Beginning this year, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) now provides up to a week's notice when hurricane or tropical storm activity may be brewing. This means you have time to prepare – but exactly how should you prepare?
Hurricane Warnings & the Alert Process
As the storm's path, intensity, and potential impact area becomes more apparent, the NHC will issue a hurricane or tropical storm watch, and then a warning.
A hurricane watch means possible storm effects – such as strong winds, heavy rain, potential tornadoes and flooding – may begin to occur in a particular area within 48 hours, or 2 days. This is when you should be making sure your supplies are stocked, fresh batteries are in your emergency kit, your gas tank is full, and your home is secured. You can avoid the rush at the grocery store and panic at the pumps by going out to get these things at your earliest available opportunity.
A hurricane warning is similar to a watch, but the countdown is now down to 36 hours before likely other storm effects are felt. These countdowns are necessary because once the winds and other storm effects begin, hurricane preparations become difficult and dangerous to carry out. Consider the hurricane warning your last chance, prior to the storm's arrival, to do whatever is needed to protect you and your home during the storm and to make its aftermath more comfortable for you and your loved ones.
In addition, local or state officials may issue evacuation orders for areas vulnerable to storm surge and flooding. If you live in a mandatory evacuation zone, or are told to evacuate, do so as quickly and safely as possible. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other news sources will issue continuous weather updates as the storm gets closer.
How to Prepare Once a Hurricane Is 36 Hours Away
When the effects of the storm are expected to be felt in your area in just 36 hours – in just over a day! – it's time to finalize your preparations. The following 36-hour hurricane warning checklist can help make sure you don't miss doing something important.
Finalize Your Hurricane Preparedness
In general, try not to venture out away from home at this point. If there's a last-minute item you've forgotten, by all means, go get it (if possible). But generally, now is the time to start fortifying the dwelling you'll be riding out the storm in.
• Finish putting up your storm shutters (if you have the type requiring manual installation). Be especially careful as you do this; if you injure yourself, be aware you may not be able to access medical care for a while.
• Bring in outside objects, or find a way to secure large or heavy items. This includes lawn chairs, umbrellas, mowers, and generators. Assess your yard for anything possibly posing a threat.
• Charge all household members' cellphones, laptops, and other electronics you may need after the storm. Then, make sure the chargers themselves have a full charge.
• Keep an emergency kit in your car and make sure it’s parked in a safe location.
• Re-check your supplies. Be sure you have whatever may be helpful if the power goes out and/or you need to stay inside your home for days or possibly even weeks following the hurricane. Your supplies should include ample water, food, flashlights, important documents, cash, medications, water-purifying devices, a first aid kit, and other necessary personal items.
• Don’t forget to have some fun games for the kids to keep them entertained should they not have access to their electronics.
• If you're done early or have extra time, check in with any neighbors who may need help.
Review Your Emergency Plan
• Review your disaster plan, including which evacuation routes/shelters are nearest to you in the event you must unexpectedly need to leave your home.
• Make sure every household member is aware of the plan and their role and responsibilities. Let someone outside the affected area know of your plans.
• Identify the safest room in the house, which is typically a small interior room on a lower level of the home not likely to flood.
• Put together a go-bag (a portable version of your emergency supply kit), perhaps one for each family member, so it is handy to grab and go.
• Get out your battery-operated or hand-crank radio. Tune in to weather news, and pay attention to any emergency alerts issued. You may want to download appropriate apps on your phone, like the FEMA app, or sign up to receive other emergency alerts. If you have a NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) receiver, make sure you can tune into a local 24/7 NWR broadcast.
• Crank up your fridge and freezer to the coldest possible settings and try not to open the doors too often. This will keep your perishables cold for as long as possible should the electricity go out during the storm.
• Put extra ice you've made or purchased in a high-quality cooler, if you're using one.
• Close all your shutters (if you have the accordion type). Ideally, you would've already ensured all can easily open, close, and lock.
• Put a tarp in your bathtub and fill it with water. While considered unsanitary for drinking purposes, you could use this water for washing or even to flush toilets.
Be sure you stay inside until it is safe to go outdoors after the storm has passed. There may be a prolonged period of calm in the middle of a hurricane – but you could be in the eye of the storm, and the weather could worsen again at any time.
Hurricane Warning? Here’s What You Need to Know
At Edison Insurance Company, we’ve been helping Florida homeowners prepare for hurricanes – before and after a 36-hour hurricane warning is issued – as well as how to deal with the aftermath. We offer comprehensive insurance policies for homes and condos, as well as additional coverage options, too.