Simplify Your Family's Emergency Preparedness

The Ultimate Guide to Prepare For a Hurricane

car driving under dark clouds past hurricane evacuation route sign

Hurricanes can happen along any U.S. coast or territory in the Atlantic or Pacific.  And the damage they cause can be catastrophic.  Protect your family by creating a hurricane preparedness list.

**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Understanding What A Hurricane Is

Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over warm ocean waters and move toward land.  They can affect areas more than 100 miles inland! 

Hurricanes are categorized by number, and the number describes how strong the winds are.

Category 1  =  74-95 mph

Category 2  =  96-110 mph

Category 3  =  111-120 mph

Category 4  =  140-156 mph

Category 5  =  157+ mph

According to FEMA, threats from hurricanes include:

That’s a lot of things to prepare for!  But don’t worry; I got you.


I lived in the southeastern corner of Alabama when Hurricane Ivan came through in September 2004. Ivan was considered the worst hurricane to strike the nation since Hurricane Janet in 1955 (Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans the next year in August 2005).


While our particular neighborhood did okay, others in our city weren’t so lucky.  We only lost power for about 24 hours, but our friends who lived less than 10 minutes from us were without power for 2 weeks.  Windows were shattered, rooftops destroyed, and a whole lot of roads were closed due to a whole lot of downed trees and power lines. 


I kind of feel like we cheated the system there. We had a front row seat to the awesome spectacle of nature that day, but didn’t suffer from it.  It was nothing more than an adventure for us, while others’ entire lives were turned upside down (or lost completely).


If there’s one thing I learned from that experience, it was that hurricanes are no joke. Being prepared is KEY to staying safe and somewhat comfortable while the storm shakes out. Of course, no level of preparedness can save a house or even a life, when it is placed in the direct path/wake of a hurricane. There is only so much you can do. But for those who don’t suffer the full extent of the destruction, preparedness can make all the difference!

Ways to Protect Your Home In A Hurricane

Wind, flooding, and power outages are the main ways that your life and property can be affected by a hurricane.

There are several things you can do prior to a hurricane, in order to protect your home.  Obviously your home will be at the mercy of the storm, but you want to do all you can to increase the chances that your house will come out of it as unscathed as possible.

Several of these things can be done regularly, rather than in a frantic response to an emergency alert.

For a more concise, comprehensive printable checklist, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to have it delivered directly to your email inbox!

Protect Your Home Against Wind

  • Secure large outside items that cannot be disassembled (or bring them inside your home/garage).  These items could potentially be picked up by high winds and injure someone or cause damage to your home. (garbage cans, trampolines, outdoor furniture, slides, swing sets, etc.)
  • Anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside, such as gas grills or propane tanks.
  • Inspect your roof, windows, and doors to identify weak spots, and keep them in good condition.
  • Trim or remove trees that are close enough to fall on your home or vehicles.
  • Protect windows with permanent storm shutters or pre-cut plywood.  Pro tip: label the pre-cut plywood so you’re not guessing which one goes to which window every time a storm is coming.
  • Have a chainsaw and know how to use it.

Prevent Your Home From Flooding

  • Clean out drains, gutters and downspouts. Leaves and other debris blocking any of these areas could cause preventable flooding.
  • Install check valves in plumbing to prevent backups.
  • Stockpile protective materials such as plastic sheeting and sandbags. Pro Tip: Everyone will be rushing to get these materials at the same time. If you have room, have these in storage, always ready to use!
  • Consider installing a sump pump with a battery backup.
  • Consider elevating your home’s heating system, water heater, and electrical panel.
  • Purchase flood insurance – standard insurance policies do not cover flooding.

Prepare your Home for a Power Outage

Between strong winds and rising water, it’s no surprise that power lines go down and you can be without power for days.  I have an EXTENSIVE post for you on power outages.  Actually, I broke into four posts- it’s that informative.  And it’s helpful for all types of disasters.  So here are just a few tips from that post:

  • Get your generator ready and keep extra fuel on hand.  
  • Make sure you know how to actually use your back-up power sources safely.  In the dark or while the sideways wind and rain are pounding your house is NOT a wise time to fire up the generator for its inaugural run.
  • Only use generators outdoors, and away from windows.
  • Charge your cell phones, electronics, and power banks.
  • Have an adequate supply of flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps (and spare batteries for all).
  • Turn down the temperature on your fridge/freezer to get the most time out of your perishable food before going bad.
  • Get a LOT more power outage tips here!
man hanging storm shutters on windows before a hurricane.

Responding to a hurricane

There are basically 2 courses of action when responding to a hurricane warning in your area:

1 – Evacuate – this is when you get the heck out of there and go someplace safe.

2 – Shelter in Place – this is when you stay home, hunker down, and wait out the storm.


If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately! I cannot stress this enough. If there is ONE thing you take from this, take that. Don’t mess around with evacuating. If you wait too long, your evacuation window could close, and you’ll be on your own. Another reason to not wait is traffic. The quicker you get out, the better chance you have of escaping the danger before it comes, rather than being stuck in traffic when the hurricane hits.


There are a few key things to have prepared WELL in advance of an evacuation.


Don’t wait til a hurricane is on the horizon; these are things you want to have done before hurricane season even starts! 


  1. Have your 72-Hour Kits ready. If you don’t, that should be a top priority to get figured out ASAP.  

  2. Have an evacuation route predetermined, including a backup plan. Be prepared for roadblocks and LOTS of traffic.
  3. Ensure that you have a physical map of your area, so that you are not trying to depend on your phone for directions. Cell towers are often taken out in storms well before the actual hurricane arrives.
  4. Familiarize yourself with shelter locations.  Know where you will go, and make sure your destination can accommodate who/what you will be bringing (for example: pets, a trailer, etc.)
  5. Plan well in advance if you will need help leaving. Discuss a plan with a family member/friend/neighbor and make sure everyone knows what to expect.

Sheltering in Place

If you decide to shelter in place, you are obviously going to need to consider a lot more things to have on hand, in order to ride out the storm comfortably. You should be ready to live without power, water, gas, phone, and internet for a long time. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind if sheltering in place is a possibility for you.


  1. Monitor local weather and news (and be sure to have a weather radio in the event of a power outage).
  2. Be diligent and watch for signs of flash flooding.
  3. Determine your best protection against high winds and flooding. An ideal location is a small, interior, windowless room in a sturdy building.  You want to be on the lowest level that is not subject to flooding.  If your home does not have this option, at the very least stay away from glass windows and doors. In our Alabama townhouse, our best spot was an interior bathroom downstairs with no windows. 


  • DO NOT walk, swim or drive through flood waters.
  • Do not go anywhere near fallen power lines.

Do this RIGHT NOW - it takes 30 seconds!

The very first thing you can do right now is sign up for emergency alerts from your local government. 

You can do a quick Google search by typing “emergency alerts” followed by the name of your city/county.


Another source of emergency alerts is the free Red Cross Emergency App.  


That’s the easy part, so don’t skip it! 

Once you’ve downloaded the app(s) and signed up for local emergency alerts, you’ll want to know the difference between a watch and a warning.


  • WATCH = be prepared (not as urgent – conditions are possible in your area within 48 hours)
  • WARNING = take action (definitely urgent – conditions are expected in your area within 36 hours)

Now let’s talk about actually putting a plan in place to respond to whatever alert you receive. 

red cross emergency app logo.
mobile phone showing red cross hurricane app.

Hurricane Preparedness List

Regardless of if you decide to evacuate or stay at home, you will need to take measures to protect your house and your family.

The number one hurricane preparedness tip that most survivors give is this: ACT AND REACT EARLY.  There is no such thing as too much action.

Power Outage Items

As I mentioned above, power outages are a whole topic in themselves. Since the checklist for preparing for extended power outages is quite comprehensive, I am going to direct you to the 4-part series that covers power outages.  However, I have added all of the power outage recommendations to the FREE comprehensive Hurricane Preparedness Checklist that’s available at the bottom of this post, so be sure to snag that!


Do you have enough food to last several weeks in your home?  You may not be able to leave your home for several days if the roads are impassable. Even if you can get around, if trucks can’t get to your area to restock the stores there, you’re still going to be out of luck. Be prepared for both immobility and possible disruptions to the supply chain. 

You will be the most prepared utilizing BOTH long term food storage and short term food storage.


  • Debris and flooding can result in contaminated drinking water. I highly recommend a Berkey filter to purify your water anywhere. We use ours daily in our kitchen, but it is also portable, so you could take it with you if you needed to evacuate!  ***Remember: Do not ever drink flood water that isn’t filtered.***
  • Alternatively, your water supply could be completely cut off. A water filter isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t have any water to run through the filter. Check out this post that has the best options for long term water storage.


  • Fill all of your vehicles’ tanks when a hurricane watch has been issued.  By the time a hurricane warning is issued, it’s probably too late.  Lines get long and gas supplies can run out. Keeping your gas tank as full as possible at all times can make it much easier to evacuate in advance of a hurricane or other anticipated catastrophic event. 
  • If you choose to stockpile additional fuel, remember to use safe storage containers and label them.  Make a plan to rotate your fuel.
  • Refill propane tanks for warmth and alternative cooking.
  • For more info on fuel, see Power Outages: Part 2.


  • Pharmacies may be closed and/or sold out of mediation. Doctors offices will probably be closed. Make sure you have enough over-the-counter, prescription medication, and antibiotics in advance.  Here is a way for you to get an emergency supply of medication.
  • If you are sheltering in place, it may not be safe to leave your home to seek medical assistance.  Or if you have evacuated, you may not have convenient access to medical care.  Equip yourself with First Aid and CPR training so that you can take care of your family when doctors are not an option. 
  • Keep your medical, first aid and sanitation supplies stocked and ready.


Important Documents


Our family pets are even more helpless than our children.  Just simply having food and water for them is not enough.  I have a post for you that will help you prepare to take care of your pet in any disaster.  


  • Review your insurance policies.  Check out this informative post to help you know if you have the right homeowners insurance coverage.  Contact your agent to ensure that everything is current and accurate on your policy. 
  • Add flood insurance if you don’t already have it. 
  • Take pictures of valuables, print a copy and save digital duplicates for homeowners insurance claims.

Start Your Preparations Now

Did you notice that most of the things on this list are things you can do well in advance?  In fact, most of them MUST be done well in advance, because once a hurricane is spotted, it’s often too late to get things ready.


Whether it’s items to buy, documents to gather, or 72-hour kits to assemble, there are so many things to do before hurricane season ever starts!

And then of course, there are a few things to do once a hurricane warning is issued.
The point is, START NOW. 

Get the Printable Hurricane Preparedness Checklist

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