Hurricanes can destroy property and upend lives. But there are many things you can do to minimize the potential impact on your home and family. When a powerful storm is bearing down, it may be too late to protect your property. Making a plan is critical.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Threats include:

  • High winds
  • Heavy rainfalls
  • Storm surges
  • Coastal and inland flooding
  • Rip currents
  • Tornadoes

Hurricane winds can damage or destroy homes, buildings and roads. They can also cause utility outages. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale estimates potential property damage on a scale of 1 to 5. The effects are frightening and showcase why it’s essential to have a plan.

Coastal flooding triggered by hurricanes is as destructive as wind and can be even more deadly. Hurricanes produce widespread torrential rains that can trigger landslides and debris flow. Flash floods can also occur due to intense rainfalls over a short time.

Here are the steps you can take to prepare for hurricane season.

Prepare a survival kit

You can build your supplies over time by adding items gradually. It doesn’t need to happen all at once. You’ll want to stock the things you need during the storm itself and in the immediate aftermath.

Keep track of your inventory, including the expiration dates on batteries, medications and nonperishable foods, and refresh supplies as needed.

The American Red Cross recommends your emergency kit include:

  • Water: 1 gallon per person, per day (three-day supply for evacuations; two-week supply for homes)
  • Food: Nonperishable, easy-to-prepare items (three-day supply for evacuations; two-week supply for homes)
  • A flashlight
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio, if possible
  • Extra batteries
  • A family-size first-aid kit
  • Medications and medical items: Hearing aids, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc. (seven-day supply)
  • A multipurpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of essential documents: Seal them in a watertight container to keep them safe. Keep the originals and other records elsewhere, such as with a trusted person who lives in a different area, in a bank safe deposit box or on a secure cloud server.
  • A cellphone and charger (crank or solar)
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • An emergency blanket: Choose one that is waterproof, windproof, shred-resistant and easily packable
  • A map of the area
  • An extra set of car keys and house keys
  • Pet supplies
  • A manual can opener

Plan for evacuations

Be prepared to evacuate and do so immediately when the order is issued. Know your route and destination, and make sure you have a full tank of fuel. Get information on official area shelter locations from your local government or the American Red Cross. They can tell you what you are and are not allowed to bring, including pets.

If you plan to leave the area, check the news for information on road closings and traffic bottlenecks. Keep a detailed old-school map in your car in case you can’t access GPS or route guidance online. Don’t drive through flooded areas or streets. Just 2 feet of water can carry away most vehicles.

Protect your property

Make a detailed inventory of your belongings and update it annually. Supplement your inventory with photos and videos, and keep copies in a safe place away from your home. Cloud storage is ideal. Putting this list together may seem tedious, but it will significantly simplify any post-hurricane insurance claims you must make.

Here are some tips on how to prepare your home before the hurricane arrives:

  • Shutters: Install shutters on all windows, as the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recommends. Use plywood only as a last resort.
  • Gutters: Clean debris from gutters and extend the downspouts to divert as much water away from your home as possible.
  • Doors: Closing interior doors reduces pressure on the roof during a storm, giving it a better chance of staying intact, according to IBHS. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends closing interior doors, windows and exterior doors to reduce damage.
  • Surroundings: Bring in loose items like garbage cans and lawn furniture, reinforce weak fencing, and pick up any debris in the yard that could act as a projectile during high winds.
  • Trees: Cut weak or damaged tree branches and any branches that could snap in high winds and damage property.
  • Seals: Seal off small openings and gaps with silicone caulk to protect your home from water damage.

As the storm moves closer, follow this last-minute hurricane preparedness checklist:

  • Place all appliances on the ground floor (including your stove, washer and dryer) on masonry blocks or concrete.
  • Elevate furniture and electronic devices. This is particularly crucial for items in the basement and on the first floor.
  • Remove area rugs from floors to prevent them from getting wet and growing mold or mildew.
  • Put fresh batteries in sump pumps.
  • Fuel your emergency generator and keep spare fuel on hand in a safe location.
  • Shut off electrical service at the main breaker (The electrical system and outlets might become submerged from flooding.)
  • Follow instructions from local authorities about evacuations and powering down utilities.
  • Park your car in the garage.

Ask about flood, wind and other types of insurance

Additional policies may be warranted if you live near the coast because of the increased risk of multiple events. Think of them as layers of protection.

Ask your agent about insurance and policy add-ons like:

  • Flood coverage
  • Wind damage coverage
  • Sewer backup coverage
  • Equipment breakdown coverage
  • Building ordinance or law coverage
  • A personal umbrella

For example, renters and homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage. You’ll need additional flood insurance for that. The federal government administers most policies. Homeowners and renters can purchase flood policies from an insurance agency under contract with FEMA or private insurance. There’s generally a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect, so don’t wait until the last minute to purchase it.

Give your agent a call

Your insurance agent is happy to help. They’re a terrific resource for hurricane preparation tips and advice about your coverage needs!