On average, about 6 Atlantic storms a year develop into hurricanes, with 2 making landfall in the United States. Some of the worst hurricanes—such as Katrina in 2005, Andrew in 1992, or the Galveston Hurricane of 1900—can cause hundreds or even thousands of deaths, and billions of dollars in property damage.
Hurricane forecasting, while still far from an exact science, provides excellent advance warning if there is any significant chance of a hurricane striking your area. So if you live in an area vulnerable to hurricanes, one key thing you need to do is simply stay on top of the news. In addition to what you can get from television and radio, it's good to be familiar with storm tracking software such as Google Earth so that you can always have the latest updates and projections at your fingertips.
But beyond that, there is much you can do to lessen the potential impact of a hurricane on your life:
* General preparations before there is danger from a specific hurricane *
If you are in a hurricane-prone area, make sure any home you build is constructed appropriately for such an area. It may be a matter of building on pylons, it may be a matter of the material used for construction, it may be a matter of using stronger glass for the windows that’s better able to withstand heavy wind, but there are many things - some required by the local building codes, and some just advisable - that can strengthen your home against the ravages of a major storm.
For an already existing building, research what you might be able to do to strengthen it against hurricane damage. Consult an expert to see if shutters should be replaced, hurricane straps should be reinforced, etc.
Make sure exactly what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t, and get additional insurance if necessary. A homeowners policy, for instance, might cover your house but not the land. The policy might cover some of the damage but not water-damage specifically. The fine print on the policy might specify that it doesn’t cover certain things that most policies cover because you’re in a “high risk” area. Find all this out before you have a claim, not after.
And remember, you may have a waiting period to contend with. Flood insurance typically doesn’t kick in for 30 days, so don’t wait to get the policy until a storm has formed and is headed your way.
* Immediate preparations for a hurricane *
Have an evacuation plan for yourself and your family. Know where you’re going and what route you’ll be taking if the storm requires you to leave. Inform out of the area family and friends where you’ll be. Be sure to make arrangements for your pets. Don’t assume they’ll be able to stay with you in a shelter; most shelters will not allow pets.
Stock up on all the necessities for a hurricane survival kit, such as several days worth of food and water, a flashlight, a radio, an emergency contact list, cash or credit cards, first aid material, and plywood or other material to board up windows.
Move garbage cans, lawn furniture, and other large objects inside the garage or somewhere they won’t be exposed to the storm.
Make sure your vehicle is well maintained and has a full tank of gas, in case you have to evacuate.
* If you are home during a hurricane *
Secure vital records, photos, heirlooms, etc. in a waterproof safe, in the attic or the high point of the house, or wherever they will be least likely to be damaged.
Stay indoors during the storm. Stay away from windows and glass doors. Stay in the opposite side of the house, farthest from the wind.
If you live in a hurricane zone, it is your responsibility to always be prepared. With these precautions, you increase the chances of keeping yourself and your family safe.