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Hurricane safety guide

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

Measured by the human and structural toll, hurricanes rank among the most destructive disasters on earth. Hurricane Katrina, which barreled through the South in 2005, claimed over 1,800 lives and caused more than $160 billion worth of damage.

Given the devastation that hurricanes can cause, it’s wise to make sure you’re prepared if one rips through your community. In the U.S., the annual Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30. In this guide, we’ll go over safety tips, safety precautions, safety kits, and insurance needs if you live in the potential path of a hurricane.

10 ways to prepare for a hurricane 

Before you receive an emergency alert about an imminent hurricane, use these 10 tips to prepare for a potential disaster.   

  1. Create an evacuation plan. Every household should have a plan for what to do in a hurricane. Decide what steps you should take and where you, your family and your pets should go. You might have friends or family that you could stay with or be willing to drive inland to a particular emergency shelter or hotel. Be sure everyone in your household is aware of the plan, and you have a designated meeting point.
  1. Download weather and emergency apps to stay on top of evacuation warnings and other news. These can help you track the path of a storm and change your plans as needed.
  2. Locate important documents. If you need to leave your home quickly, make sure you know which essential documents and valuables you would take. Keeping them in a central location, such as in a locked filing cabinet, would make it easy to gather necessary belongings and paperwork quickly before you evacuate.
  3. Check your insurance policies to make sure you have coverage for hurricane damage. Be clear about hurricane or wind deductibles that may apply if you need to make an insurance claim.
  4. Protect your windows. The best time to purchase hurricane shutters or plywood is well ahead of a storm. If you have older windows, consider upgrading them for more protection from high winds.
  5. Have enough gas. When you first hear about a looming hurricane, be sure you’ve got enough gas in your car for a long trip if you need to evacuate. If you have a home generator, keep enough gas available to operate it for an unknown period. 
  6. Know the evacuation routes in your area. Get familiar with all the different ways you can leave your home safely.
  7. Know the closest emergency shelters. Find out where you could go for food, shelter and medical treatment in case of an evacuation order.
  8. Stowe your outdoor items. It’s critical that you securely store items that could be scattered by the wind and damage your home or others. These might include potted plants, bicycles, patio furniture, and garbage cans.
  9. Install a generator. If you’re likely to stay at home during a hurricane, remember having a generator is probably the only way that you would have power during and for some time after a powerful storm or hurricane.

How to stay safe at home during a hurricane 

Once a storm approaches your area, use these hurricane safety precautions if you choose to stay home.

  • Stay indoors, even if it looks safe outside. 
  • When you’re inside, stay away from windows and seek refuge in an interior room or closet. 
  • If you get trapped in a building, go to the highest level but don’t climb into the attic. 
  • Don’t use electrical appliances. 
  • Use flashlights instead of candles, which could cause a fire.  
  • Don’t wade into floodwaters and stay away from downed power lines. 
  • Don’t drive into flood waters or use bridges that go across fast-moving water. 
  • Remember that trying to drive through floods is a leading cause of death during hurricanes.

How to create a hurricane safety kit

A hurricane safety kit is similar to a first aid kit and can help you deal with various emergencies. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, take the time to create a safety kit for you and your family.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests that your hurricane survival kit has enough supplies to last 72 hours. Here are some items to include in your hurricane kit.

  • One gallon of water per person per day. Drinkable water is key to post-hurricane survival.
  • Enough food for three days. Be sure there’s plenty of non-perishable food, such as canned meat, canned soup, peanut butter, granola bars, hot and cold cereal, ground coffee, tea bags, powdered milk and juice boxes.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Manual can opener.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties.
  • First aid kit.
  • NOAA Weather Radio with extra batteries.
  • Hand-cranked radio or battery-powered radio as a backup to the NOAA radio.
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect short-term shelter.
  • Face masks to filter contaminated air.

Does my insurance cover a hurricane?

While there’s no such thing as hurricane insurance, homeowners and renters policies cover some types of hurricane-related damage to your property and personal belongings. Before a storm hits, you should understand how your existing insurance protects you and what additional coverage for hurricanes you may need. 

A standard home or renters insurance policy typically covers damage caused by wind, rain and lightning. However, it doesn’t include flood damage sustained during a hurricane.

You must have a separate flood insurance policy to protect your home’s structure and personal belongings from flood damage. Flood insurance is available through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.

In some states, home insurance policies include hurricane or windstorm deductibles. The deductible typically is 1% to 5% of the insured value of your home’s structure (not its contents).

How to make a hurricane insurance claim

If your home or personal belongings get damaged in a hurricane, use these tips to make an insurance claim.

  • Reach out to your insurance agent or provider and tell them your home has been damaged or destroyed.
  • Review your insurance policies to find out what’s covered and what isn’t. 
  • Ask whether your coverage includes living expenses, such as rent and food, to help you manage if you’re unable to occupy your home. Maintain your receipts for these expenses.
  • Make emergency repairs to protect your home from further damage.
  • Take photos of the damage to your home.
  • Make a list of the household items that were damaged or destroyed in the storm. 
  • Beware of potential scam artists who go door to door promoting services as repair contractors. They may not be qualified to repair your home correctly. 
  • Consider not filing a claim if damage to your home is minor and repair expenses would exceed your deductible. Even a small claim can cause your home insurance rate to go up.

Laura Adams

Laura is a frequent media source and has been featured on most major news outlets including ABC, Bloomberg, CBS, FOX, NBC, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, U.S. News, Consumer Reports, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune, Kiplinger’s, Marketplace, Money, MSN, and many other broadcast, print, and online outlets. Laura’s mission is to empower consumers to live richer lives through her writing, podcasting, spokesperson, and advocacy work. Millions of readers and listeners benefit from her practical financial advice. Laura earned an MBA from the University of Florida. She and her husband reside in Vero Beach, Florida. Connect with her and learn more at LauraDAdams.com.

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