Follow these tips to avoid infection:

    • Do not drink tap water or brush your teeth with it until told to do so by authorities - use bottled water only.
    • Try not to have skin contact with floodwater or mud.
    • Authorities may suggest vaccinations for hepatitis and tetanus, take them if they are offered.
    • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may lead to dehydration. Seek medical help if any of those persist for more than 24 hours.