How to prepare for a hurricane or tropical storm

9 things to do today to prepare for hurricane season — from updating your home insurance policy to building your hurricane emergency kit and planning your evacuation route.

Pat Howard 1600Jennifer Gimbel

By

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

&Jennifer Gimbel

Jennifer Gimbel

Senior Managing Editor & Home Insurance Expert

Jennifer Gimbel is a senior managing editor and home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our homeowners insurance coverage. Previously, she was the managing editor at Finder.com and a content strategist at Babble.com.

Updated|6 min read

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The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is already shaping up to be one of the most active in history. Not even a week into June, residents of South Florida were pummeled by Tropical Storm Alex that brought more than a foot of rain and left parts of Miami under water. [1]

Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting that this season will see between 14 and 21 named storms. They expect six to 10 of these to become hurricanes — including three to six major ones with winds of 111 mph or higher. To put this into perspective, the average hurricane season only sees 14 named storms. [2]

With the Atlantic hurricane season running from June 1 to November 30, now is a good time to protect your property and financial well-being from hurricane wind damage or storm surge before a storm hits. That includes having an evacuation plan, preparing your home and cars, and reviewing your homeowners insurance and flood insurance policies.

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How to prepare for a hurricane

Follow these steps to prepare your home and family for a hurricane or tropical storm:

  1. Review and update your home and flood insurance policies

  2. Build your hurricane emergency kit

  3. Familiarize yourself with hurricane emergency notifications

  4. Sign up for emergency alert notification systems

  5. Check your area’s evacuation zone

  6. Plan your evacuation route

  7. Know where you plan to stay if you have to evacuate

  8. Prepare your home and pool for a hurricane

  9. Gas up your cars and move them to higher ground

1. Review and update your home and flood insurance policies

Most home insurance companies issue moratoriums on updating your coverage or purchasing a new policy in the days leading up to a hurricane. This is why it pays to plan ahead and make any changes to your policy well in advance of a storm. 

Here are a few tips for checking that you have the right amount of insurance coverage for your home:

  • Make sure your home is insured for a full rebuild. With inflation on the rise, many homes are underinsured due to rising construction and labor costs. Double-check that your dwelling coverage limit is enough to completely cover the cost of rebuilding your home from the ground up.

  • Double-check your hurricane deductible. Most home insurance companies let you choose a hurricane deductible between 2% and 5% of your dwelling coverage limit — sometimes even 10%. This is the amount you pay out of pocket for hurricane damage before your insurance kicks in to cover the rest. Make sure your deductible isn't so high that you won't be able to pay it should disaster strike.

  • Purchase a separate flood insurance policy. Home insurance policies don’t cover damage caused by storm surge and flooding — you’ll need a separate flood insurance endorsement or policy for that. And with over 20% of NFIP flood insurance claims coming from homes outside high-risk flood zones, you might want to consider signing up for flood insurance even if you don’t necessarily live near the coast or in a high-risk flood zone. [3]

  • Create a home inventory. This can help ensure you have enough personal property coverage to replace all of your belongings if a hurricane makes landfall. It will also make filing a claim faster and easier, since you can point to your home inventory list to provide evidence of the loss.

  • Double-check your loss of use coverage limits. If a hurricane makes your home uninhabitable for an extended period of time, you’ll want enough loss of use coverage to pay for the cost of hotel stays, pet boarding, and additional living expenses while your home is being rebuilt. 

Still not sure if you have adequate hurricane coverage? Reach out to a licensed Policygenius expert who can help you better understand your policy and coverage needs.

2. Build your hurricane emergency kit

Have an emergency stash of supplies ready to go well in advance of a hurricane. Grocery stores tend to run out of bottled water, medical kits, and other essential goods fast after a hurricane warning is issued, so it’s a good idea to have all of this already on hand. 

When putting together your hurricane emergency kit, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends adding the following items: [4]

  • Water and non-perishable food

  • First-aid kit

  • Flashlight with extra batteries

  • Battery-powered radio

  • Whistle

  • Prescription medication

  • Basic tools

  • Can opener

  • Phone chargers

  • Clothes

  • Cash

  • Blankets

  • Toiletries

  • Pet supplies

  • Baby supplies 

  • Facemasks 

  • Sanitation supplies

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Important papers and documents — birth certificates, social security cards, insurance policies, and home inventory

The American Red Cross suggests that you split up your supplies into two separate kits — a go-kit and a stay-at-home kit — depending on whether you get an order to evacuate or shelter in place. [5]  

Here’s how many supplies you should have in each kit: 

  • Hurricane go-kit: 3 days of supplies that you can carry with you in a backpack

  • Stay-at-home kit: 2 weeks of supplies since many stores and pharmacies might be closed

3. Familiarize yourself with hurricane emergency notifications

As a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service (NWS) issues emergency alerts when tropical storms and hurricanes pose a threat to communities.

Knowing the difference between an advisory, watch, and warning can help ensure you’re fully prepared:

  • Tropical storm or hurricane advisory: Issued when a tropical storm or hurricane is expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous but not life-threatening if caution is used

  • Tropical storm or hurricane watch: Issued when a tropical storm or hurricane is possible within the next 48 hours

  • Tropical storm or hurricane warning: Issued when a tropical storm or hurricane is expected within the next 36 hours

4. Sign up for emergency alert notifications

Anyone can sign up for severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service via text, email, or phone. In addition, your specific community likely has their own emergency alert system you can sign up for to receive weather alerts. A quick google search “CITY + emergency notification alerts” can help you sign up for notifications in your area. 

Even if you don’t sign up for weather alerts (which you should!), different government agencies also send out warnings via Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) when severe weather nears. [6] If a severe storm threatens your area, you’ll receive a warning that looks like a text message and includes a special tone and vibration — both repeated twice. 

WEA messages from the National Weather Service are typically sent out when there are tornadoes, hurricanes, flash floods, severe thunderstorms, or other weather events that could cause catastrophic damage to residents.

Stay up to date on changing weather systems

On top of signing up for weather alerts through the NWS, stay up to date on changing weather conditions in your area via your local news, radio stations, and social media.

5. Check your area’s evacuation zone

When a tropical storm or hurricane nears, authorities will issue evacuation orders based on your home’s susceptibility to flooding, storm surge, and wind damage. 

Hurricane zones for most states include the following — in order of vulnerability: [7]

  • Tropical Storm Zone — homes most at risk

  • Zone A

  • Zone AB

  • Zone B

  • Zone C

  • Zone D

  • Zone E

  • Zone F

  • Zone L — homes least at risk

Evacuation zone maps change every few years due to climate change-related sea level rise, erosion of shorelines, and drainage bayous filling up — putting more homes at risk of flooding and storm surge. While your county should send you a postcard if your evacuation zone has changed, experts recommend that you double-check your home’s evacuation zone at the start of hurricane season each year to make sure yours hasn’t changed.

For the 2022 hurricane season, 93,000 people in the Tampa Bay area of Florida have new evacuation zones. [8] Around 34,000 properties shifted to higher risk zones, while roughly 13,600 properties are now in lower risk zones.

You can check to see which evacuation zone your home is located in by visiting your state’s emergency management agency or “Know Your Zone” website:

6. Plan your evacuation route

Planning an evacuation route is one of the most crucial parts of hurricane preparations. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to live next to the beach for your house to experience catastrophic tropical storm damage. Hurricane storm surge — the deadliest aspect of a hurricane — can often push water tens of miles inland, according to the NOAA. [9]  

FEMA suggests planning an evacuation route that takes you 20 to 50 miles inland. [10] For help finding the best route to higher ground, visit your county’s emergency management website. Most have detailed maps that include the best paths to take to evacuate low-lying or coastal areas.

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7. Know where you plan to stay if you have to evacuate

Whether you’re planning on staying at a storm shelter, with friends and family, or in a hotel, develop a game plan for where you plan to stay if you receive orders to evacuate. Keep in mind that you might need to make special arrangements if you have a pet or family member who requires special medical assistance while away from home.

If you plan on staying at a local shelter, you can find one near you by downloading the FEMA app on your Apple or Android device. Just make sure the shelter is pet friendly if you plan on bringing your cat, dog, or other pets with you. Otherwise, we recommend researching a few pet-friendly hotels where you can stay in the event of evacuation orders. 

8. Prepare your home and pool for a hurricane

The four parts of your home that are especially vulnerable to strong hurricane winds are the roof, windows, doors, and garage doors, according to FEMA. [11] While hurricane preparation is undoubtedly time consuming and expensive, it could save you tens of thousands of dollars in the event of a disaster. And earn you lower home insurance rates to boot.

Here are a few steps you can take to prepare these and other parts of your home for hurricane season. 

  • Stormproof your roof. This might include adding gable-end bracing, trusses, metal strapping, or other roof-to-wall strengthening measures to your roof. If your roof is older or in rough shape, consider having it replaced with impact-resistant shingles or metal roofing.

  • Install storm shutters. If you don’t have the money or time to install storm shutters, your next best option is to board up your windows and glass doors with plywood. Be sure to have plywood pieces fitted, cut, and ready to be mounted over your windows with hanger bolts in advance of a hurricane threat.

  • Strengthen exterior doors and garage doors. The bolts and pins that secure most exterior doors aren’t strong enough to withstand hurricane-force winds. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you’ll want to consider a cast-iron slide bolt latch or other stormproof locks for all exterior doors on your property. If you have a basic garage door, consider replacing it with an impact-resistant one that can handle winds up to 130 mph. 

  • Clean up your yard and put away patio decor. Hurricane winds are strong enough to turn branches, gardening tools, and lawn furniture into violent projectiles that can damage your home. Be sure to clear your yard of any objects, trim dead branches, and secure outdoor sculptures and other structures that could get wind-tossed during a hurricane.

  • Check your home’s appliances. If a hurricane’s landfall is imminent, unplug small appliances, turn off propane tanks, and turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings so that food will last longer if the power goes out. 

  • Put fresh batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors. This is especially important if you have a generator you plan to use if you lose power. Generators are notorious for causing carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, which makes CO detectors a vital safety device for your home.

  • Do NOT drain your pool or cover it. A drained pool can lead to bulges and cracks, and large debris could tear your pool cover off leading to even more damage. Instead, prepare your pool for a hurricane by cutting off power to it, putting away loose items, and trimming trees around your pool and screen.

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9. Gas up your cars and move them to higher ground

As evacuation orders are announced, gas stations will be jam-packed with people filling up their cars and panic-buying for generators and other supplies. 

To avoid being stuck in the craze, consider fueling your car potentially days out from the actual storm. If you have one or more cars that will be staying put during the storm, move them to higher ground or park them in the garage — never park them under trees or power lines.

What to do after a hurricane: 5 steps to post-storm cleanup

If your home was damaged during a hurricane or tropical storm, here are a few steps to take in the days after to ensure your family stays safe and you maximize your home or flood insurance claim settlement.

  1. Reach out to your home insurance company to file a claim ASAP. Insurance companies are typically inundated with claims requests following a hurricane, so the sooner you file yours,, the faster you’ll receive your settlement payout.

  2. Document all damage with photos and videos. Don’t throw out anything that’s ruined or damaged. Keep everything so there’s no mistake how much was lost or damaged when the insurance inspector comes to assess everything.

  3. Air out your home and remove anything that’s damaged. Open your windows and doors to air out your home and prevent mold growth. Remove anything that’s wet or damaged from your home, but keep it in a pile for evidence for your claim. Make sure you wear personal protective equipment including goggles, gloves, N95 masks, and rubber boots to protect you and your family from possible exposure to mold and bacteria during the cleanup process.

  4. Make temporary repairs to ensure your home is safe to live in. Save receipts for these repairs, as you’ll want to make sure you’re reimbursed for these expenses by your home insurance company.

  5. Save receipts if you need to live elsewhere while your home is repaired. If your home is uninhabitable, save receipts for extra living expenses like hotel stays, food, transportation, dry cleaning, and pet boarding — you’ll want to make sure you’re reimbursed for these expenses by your insurance company.

→ Our complete guide to filing a home insurance claim after a natural disaster

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Frequently asked questions

What are 5 ways to prepare for a hurricane?

Here are five things to do to prepare for a hurricane: 1. Build emergency kits that include water, non-perishable food, and other essentials. 2. Know your evacuation zone and plan your evacuation route ahead of time. 3. Review and update your home and flood insurance policies. 4. Storm-proof your home by cutting tree limbs, cleaning up your yard, and securing patio furniture. 5. Sign up for emergency notification alerts and stay informed when a hurricane nears.

What are 10 things you need to survive a hurricane?

Here are 10 things you need to survive a hurricane: Water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, battery-operated radio, flashlight and extra batteries, blankets, toiletries, cell phone and chargers, whistle, and a fire extinguisher.

What should you not do during a hurricane?

You shouldn’t board up your windows during a hurricane — instead, do this long before the storm makes landfall. You’ll want to stay away from doors and windows where glass could shatter and debris could blow in.

How long do hurricanes last?

Most hurricanes last anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, according to the National Science Foundation. However, it’s not unheard of for a hurricane to last as long as a month, as we saw back in 1994 with Hurricane John.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. The New York Times

    . "

    Tropical Storm Alex Drifts Into the Atlantic After Flooding Florida

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

  2. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    . "

    NOAA predicts above-normal 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

  3. Federal Emergency Management Agency

    . "

    Your Client's Flood Risk Is Changing: From high-risk to low-to-moderate risk

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

  4. Ready.gov

    . "

    How to Build an Emergency Kit

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

  5. American Red Cross

    . "

    Hurricane Safety: Learn how to keep your home and family safe during a hurricane or typhoon

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

  6. National Weather Service

    . "

    Wireless Emergency Alerts on Your Mobile Device

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

  7. FloridaDisaster.org

    . "

    Know Your Zone

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

  8. Bay News 9

    . "

    Hurricane Season: New evacuation zones released in Pinellas County

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

  9. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    . "

    Hurricane Hazards

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

  10. Federal Emergency Management Agency

    . "

    Surviving the Storm: A Guide to Hurricane Preparedness

    ." Accessed June 07, 2022.

Authors

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Senior Managing Editor & Home Insurance Expert

Jennifer Gimbel

Senior Managing Editor & Home Insurance Expert

gray linkedin icon link

Jennifer Gimbel is a senior managing editor and home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our homeowners insurance coverage. Previously, she was the managing editor at Finder.com and a content strategist at Babble.com.

Questions about this page? Email us at .