How to Prepare for a Hurricane

With wind speeds that reach more than 100 mph pushing tons of water through the air, hurricanes can bring untold danger and damage when they make landfall.

And while such natural disasters can't be avoided or stopped, proper preparation and planning can help ensure your safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips on how to be ready for dangerous hurricanes.

Before the Storm Hits

When the National Weather Service issues a hurricane watch or warning for your area, you should take the following steps:

Become informed: Learn about your community's emergency plans. Make sure you know the proper evacuation routes and locations of official emergency shelters.

Inspect your home and property for potential hazards: Secure or put away any loose material or objects that can be blown about by powerful winds. Know where and how to shut off your home's gas and power supplies in case you have to evacuate.

Cover exposed glass: Placing plywood boards and masking tape over windows and glass doors will reduce the risk of damage and injury to you and loved ones from flying glass fragments.

Secure important documents: Find and pack away vital papers — insurance policies, wills, licenses, stocks and property deeds. Be prepared to take them with you if you evacuate.

Consider special needs: Take into consideration if you, a member of your family or an immediate neighbor is elderly or needs special attention — regular access to a dialysis machine or other medical conditions, for example. Alert local authorities about these considerations so they can plan accordingly.

Make arrangements for pets and animals: If you are ordered to evacuate your home, official emergency shelters cannot take in animals for health and safety reasons. If there is time, relocate pets and animals to shelters outside of the danger zone. Otherwise, have extra food and water on hand for your animals and prepare to leave them in a safe place in your home during the evacuation.

Update emergency contacts: Prepare a list of emergency phone numbers and contacts. Place them at every phone and make sure other family members know who to call in case of an emergency.

Fill your car's gas tank: Be prepared to leave your home if local authorities issue an evacuation notice for your area. If you do not have a vehicle, make arrangements ahead of time with neighbors, friends or family for transportation out of the danger zone.

Chill your food: Setting your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting may provide an added bit of protection for food should the power go out during the storm.

Listen: Keep a radio or TV tuned to local news and weather updates. Be aware of disaster sirens or other publicly broadcasted warning signals and stay informed of what's happening.

Prepare an emergency kit for your home and car: Stockpile enough supplies to last three to five days without outside assistance. Also prepare a smaller kit for your car or truck in case you are ordered to evacuate. See below for tips on what to place in your kits.

Create an Emergency Supply Kit

Since hurricanes can interrupt normal services and shut down stores in an area for days or even weeks, all homes should be stocked with the following:

Clean containers for water: Since public water supplies may be tainted by hurricane waters, you should stockpile enough potable water to last three to five days — roughly five gallons of water per person in your household. You may also consider filling your sinks and bathtubs with extra water for washing and sanitation purposes.

Non-perishable food: Have enough canned or pre-packaged (non-refrigerated) food for three to five days.

First-aid kit and manual

Battery-powered radio and flashlight: Also consider having enough extra batteries in case the public power supply remains damaged beyond three to five days. Do not consider candles as an alternative to flashlights since they can be a fire hazard — especially if there are potential gas leaks in your storm-damaged home.

Sleeping bags and extra blankets

Prescription and other special-needs medicine

Baby food or formula: If you have an infant in your home, you'll need to consider extra clothes, diapers and other baby supplies as well.

Personal hygiene supplies: Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, sanitary napkins and other basic personal care items.

A fire extinguisher: Make sure it's in an easily accessible location in the home and every member of the family knows how to use it.

Disposable washing cloths: Items such as baby wipes can be used in case there's not enough water or facilities for bathing.

Water-purifying supplies: If public service remains out beyond three to five days, chlorine or iodine tablets — available at camping supply stores — may be needed to sanitize available water. Ordinary, unscented household bleach can also be used to purify water.

An emergency kit for the car: There should be similar supplies in your vehicle. But your mobile kit should also include: emergency road flares, battery booster cables, maps and tools.

More information can be found on the Web sites for the CDC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

CDC: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/readiness.asp

Homeland Security: http://www.ready.gov

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