Hurricane Preparedness for Homeowners

Here’s what to do before, during, and after a storm to keep your home, family, and finances safe.

Daria Kelly Uhlig
Daria Kelly Uhlig
  • Licensed Realtor with 10+ years in personal finance content

  • Contributor to Nasdaq and USA Today

Daria is a licensed Realtor and resort property manager specializing in personal finance, real estate, and insurance topics. In her spare time, she practices photography.

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Danny Smith
Edited byDanny Smith
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Danny Smith
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 4+ years in content creation and marketing

As Insurify’s home and pet insurance editor, Danny also specializes in auto insurance. His goal is to help consumers navigate the complex world of insurance buying.

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Updated November 27, 2023

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines a hurricane as a rotating weather system with a minimum sustained wind speed of 74 miles per hour.[1] Hurricanes are one of nature’s most destructive weather events. In fact, Hurricane Ian was 2022’s worst weather/climate disaster, resulting in 152 deaths and $112.9 billion in damage.[2]

While none of the $24 billion weather/climate disasters confirmed so far in 2023 have been hurricanes, the season isn’t yet over.[3] Hurricane season runs through November, and some storms occur a bit earlier or later.

Preparation is key to ensuring your safety, most importantly, and protecting your home.

Report: Home Insurance Rates to Rise 6% in 2024 After 20% Increase in Last Two Years

Report: Home Insurance Rates to Rise 6% in 2024 After 20% Increase in Last Two Years

Checklist: What to do before hurricane season

One thing that sets hurricanes apart from other weather disasters is that you typically have enough advance warning to prepare your home and car for the storm. However, that doesn’t mean you should wait until the storm season begins.

Make a disaster supplies kit

A disaster kit stocked with a few days’ worth of basic necessities for everyone in your family, including pets, will help you ride out the storm and its immediate aftermath.

The U.S. government’s Ready website suggests including the following in your kit:

  • Several days’ worth of water and non-perishable food for each person and pet

  • Medications

  • Personal care items, including toilet paper and cleansing wipes

  • Radio, flashlight, and spare batteries

  • Manual can opener

  • Cell phone with chargers and backup battery

Important Information

Store the kit in a safe, easily accessible location. Check food and medication expiration dates periodically, and replace expired items.

Have a family disaster plan

A family disaster plan has the information you need to communicate and reunite with family members who are separated from you during the storm. It also has important financial and emergency contact information.

The Ready website has a form you can fill out to create a plan and share it with your family members via email. It includes:

  • Contact and medical information for each family member

  • Contact and emergency pickup information for schools and daycare providers

  • Emergency contacts

  • Meeting locations, such as shelters, hotels, and the homes of family and friends who live outside of the danger area — pet friendly, if needed

  • Medical providers’ phone numbers

  • Insurance company contacts

Prep your home

Wind and water pose the biggest threats to your home during a hurricane, so gear your preparations toward reducing those risks.[4]

  • Fasten your roof with hurricane straps.

  • Cut down weak trees and branches.

  • Install shutters over windows and sliding glass doors or purchase plywood to cover the glass.

  • Have a storage place for outdoor furniture.

Keep in Mind

Securing a manufactured home against wind can help protect it but won’t make it a safe place to ride out a hurricane.

Prep your vehicles

Your vehicles also need protection against high winds and water. Follow these steps to limit their damage:

  • Keep copies of your insurance and registration cards in a safe, dry place.

  • Store basic emergency supplies in the trunk.

  • Fill your gas tank, and make sure the tires are properly inflated.

  • Park your car on high ground, next to a building if possible, away from power lines and trees.

  • Cover vehicles with a tarp.

Prepare to evacuate

The best time to prepare to evacuate is when officials warn that a dangerous storm is headed your way. That way, you lessen the risk of forgetting something important in the rush to leave your home.

  • Watch or listen to National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts. The NWS will issue a hurricane watch if it expects hurricane conditions within 24 to 36 hours.

  • Stay connected with local emergency management and health officials. The information they provide is essential to your safety.

  • Assemble a disaster kit if you don’t already have one. Put it where you can grab it and go.

  • Gather personal care items as well as medical documents, wills, and identification. Keep them with your disaster kit.

  • Withdraw some cash from your bank in case the power goes out and you’re unable to use credit cards.

  • Prepare your vehicle.

Prepare to shelter in place

If you’re unable to leave your home, it’s vital that you make preparations to shelter in place.[5]

  • Store or secure items in your yard.

  • If you don’t have storm shutters, nail sheets of plywood over exterior window frames and glass doors.

  • Put your emergency kit where it’ll be safe from flood waters.

  • Make sure you know how to turn off power and water to your home.

  • Fill sinks and tubs with water for bathing. Fill clean bottles with drinking water.

  • Check your carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarms.

  • Charge phones.

  • Gather flashlights, a battery-operated or crank radio, and spare batteries.

  • If you use a generator if the power goes out, position it at least 20 feet from the nearest door or window.[6]

Checklist: What to do during a storm

Remember that hurricanes bring wind speeds of at least 74 mph and may cause flooding. Protecting yourself from these deadly conditions should be your first priority.

If you must evacuate

Take these steps if you need to evacuate your home:

  • Make sure your planned escape route complies with local officials’ instructions and recommendations.

  • Grab your disaster kit, including cash, IDs, and other important documents.

  • Unplug household appliances and turn off gas, electricity, and water.

  • Listen to NOAA weather reports for updates on storm conditions.

  • Keep up with instructions and updates from local officials.

If you must shelter in place

If you must shelter in place, use these tips to ensure that you do it as safely as possible:

  • Put your emergency kit where you can get to it quickly.

  • Follow updates on local media.

  • Carry your phone.

  • Stay indoors, away from doors and windows.

  • Stay on the first floor of your home, in a windowless room or closet, if wind poses the greatest danger.

  • Higher floors are safer for floods, but don’t enter an enclosed attic.

  • Be ready to leave your home if damage requires it or authorities order you to leave.

Checklist: What to do immediately after a hurricane

Danger can persist even after the storm is over. Flooding, downed trees and power lines, and damaged roads and buildings create treacherous situations whether you’ve evacuated or sheltered in place.

If you evacuated

Once local officials say it’s safe for you to go home, follow these tips from the NWS to return safely:[7]

  • Contact family members via text message to let them know you’re returning home.

  • Drive along a route with no flooding, serious road damage, or debris. Avoid driving near downed power lines.

  • Once home, inspect the exterior for signs of structural damage as well as downed lines and gas leaks before you go inside. Report any dangerous conditions to the proper authorities.

  • If it’s safe to enter, use a flashlight if there’s no power, but turn the flashlight on while you’re still outside to avoid sparks.

If you sheltered in place

If you sheltered in place, reach out to family members via text, if possible, once the danger passes to let them know you’re safe. Then, if you can do so without coming in contact with flood water, check your home’s exterior for signs of damage.

Tempting as it might be to go out for supplies or to see what condition your neighborhood is in, avoid driving unless it’s absolutely necessary. And when driving, stick to roads with no flooding, damage, or debris.

If authorities declare your home unsafe, reach out to family, friends, local authorities, or the Red Cross to find a safe place to go, then contact your homeowners insurance company.

Insurance and hurricane damage: What to know

Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. For that, you’ll have to file a claim with your flood insurance company if you have flood insurance. But homeowners insurance does cover wind and other damage to your home’s structure and to your personal property. You might also have loss-of-use coverage that will pay necessary expenses if the damage forces you to live elsewhere while repairs are made.

Here’s how to file a claim:

  1. Document your damage as thoroughly as you can. However, don’t make repairs or dispose of damaged items.

  2. Contact your homeowners insurance company to report the damage and begin a claim.

  3. Try to prevent further damage by tarping broken windows and doors.

  4. Prepare to meet with the claims adjuster who visits your home to assess the damage and review the damages and losses you’ve documented.

  5. Keep records of everyone you speak with about your claim, the date and time of the conversation, and what you discussed.

  6. Once the insurance company gives you its OK to begin cleanup and repairs, keep all your receipts and follow the insurer’s instructions for submitting them.

Note that when you file a claim, you might have to pay a separate hurricane deductible in addition to your standard deductible.

Hurricane preparedness FAQs

Tension runs high during and after a hurricane, so it’s important to know what to do before you’re faced with one.

  • What should you put in an emergency kit?

    Your emergency kit should have a few days’ worth of food, water, and medications, a first-aid kit, personal items, a manual can opener, a radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries.

  • What foods should you store in case of a hurricane?

    The food should be nonperishable, such as canned goods, dehydrated fruits, nuts, protein bars, and anything else that doesn’t need refrigeration.

  • What should you do when you encounter flood waters?

    The most important thing is to avoid contact with the water. If the flooding is in your home or another building, move to a higher floor. If you’re driving, don’t drive through the water.

  • Should you stay home or evacuate in case of a hurricane?

    If you live in a manufactured home, you should evacuate. For other home types, follow the instructions and recommendations offered by local authorities and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sources

  1. NOAA. "What is a hurricane?."
  2. NOAA. "2022 U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in historical context."
  3. NOAA. "Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters."
  4. FEMA.gov. "Tips to Prepare Your Home for Hurricane Season."
  5. Cdc.gov. "Preparing for a Hurricane or Other Tropical Storm."
  6. FEMA. "Shelter-in-Place for Hurricane."
  7. Weather.gov. "After a Hurricane."
Daria Kelly Uhlig
Daria Kelly Uhlig

Daria Uhlig is a freelance writer and editor with over a decade of experience creating personal finance content. Her work appears on USA Today, Nasdaq, MSN, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, GOBankingRates and AOL. As a licensed Realtor and resort property manager, she specializes in real estate topics, including landlord, homeowners and renters insurance. In her spare time, Daria can be found photographing people and places on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Danny Smith
Edited byDanny Smith
Photo of an Insurify author
Danny Smith
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 4+ years in content creation and marketing

As Insurify’s home and pet insurance editor, Danny also specializes in auto insurance. His goal is to help consumers navigate the complex world of insurance buying.

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