June 1 marked the beginning of hurricane season; though the season is most active from mid-August through the middle of October, it lasts until November 30. Even a minor hurricane can cause a lot of damage and disruption due to flooding and high winds that lead to a loss of infrastructure.

It’s essential to prepare for a hurricane before you’re experiencing an active hurricane threat to protect your family, household, and employees. Many of our members live in areas regularly affected by hurricanes; here are some steps you can take to plan and prepare for hurricanes.

Understand Hurricane Lingo

There are terms and terminology used to describe hurricanes by the National Weather Service and meteorologists. They use this standardized language to help the public understand the storm risk associated with a hurricane.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale provides a 1 to 5 rating that’s based on the hurricane’s maximum sustained wind speed.

Category 1: Sustained winds between 74-95 mph. These winds are dangerous and will result in some property damage. Homes may experience damaged roofs, shingles, gutters, and vinyl siding. Large branches can snap and trees with shallow roots may come down. Damage to poles and power lines may lead to power outages.

Category 2: Sustained winds between 96-110 mph. Homes may experience major siding and roof damage. Many trees with shallow roots will be uprooted. Widespread power loss is anticipated for several days to a couple of weeks.

Category 3: Sustained winds between 111-129 mph. Homes may experience significant damage or incur roof gable damage. Many trees will be uprooted or snapped, regardless of the root structure. Electricity and water may be unavailable for several days to a few weeks after the hurricane.

Category 4: Sustained winds between 130-156 mph. Homes can experience severe damage that includes the loss of the roof or exterior walls. Most trees will be uprooted or snapped. Winds will down power poles. Power outages can last weeks to months. Much of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks.

Category 5: Sustained winds 157 mph or higher. Most homes will be destroyed with total roof and wall failure. Most trees will be uprooted, and power poles will come down. Power outages may last for several months. Residents may not be able to inhabit the area for months.

While the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale offers insight into the potential damage associated with a storm, it has a few limitations, as it doesn’t consider the hurricane’s potential to produce tornadoes, flooding, or a deadly storm surge.

The Difference Between a Tropical Depression, a Tropical Storm, and Hurricane

A tropical depression is an organized group of clouds and thunderstorms with max sustained wind speeds of 38 mph. When a tropical depression reaches maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph, it’s a tropical storm.

When this system reaches maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher, along with well-defined circulation at the surface, it’s considered a hurricane.

Hurricanes and tropical storms both have the potential to cause flooding, tornadoes, and property damage.

A Watch Versus Warning

While a hurricane or tropical storm watch and a hurricane or tropical storm warning both sound frightening, there are key differences between the two that will impact your storm preparations.

A hurricane or tropical storm watch means that hurricane or tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 48 hours. This indicates that storm conditions are possible, but haven’t happened. You should make preparations to ready your household and home for a storm.

Hurricane or tropical storm warnings indicate that these storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. A warning means severe weather is happening; you should seek safety in a secure spot unless advised to do otherwise.

Preparing for a Hurricane

Don’t wait until a hurricane is in the forecast to begin your severe weather preparations.

Waiting until a hurricane is in the forecast gives you less time to gather your supplies and important items; you may also have problems acquiring the items you need for your hurricane emergency kit, like flashlights, batteries, and non-perishable foods due to increased demand and supply shortages related to the storm.

What to Put in Your Hurricane Emergency Kit

The items that belong in your hurricane emergency kit depend on a few variables, including your family size, medical needs, and whether you own pets.

Some items you might need in your emergency supply kit include:

· Important phone numbers (including the number for your pharmacy, your family’s doctors, veterinarian, credit union, your utility company, and any other financial institutions or companies that you may need to contact): Write important numbers down and program them in your cell phone

  • Copies of important documents (like insurance policies, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and bank account records): Consider putting these in a portable waterproof container
  • Prescription medications (don’t forget any medicine for your pets) and glasses
  • Non-prescription medication (like pain killers, anti-diarrhea medication, and antacids)
  • Infant formula, wipes, and diapers
  • Cash (in small bills if possible)
  • A first aid kit
  • At least one change of clothing for each family member
  • Feminine supplies
  • Water (have one gallon per person per day)
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • A whistle (to call for help)
  • A mask for each family member (to prevent them from breathing contaminated air or to minimize the transmission of germs in crowded conditions)
  • Moist wipes, garbage bags, and plastic ties (for tending to personal sanitation)
  • A small tool kit that includes a wrench, pliers, and multiple screwdrivers
  • A manual can opener
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Cell phones with chargers and backup chargers
  • Pet supplies (including food, water, feeding bowls, and a way to transport or contain them, like a crate or leash and harness)
  • A blanket or sleeping bag for each person
  • Disposable eating supplies
  • Items for entertainment, including books, pencils and paper, and a deck of cards

See that your hurricane kit is stored in a cool, dry location; ideally, the contents should be kept in a waterproof bag or box.

Know What Steps to Take During an Active Hurricane Threat

If a hurricane is in your forecast, there are a few things you need to do to prepare your family and your home.

Personal Preparations

Make sure that you understand options for evacuating if necessary. You’ll want to be familiar with a few different routes in case one route is closed or blocked off.

Confirm that your emergency kit has everything that you need. If possible, back up important documents to a cloud-based storage option.

Examine your gutters and drains to see that they’re working properly. Make any required repairs or adjustments.

If recommended, install windstorm shutters or plywood over your windows and doors. Secure any loose items outside, including furniture and yard equipment. Anchor non-permanent buildings, like trailers and sheds, to the ground.

Workplace Preparations

When handling hurricane preparations for your company, set up remote access to your company’s website.

Check that employees understand how they will receive updates during the hurricane and who they can contact if they need assistance with their benefits or other employment-related topics during the storm.

Turn off and unplug all non-critical devices, including monitors and workstation equipment. If time permits, store equipment above anticipated flood levels or relocate it away from the threatened area.

Install storm shutters or plywood over windows and doors if necessary. Anchor or secure any non-permanent structures, including trailers and storage spaces.

Assemble a secure petty cash stash supply to allow your company to make purchases when the electricity or internet is down.

See that you have contact information available for your vendors, employees, and clients. An incident management system can help you keep everyone updated on your company’s current status and your anticipated next steps.

Confirm that your company’s outdoor signs and outdoor equipment are safely secured. If your company has flammable liquid drums, move them to a secure area.

Gather any essential documents and store them in waterproof storage containers. Go over your company’s disaster recovery plan and take any necessary steps to minimize the hurricane’s disruption to your operations.

Stay Safe During a Hurricane

Follow any evacuation or recommendations related to the impending storm. Should you need to evacuate, don’t return home until the authorities state that it’s safe to do so.

If you’re allowed to remain in place for the hurricane, adhere to local guidance about driving and accessing specific areas. Avoid accessing flooded areas and never drive through a flooded road; vehicles are easily swept away due to powerful flood waters. Stay away from fallen or overhanging powerlines.

Once it’s permitted, patrol and examine your business site for damage. Should your business site require repairs, begin the process of working with contractors to access and fix the damage.

Cover any damaged roofing or broken windows immediately to prevent additional damage to your facility’s equipment and supplies. If you hear odd sounds, leave immediately, as this can indicate that the building is damaged and has the potential to collapse.

Any equipment that needs to remain connected to a power source should be regularly monitored. If a power failure occurs, turn your electricity off so that equipment isn’t reactivated until you’ve had a chance to examine everything.

Remain in frequent communication with employees and other critical individuals so that they're aware of what's going on.