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Before the Hurricane – The Common Sense Hurricane Guide Series (Part 1 of 3)

The Common Sense Hurricane Guide Series has three posts: “BEFORE the Hurricane”, “DURING the Hurricane” and “AFTER the Hurricane”. There's a lot of information, but a hurricane is a lot of storm. We found most hurricane guides to be superficial or flat out wrong, so we set out to create something better, with feedback from our friends who have been through hurricanes.

Hurricane approaching - before the hurricane


Before the Hurricane – Prepping for Evacuation or Sheltering in Place

Categories covered in this post (Before the Hurricane), include: (Click on text to jump to the category.)

Use this information to make your own hurricane checklist. Add things that fit you and your family, and remove things you won’t or can’t do. Consider printing YOUR list and putting it in double Ziploc bag with IDs and other critical paperwork.

Make a hurricane plan as soon as you can. Plan what you will do, when you will do it, where you will go and what you will need. Review your plans with family and loved ones.

Create an Evacuation Plan

Hurricanes are destructive. The first thing you need to decide if you are planning on evacuation or if you are going to try to shelter in place. Either way, educate yourself and plan accordingly. There are serious risks to staying in the path of a hurricane (sheltering in place) both during the hurricane and after the hurricane. We strongly recommend you EVACUATE, as sheltering in place involves many serious risks that can’t easily be predicted.

Here are some basics your evaluation plan should include. Have a hard copy (printed copy) of your list, so you can review it even if the power is out. It should cover you, your immediate family, any family in assisted living or long term care, and pets, if applicable. Consider evacuating family in nursing homes or assisted living well before the hurricane.

If you are keeping pets with you, find hotels/friends/family that will take pets ahead of time.

You can download FEMA's mobile app to all your smartphones from this link:

Pick your Evacuation Location(s)

Make sure you have a place (or places) to go if you are forced to evacuate. Pick these in advance and share that information with family and friends. Make sure you have the cash you need to travel to your chosen location(s).

To find a location, check the internet, talk with neighbors, or contact your local elected officials to find the best locations before the hurricane hits. Mark down all evacuation centers in your area. Visit those evacuation centers before you need to evacuate. Visiting in advance allows you to pick the one that best fits your families needs. You should pick two or three evacuation locations.

  1. First or primary evacuation center should be more than an hour (drive time) from the coast and on high ground.
  2. Second evacuation center should be within a 2 to 3 hours inland (avoiding locations near rivers or washout areas).
  3. Third evacuation center should be more than 4 hours inland. (consider visiting family or taking a vacation far from the hurricane)

Many of the hurricane guides recommend selecting nearby shelters. You can do that, but make sure they will actually be safe, away from storm surge, and able to handle a severe hurricane.

You need to have multiple evacuation locations because a storms can change their paths. This may force you to change your evacuation route and/or evacuation location. In general, you should select locations not prone to flooding and evacuate roughly due north. (Check storm approach direction, head away from its likely path.) If you intend to evacuate to family members or friends house, you still need to have one or two alternate evacuation locations. Sometimes hurricanes change path abruptly and evacuation routes are cut off, or a storm impacts a larger area than first predicted.

Learn about your Evacuation Location(s)

Once you pick your emergency evacuation locations, learn at least two routes to your evacuation locations of choice. Practice your evacuation plan with the entire family. If you have family in nursing homes, check with the nursing home to find out their evacuation policy or put one in place for your loved ones. During Hurricane Harvey, many nursing and retirement homes flooded out and disabled people were left sitting in water up to their chests for 8 or more hours.

Be prepared if your main evacuation point isn’t an option. This is why you have two or three locations. Get PAPER maps of your area and evacuation areas, so you can get out even if cell service (and GPS) is down. See “Maps for Preparedness“. Mark each location.

Remember to take enough drinks, snacks, pet food, water etc to sustain you while evacuating and for some time after your reach the location. Have extra gas in the trunk, if possible. Roads can become parking lots when traffic gets backed up, and you don’t want to be stranded, run out of gas, overheat yourself or the vehicle or get dehydrated. The best plan is to evacuate early.

Get Ready to Recover from the Hurricane

Get Flood Insurance

You should check with your homeowners insurance and make sure you have flood/hurricane insurance and that the home value is correct. Keep all your documents together to create “application folder” so you can use it to get insurance if you do not have policies in place. The earlier you get organized, the quicker you can get coverage. Many homeowner's insurance policies cover damage from plumbing issues but do not cover weather related flooding by default.

Get Flood insurance before you need it!! (It takes 30 days to activate so do it ASAP.) See “How to Buy Flood Insurance“.

Document Your Possessions

Even if you are sheltering in place, have a plan in place to evacuate items you want protected such as: important documents, photos, kid’s favorite toys, heirloom items, etc. Make an itemized list of all your possessions in a spreadsheet and print a copy, or store it securely online somewhere that you can access if your home is severely damaged or lost. Alternately store in a safe deposit box or safe, or with a trusted friend or family member.

If possible, document proof of purchase, date of purchase, pictures of each item and any serial numbers they may have.

This information will speed up processing of insurance claims if you have a hurricane loss. The time for payout from insurance companies for those who didn’t have this information was 4 to 9 months during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Many waited over a year or didn’t receive enough help. Be aware that FEMA only covered about a quarter of the cost to repair people's homes for the people who contributed to this post.

Find and Organize ALL your Important Documents

Make sure you have copies of all your most important records stored offsite and with your evacuation supplies. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Mortgage/Rental Agreements
  • Bank Account Numbers
  • Insurance Information: Life, Home/Rental, Flood, Vehicle, Health Insurance and Other Health Info
  • Children’s Immunization Records for every member of household (especially kids for school)
  • All Bills and Credit Card companies phone numbers with account information
  • PINs, Keys or access codes for locks or security systems.
  • Drivers Licenses, Marriage Licenses, Vehicle Registration, Mortgage/Rental Papers,
  • Record boat, RV or other ID information
  • Social Security Card; driver’s licenses, VIN (vehicle identification number) for each car/truck
  • Current photos of all family members, as a group and individually
  • Pet information with current picture of pet

For individual family members, prep:

  • List of medications, allergies, and other special requirements
  • Waterproof lanyards to wear around your necks with:  Birth Certificate * Social Security Card * CWP * Proof of residency – important if you need to get in and out of the restricted areas
  • For younger children, consider an ID card on a lanyard with a whistle.

Document Important Contacts

Write down contact numbers/information for:

  • Family and Friends
  • Doctors
  • Pharmacy
  • Plumber
  • AC/Heat repairman
  • Neighbors
  • Veterinarian
  • Insurance Agent
  • FEMA
  • House Repairman (to do estimate for repairs)
  • MUD District, Water, Electric, Gas, Non-emergency police Department, Fire and Rescue Numbers
  • Church or other community organization near you to organize volunteers to help with clean up efforts

Create a Team

Talk with family, friends and neighbors before the hurricane. A group that includes a doctor, medic or nurse, mechanic, farmer, carpenter and other basic skills will do well. A team survives emergencies better than individuals. Think about how you can communicate with your group, even during the hurricane. (See communication below.)

Talk with your team. Some hurricane items and recovery items are very expensive or require time to acquire. If you have a group, you don’t need to duplicate all items. Maybe one person has CB and another is good at first aid/medical. Work together to cover basic needs.

Preparing a home before the hurricane with wood over the windows

Prepare your Home for a Hurricane

Prepare Your Yard and Home Exterior

Check your yard and property. Remove damaged trees/limbs and store loose items so they don't become projectiles.

Make sure gutters are free of debris and well attached. Downspouts should direct water far away from your home and be securely attached  so they cannot be blown off. (Add straps if needed.) Consider adding permanent heavy duty storm shutters to the home.

If flooding is likely, consider buying sandbags to create a water barrier. Even a few at your doors and garage door could reduce debris getting in. You would likely need 15+ for each exterior door and 30+ for each garage door.

Prepare your House

Make sure your home has a sewer backflow preventer to block sewage from flooding into the home from sanitary sewers overloaded with flood waters. If you have a basement with a sump pump, make sure the sump is in good working order.

Check your garage door to make sure it is hurricane ready. If needed, get materials to reinforce the door and store them (or replace the door with a more secure one).

Make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Be sure to have battery operated models on hand that will work when the electricity is out. Use rechargeable AA or AAA batteries or at least have extra batteries. Test them, and if they don’t work, replace them now.

Make sure you have at least two 5 pound fire ABC extinguishers. The fire department may not be able to respond during the hurricane. Plan for battery operated lighting for the house – flashlights, dome lights, etc – not candles, as they are a fire hazard and will heat up the house quickly. (See below for more information on lighting.)

If you are Remodeling…

Consider adding a dormer in the roof to allow an attic escape in case of severe flooding. If a dormer is not an option, store an ax in the attic so you can get out.

Consider adding a FEMA (ICC500) safe room / storm shelter to your home.

Create a Hurricane Communications Plan

Make a family/group emergency communication plan. Figure out how you will communicate with your local family, neighbors, friends and community. Walkie talkies, texting (SMS), Facebook , twitter are some available options. This pdf from FEMA outlines How to Make a Family Emergency Communication Plan. Once you create your plan, review it with everyone involved, especially children.

Test your communications BEFORE the hurricane. Communicate through your “Point of Contact”, that is, the primary coordinator for your family or group. Practice texting family members for updates/communication.

Create your Social Media Groups Before the Hurricane

If you want to use social media for communications, create your group before the hurricane, and test it with the people involved. Have a shortcut to your groups on every family member's (or group member's) smartphone. Research

Don't forget to include backup communication plans in case your primary plan fails. Communications can be challenging before, during and after a hurricane. Cell towers can be down, power can be out.

Pick Your Out of State Contact

Pick an out of state “Point of Contact”. This person should be at least 300 miles away and will communicate on your behalf with friends and family. You can use SMS (texting), Twitter, Facebook, phone if it works or even HAM radio. Your “Point of Contact” can also communicate on your behalf with government and rescue. Test sending messages before it’s an emergency.

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Communications Equipment to Prep Before the Hurricane

Cell Phones

Cellphones are a great way to communicate. But a cellphone with a dead battery is no good. Make sure you have a way to charge a cellphone and recharge batteries when the power goes out. Normally you could charge your cell in your car or truck, but the vehicle may be disabled due to flooding, so have an alternate way to charge your important devices.

Changing Cell Phones/Ways to Charge a Cellphone

There are a few ways to charge a cellphone when the power is out. A solar panel, external battery packs and crank chargers. Both the options below can charge one or maybe two cellphones. If you have multiple phones, you will need multiple panels or crank chargers.

If you have sun, a solar charger is an option. We have a Nektek Solar USB charger, and have tested it to charge batteries, cellphones and other USB devices.

A crank radio with a USB port can charge a cellphone. It will require a lot of cranking, but it does work, and can keep you able to send text messages. Also, the crank chargers listed below include a flashlight and a radio, which is good alternative way to get NOAA weather information. During a hurricane, your cellphone may not pick up a signal, or the tower may be overloaded.

Consider one of these small hand crank/solar/battery radios:

Basic Two Way Radio

For “in neighborhood” communications, consider Walkie-talkies FRS/GMRS radios that don’t require a license. (These have a range of a mile or two depending on terrain.) This can allow you to talk with the neighbors without going out into the hurricane. We tested a couple and they do have pretty good range – one is the BTECH GMRS-V1 GMRS Two-Way Radio.

Shortwave Radio (also known as HAM radio or CB)

You might want to consider shortwave radio for hurricane communications. NOTE: Shortwave or HAM radio requires licensing for each of the users but it can give you a great communication option. It can run on 12 volts, and allows you to communicate even if all cell towers are down. Large shortwave towers probably won’t survive the hurricane, so having a portable setup is probably best.

Handheld HAM ShortWave – The Baofeng BF-F8HP or the Yaesu FT-60R both are dual band VHF/UHF – and recommended based on feedback from shortwave geek friends (and sites below). If you really get into shortwave, you probably want the base and handhelds the same as the base station.

ShortWave HAM Base Station – For the base station either the  Yaesu Original FT-7900R 50watt or the more expensive Yaesu Original FT-450D 100watt – we have also heard good things about he ICOM series.

For more info on licensed handhelds, see:

For more info on licensed base stations, see:

Shortwave base stations need antennas. Here are a couple of options:

Food, Water and Cooking Supplies

Remember without power, you probably won’t have water (city water pumps require power). Gas and electricity for cooking may also be unavailable. Get shelf stable food, store water, and figure out how you will cook during and after the hurricane.


Consider buying freeze-dried or shelf stable foods such as: Auguson Farms, Mountain House, MREs, Wise, Legacy, Thrive, canned goods, SOS Bars or similar. Taste them BEFORE you buy a large stock, buy a single meal or meal pack and try them out NOW so you know what to stockpile. Get at least 2 weeks of food for the entire family, and consider stocking enough for a month or more. Protein/Meal replacement shakes and favorite shelf stable drinks provide liquid and variety to meals.

See “Best Freeze Dried Foods” and “Top 10 Foods to Store Without Electricity” for additional information.

Buy a couple of large coolers (preferably stackable) – 1 or more per person, and more is better. Pack with ice before the hurricane, use for food storage as needed during and after the hurricane.

If caring for an infant or other person with special dietary needs, plan accordingly.

Drinking Water

Make sure you have at least one LifeStraw and consider a Big Berkey water filter with extra filters. You might also buy a number of cases of plastic water bottles for drinking during the hurricane and/or during cleanup. Consider one 32 pack per family member, and don't forget pets/animals. You may need more than one per person, because you should have a couple cases of water bottles for drinking during cleanup. (Buy more than you think you need.)

Having drinkable water during a hurricane is critical. We recommend you purchase a 55-gallon water drum or other other large water storage, such as 5gal containers or waterbrick water storage if you can store them.

For more information on emergency water storage see “Emergency Water Storage and Filtration – What You Need to Know Before Emergencies Hit“.

Plates and Silverware

Stock heavy duty paper plates, cups, plastic silverware, plastic forks, spoons and knives, and a lot of extra paper towels (3 weeks’ worth) for the entire family. Because water supplies are often contaminated due to flooding, disposable items reduce sanitation risks. See “20 Things I Wish I Had Before the Flood from a “1000 Year Storm” Survivor” for more on flood related issues.


Cooking without power can be challenging, especially indoors. During the worst of the storm, food that's ready to eat “as is” is the best choice. See “Emergency Cooking – 10 Ways to Have a Hot Meal When the Power Goes Out” for detailed cooking options, such as folding stoves and portable butane stoves.

Once the hurricane is through, you can go outside and grill or use a camp stove. Remember to stock up on Waterproof matches, BIC lighters, Flint and/or Magnesium. Stock up on charcoal when its on sale, or if you use it, stock up on firewood as needed. Make sure if you are making fire you have at least two 5 pound Fire Extinguishers.

Sanitation and Garbage Handling Supplies

You need a plan for going to the bathroom and storing garbage during a hurricane. If there's flooding, the sewer system is likely to back up, so you also need to avoid using the toilet.

Make sure you have a sewer flood gate valve or a sewer check valve, sometimes known as a backflow preventer. If you don't know if you have one, contact your utility or plumber for more information now, before sewage backs up into your house during the hurricane.

Portable Toilets

You will still need to poop and pee during a hurricane. A bucket toilet is an inexpensive option that is easy to make, but you do need to plan ahead for waste coverage and disposal. Amber details the system their family used during the flooding linked to Hurricane Joaquin in the post “DIY Portable Toilet, Plus Tips to Get Rid of Smells“.

Along with your toilet, you'll need at least one large covered (sealed) garbage can, to empty your human waste into. Two is better, especially if you have a larger family. You want to make sure they have lids to help keep the odor contained. Stock up on toilet paper, and keep it in sealed bags (in case it gets exposed to water).


Find a spot for garbage inside. You won't be able to put it outside during the storm. Buy at least three large garbage cans that have a good sealed cover. Stock up on large boxes of garbage bags, industrial trash bags and lawn bags. Buy them and date-label them with a Sharpie marker. These probably won’t be available when you need them for cleanup after the storm.

Personal Hygiene Supplies and Clothing

Personal Hygiene Supplies

Buy 14 days of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. (Stock disinfectant wipes for the bathroom/dry toilet area and for the kitchen.) Paper towels are highly recommended. Extra 1 gallon or 1.5 gallon buckets with handles are always good, during and after a hurricane. The buckets can be used to carry around cleaning items/wash water, and in a pinch to carry around poop and pee.

Get an extra bottle or two of your favorite mouthwash. In a pinch you can swish, brush and swish again and spit it outside. This can be refreshing if you have no running water.

Buy a stock of moist towelettes (disposable washcloths) for use during a hurricane. After a few days without a shower you will be glad you stored these.

Remember to have items for feminine hygiene, babies, and older adults if you are caring for them during the hurricane. Have roughly 2x as much as you expect to need, in case stores are not open for an extended time.

If you have a baby or young child ensure you have ALL THE SUPPLIES for 3 weeks without power. Put diapers where they can’t get wet (or double bag them).


As a starting point, make sure everyone has at least twice as much clean underwear and socks as they need. You probably won’t be able to wash clothes during or just after the hurricane – so extra undies and socks are a must. A fresh pair of underwear can make dirty clothes feel much better, and keeping your feet clean and dry helps prevent fungal infections. Figure this out well before the hurricane season so you can avoid last minute clothes shopping. See “Emergency Underwear and Socks” for specific recommendations.

Consider getting a pair of tall muck boots or even hip waders. Have extra hot weather clothing. Once the A/C isn’t working you will likely be quite warm.

Buy knee pads and steel toe shoes for cleanup afterwards. Also buy multiple pairs of heavy work gloves, when they get wet you will appreciate a dry pair being available.

Tuck one full set of clothes for each family member in an evacuation bag. Just before the storm you could put it in the attic or 2nd floor or put in a vehicle in case you need leave. Alternately, put them in the attic before you evacuate so they are available when you get back.

Best First Aid Kit Recommendations for Home, Car, Office and Travel

Health and First Aid Supplies

Being prepared before the hurricane also includes having all your healthcare information up to date and ready to go. Make sure to document basic medical information for everyone in your family. Make short cards that can go in a wallet or purse for each person. The cards should include identification information; prescription medications, if any;  blood type; allergies and other critical medical information.

First Aid Supplies

You should have a first aid kit, but even more important is First Aid Training (Basic & CPR). Get multiple First Aid Kits – one per vehicle and a larger “home kit”. Stock up on sunscreen and mosquito repellent. The store may not be open for days to weeks.

See also:

Consider getting first aid books and/or guides. An injury, heart attack, or accident during a hurricane is something you will need to handle. You won’t get help for multiple days, so you must be prepared. If you can’t deal with a medical emergency, you should evacuate instead of sheltering in place. 

See also: Living Ready Pocket Manual – First Aid Fundamentals for Survival

Over the Counter Medications

Check medications in your cabinets to see if they are out of date. See “Shelf Life of Over the Counter Medication” for more information. Get a stockpile of the medications you use and would likely need during a hurricane. Anti-diarrhea medications, ibuprofen, pain killers, non-prescription nasal spray, eye drops, allergy and cold medications are common storage items. Right after a hurricane, you will be working hard and may be exposed to any number of allergens and/or bacteria.

Stock extra rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and antibacterial soap for sanitation and wound cleaning.

Get Current on Medical Exams

Set up a medical appointment for any outstanding medical issues before the hurricane season. Find out if that pain is serious problem or just a strain. Get your prescription medications updated, and talk with your physician about getting extra medication stocked for a hurricane. If you require emergency medications like inhalers or epi-pens, stock up so you are protected. Get your vision prescription updated, and have a spare set of glasses (or extra contact lenses).

Consider sending copies of prescription medications to your point of contact or a trusted family member or friend 300 miles from you, in case documents are lost. Another trick would be to scan your documents, then encrypt them and store them in any of the free online systems.

Prescription Medications

Make sure you have the prescription medication and supplies you need for roughly double the expected length of the hurricane. A good starting point is to make sure you have at least two weeks extra on hand.

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Get your Vehicle Ready for a Hurricane

  1. Make sure your car/truck insurance covers hurricane and flood damage. If not, get it added.
  2. Take pictures of your vehicle before the hurricane, in case you need to make an insurance claim.
  3. Stock a First Aid Kit and basic toolkit in your vehicle.
  4. Figure out the real driving range on one tank of gas. Don’t overestimate, as you may be stuck in traffic.

Check Over Your Vehicle

Make sure any any vehicle maintenance is done well before a possible hurricane.

  • Check fluid levels – washer, brake fluid, radiator, oil, and coolant.
  • Check tire pressures all around.
  • Make sure your car battery is good.
  • Get extra wipers, radiator fluid, tools, and fuses – so you have them in case you have to evacuate long distance.
  • Consider purchasing a real spare tire if you just have a “temp” spare.

Stock Your Vehicle/Vehicle Storage

Test what fits in your vehicle. You can't evacuate what won't fit, so make sure that what you plan to bring with does fit. Practice packing your vehicle. If you need more room, consider a car topper, trailer or other extra storage capacity for evacuation (and figure out what that will do to your miles per gallon of gas).

See also “Roadside Emergency Kit Recommendations and Checklist“.

Get a 12v USB charger for phones, and include a spare phone cable for each phone.  Pack summer / storm outerwear in a plastic bag (one set per person) – rain jacket and a set of light clothes including underwear. Consider getting a 5 gallon gas tank for your trunk, so you can get farther away from an evacuation zone.

Clean/rearrange garage so you can park valuable vehicles in it during the heavy winds. If you have more than one vehicle and aren't using both during the evacuation, consider storing the extra vehicle offsite, on high ground or outside the hurricane zone. A multi-story parking structure might be an option, if they allow parking during a hurricane.

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Lights, Flashlights and Batteries

Inside Lighting

We take lighting for granted. Extra battery powered lights can make a big difference. Going to the bathroom, using a dry toilet in the dark, in the middle of a hurricane, isn't fun. A simple light can make a difference. Flashlights are good, but a little room light is handy for going about your daily routine.

Rechargeable camping lamps such as the Thorfire LED camping lantern can be used as a flashlight or a lantern. It has a crank charge option and can keep an area reasonably lit, even in a hurricane. It can also charge cellphones and other USB devices. This is a good multi-function device. Even a small amount of light can make a big difference, and this Thorfire light easily fits the bill. An alternate or extra unit you could consider is the luminAID solar powered lights, which can float.

Work Lights

You might not use a head mounted light day to day, but they're great when you need task lighting and have to have your hands free. There are two head mounted lights we recommend: the Black Diamond Spot and the Coast HL7.

Another option is the right angle flashlights that can go in a shirt pocket or on a belt. The Streamlight 90540 or the Nebo Larry or the Lumintrail which can be, pocket, magnet or head mount. The Nebo is very bright and can go on a belt center left or right, or in a shirt pocket, but the magnet isn't really up to holding it, otherwise we would only recommend the Nebo. Whether you choose a headlamp or a right angle flashlight, these lights leave your hands free to fix a window, change a diaper or carry boxes and still see where you are going.

Other Lighting Options

Fire is a useful tool if controlled, but a house on fire in the middle of a hurricane is a REAL problem, because the fire department and paramedics will not be showing up until the after the storm. If you choose to use candles, make sure they are on a flame resistant surface and do not leave them unattended.

If you are okay with fire (for instance, on a protected patio), the BioLite Stove is an interesting option. You can cook on it and it can charge your cellphone and BioLite LED lights. (Make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby.)


Each person should have at least one bright flashlight. You should also have extra batteries. We researched these and the following flashlights are the ones we recommend (based on a combination of brightness, cost and quality):

  • Our recommendation for the brightest AA flashlight is the Sofrin SF14 which uses a single AA. We recommend you use rechargeable AAs. Get a charger and extra rechargeable AA batteries.
  • The larger bright flashlight is the Fenix PD35. This is the gold standard for an emergency flashlight. The PD35 uses one rechargeable 18650 battery (or two CR123 batteries) – which are not included. If you get the PD35, get an 18650 charger and extra rechargeable protected mode 18650 batteries.
  • If you have kids, a crank flashlight can be a good fit. It gives them something to do and a bit of control, and keeps them involved. This particular crank flashlight can also charge a cellphone.

For more flashlight related info see these posts:

Backup Batteries

Before a hurricane, assess the devices that use batteries. Remember you will be without power for at least a portion of the storm. Having extra batteries gives you options. For AA and AAA devices, we suggest an extra pack of Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries, they have a ridiculously long shelf life (10+ years in storage)

For rechargeable batteries we recommend Tenergy AA/AAA pack, the Panasonic Eneloop Pro AA / Eneloop Pro AAA or the AmazonBasics High Capacity AA & AAA are also good.

For battery chargers consider the USB charger (can be used with a solar panel) or the XTAR VC4L USB battery charger. We recommend both because the USB unit can’t refresh AA and AAA batteries. The XTAR requires any 5v USB power source.

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Tools to Buy Before a Hurricane

Normally if we need a tool, we can run down to the hardware store and pick it up. During a hurricane that isn't possible. Plan for the tools you will need, and consider the ones you MIGHT need. Having important tools your house/garage or at least having a few in the neighborhood BEFORE a storm is critical.

Buy the items you need before the hurricane season. Many of these items will be sold out just before and long after a hurricane.

Top Priority Tools

  • 5-gallon gasoline cans (at least 2). One should be fit in your trunk. The extra gas is a big deal. It's at least an extra 100 to 200 miles if gas stations are closed – getting you farther out of the storm.
  • An ax to store in your attic. If you end up retreating into your attic during a hurricane (fleeing rising water) you might not be able to get out. The ax gives you a way to break out.
  • Sump Pump – Use to pump water out of a basement or low area of a home. Requires power, so consider one with a battery backup.
  • 5kw or larger generator. Consider dual fuel (gas and propane) and set it up to be at least 20ft away from your house. We purchased the Champion 7500 and had it hard piped to the 500gal propane tank. Look around and watch for sales. These can vary in price by hundreds of dollars. See “Emergency Power Options for Your Home – Gas Generators and More” for more detailed information on home power generators.
  • Battery Powered Drill & Circle Saw (We like the Dewalt portable drill/saw because the batteries are interchangeable and the tools are tough.)

Tools that May be Shared within a Community or Group

Buy before the hurricane for use after the hurricane, as there probably won’t be any on the shelves when you need them.

  • Chainsaw for tree cleanup
  • Moisture Meter for testing how much water is in your studs and walls
  • A Stanley forcible entry tool – Store this in your vehicle. You might not be able to easily get back into your home if there is swelling in the doorframes due to flooding.

Tools for Storage and Property Protection

  • Cement Blocks (store in garage or yard) – Enough to prop-up all couches and furniture. They can also be used to create temporary tables.
  • Plastic Rectangular Folding tables (6 to 8 ft ) – Buy 2-4 tables to put things up high and for staging later. These are also great for sorting once you are “moving back in”. You may be able to hang these in your garage for storage when not in use.
  • 5 or more plastic crates, Sharpie markers and zippered storage bags. These can be used for many purposes. One use during cleanup is to hold outlet covers, door knobs, fire alarms, vents, etc. Put items in a ziplock bag as they are removed from the wall and use a Sharpie marker to label where it came from so they can be reinstalled after the wall is repaired.
  • 2 to 3 heavy duty plastic shelving units, with or without wheels – Plastic won't rust if your home gets flooded. The wheeled units are helpful for moving things around during cleanup, the tall units can keep items out of the way during cleanup.
  • Plastic watertight totes can store important papers, clothes, or anything else you don’t want wet. They can even be used for emergency transport containers for pets (with the lid off or ventilation holes added),

Tools for Cleanup

Again, it's good to make sure you have these items on hand well in advance of a hurricane, as they are likely to quickly sell out after.

  • Pressure Washer
  • A wet/dry vacuum with HEPA Filters (buy extra HEPA filters) and a Dehumidifier
  • Humidity Meter for testing if you are reducing moisture with a dehumidifier
  • HEPA Air Filtration System (in home and portable units) Plus Extra HEPA Filters (or a whole house unit)
  • 2 high velocity fans, Floor Fans, Window Box Fans, Drum Fans, etc… for airing out the home after the hurricane.
  • 6 pack of 3M Filtrate Allergy Filters for household air conditioning (you will want to change these regularly after the storm)
  • DIY Mold Test Kit
  • Hand Tools
    • (2) Screwdriver Sets – Phillips/Flat and small set for glasses / electronics.
    • Electric Screwdriver Set
    • Axe & Bow saw & Bypass loppers
    • Hand Saw
    • Sledgehammer
    • Spade Shovel
    • Wide snow shovel (good for cleanup of debris even in Texas/Florida/Islands)
    • (2) Needle nose & (2) Lineman Pliers
    • (2) crowbars
    • Adjustable Wrench
    • Hammer Stapler and a lot of staples
    • Rake
    • Metal Rake
    • Bolt Cutters
    • 1 or more Pinch Point Bar (pry bar) a short 2ft one and a longer 4ft one

Shut Off Tools for Natural Gas and Water

Have at least a couple in the neighborhood. A Gas and Water shut-off tool – this tool will allow you to shut gas and water services off. It is good for at least two families in a neighborhood to have one around (before and after the hurricane).

How to turn on/off water

How to turn off natural gas feed

Cleanup and Repair Supplies

Buy the stuff you need to clean up AFTER the hurricane before the hurricane. Like other supplies, cleaning and repair materials will sell out quickly.

  • Personal Protection items
    • N95 Dust Face masks (or even HEPA respirator mask) (3+ boxes)
    • Eye Protection for each person in family (safety glasses)
    • Extra pair of prescription glasses
    • 10 pair Work Gloves
    • Rubber Gloves
  • 3 or more gallons of bleach, 2 bottles of Dawn Detergent and/or Pine-sol, 2 extra gallons of white vinegar
  • Cleanup items
    • (2) Brooms and Dustpans
    • (1) large push broom
    • (2) Cloth Mops
    • Empty Buckets (for cleanup and for water leaks)
    • (2) Rubber Floor Squeegees
    • Extra Towels, sheets for covering up furniture and cleaning up water.
  • 7 Gallons Mold Remover & Disinfectant per 2000 sq. ft.
  • Zip Ties and rubber bands.
  • Stockpile old t-shirts, old towels and socks in a plastic stackable box for cleanup work
  • 200+ ft. of 500lb paracord (rope)
  • (2) Hammers, Sheetrock Hammer
  • (2) Box cutter knives
  • Sheetrock knife
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Large box of 3 or 3.5” screws
  • Large box of 3 or 3.5” nails
  • Multiple rolls of Duct Tape (5+)
  • (2+) Rolls of Packing Tape
  • (2) rolls painters tape
  • Flat Shovel to shovel debris off a floor (you might want more than one)
  • Humidity Meter / Moisture Sensor (You must buy these before the storm. These will run out quickly after the Hurricane)
  • Several cans of spray foam, etc to close up weep holes to keep water out of your home.

Other Miscellaneous Supplies

Materials to protect your home.  Purchase two or more heavy waterproof tarps (20×40 and/or 8×10) with rope to tie it down; nail it down or staple it down if needed. These can be used to seal up a blown out window or hole in a roof. Consider stocking plywood to cover windows and roof/window/wall damage.

Entertainment. Stock up on books, board games, cards, coloring books, crayons and other non-electronic activities. Pick ones your family likes.

Self Defense. If you choose to have firearms make sure you have ammo, trigger locks, safe storage, and weapon licenses as needed – and know laws for locations you might evacuate to.

Fire Safety. Get at least one 5lb fire extinguisher. As mentioned above, emergency crews will be stretched thin.

Water Safety.  Flooding during and after a hurricane is a known risk. Avoid going into flood waters unnecessarily. The water may contain pathogens from sewage and other debris, and currents can sweep away people and objects. Have one orange life vest per person in case of serious flooding. Consider a small jon boat, punt, inflatable boat, or an inflatable raft. Have a 50′-100′ length of sturdy rope on hand in case a water rescue is needed.

Before the Hurricane - The Common Sense Hurricane Guide Series (Part 1 of 3)

More Storm Preparedness Information

What’s Next?

This post covered what to do BEFORE the hurricane. Remember, you can shelter in place, but we recommend that you EVACUATE early in case of severe hurricane threat. The next post covers what to do DURING a hurricane if you shelter in place, and reminders for evacuation.

Other Common Sense Preparedness Posts

It makes a HUGE difference when you share our articles. Thank you so much!

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  1. This is very thorough. Thank you for the lists and recommendations. Looking forward to the other two posts!
    This information could also be helpful in other disasters, with a few tweaks.

    1. Thanks, Carol. I think a fair amount of this is good simply for everyday emergencies, too. Having basic necessities on hand and paperwork in order makes things easier if things get messy.

  2. Wow, Laurie, this is really, really good! We are considering a move to Louisiana, so I’ll be pouring over this many times, I’m sure.

  3. Great level of detail in your article. Living on the gulf coast and having survived Katrina, your article is on point. From my point of view, having a bug out binder with important documents, cash and a working vehicle with spare gas are most important. Also any family photos are irreplaceable. When I evacuate now I live by the rule: Pack as if I will never return. You will be surprised how little material items matter once you have lost everything.

  4. Being a meteorologist, this seems rather slanted and broadbrushed towards flood threats. But the reality is that New Orleans in Katrina was very special and unfortunate circumstances, one which we’d been predicting for decades… and though Houston’s flood impacts from Harvey (and Allison) are a potential… they’re a very very rare one… and even in such situations there are places with more dangerous flood risk than others, which can be identified with proper investigation.
    So to suggest things like axes and special spaces in the roof for most people is just not practical. Most would be better off saving the money, then using it to evacuate if the rare Harvey-type storm bears down. (Worth remembering: the degree of flooding from Harvey was very well forecast days in advance… and we may forget now that folks in Corpus area where landfall occurred faired rather alright water-wise by and large. Goes to show each storm is different, but no need to be terrified.)

    Additionally, the strong urge for everyone to evacuate is itself quite misguided. We just don’t have the infrastructure for many large coastal cities like Miami, Tampa, NYC, etc to fully evacuate. Not enough roads exist, not enough hotels exist, not enough gasoline supplies are able to put in place in time to get people out.
    And it also overlooks the very real dangers and stresses of evacuation as well.

    And a person reading this in a place like Orlando, Baton Rouge, San Antonio, etc… would think they too should evacuate regardless. When the dangers are generally very manageable for almost everyone in such places, even in the worst of storms.
    Instead you could do better further stressing having a choice in place beforehand, stress folks knowing what degree of danger flooding they have at their home (Hint: Just don’t stay on barrier islands. And in many cases being within a block or so of a canal or river ups your risk as well. But there are indeed very detailed evacuation maps that give a great idea of risk for most areas). Stress it’s going to be unpleasant if you choose to stay. Stress the big dangers after the storms (generators, downed power lines, and cutting equipment usage are all really large threats). But no need to lead people towards choices they may not need make and make the evacuation process harder for them and everyone else.

    And likewise, evacuate early is great, and something I’m absolutely behind.
    But that said… it’s worth noting there’s a balance for people to consider. The earlier you evacuate, the more likely you are to evacuate what proves to be unnecessarily in many situations. And oh the number of people in storms like Charley and Irma that wound up evacuating towards the path of storms instead of out of it!!!

    Too many unnecessary evacuations and supply buys wearies folks to not reacting in the critical storm.

    You want practical common sense info better than what’s currently out there… teach people to read a good topographic website to better gauge their flood threat. Teach people about what category of storm is going to potentially cause their house to fail from wind stress (hint: it basically takes a very rare high-end [cat 4/5] storm unless you’re within a block or two of the coast or in a manufactured home). Ensure people that hurricane forecasts are quite solid, and there’s usually no need for “what if it suddenly becomes a monster” when it’s a weak storm in a poor growth environment. Teach people the patterns of how the power grid is restored so they can have a better idea of how long they may be without power (and anything connected to it). Give people tips on odd places to get ice (McDonalds have been a great option pretty early in restoration).

    Focus on the key information rather than going into tons of detail on things like which HAM radios to buy.

    I’m behind any work to better educate the public, and definitely 110% appreciate the effort. The more informed, the better! And there’s definitely some very useful information in here!
    Yet I get to feeling reading this that if we really want to help people, we can probably do it much better than text walls like these that are more typically out there… or indeed the shallow basic fluff others often offer. Perhaps a dynamic page or app that can adapt to your own personal situations via prompts. So it keeps it short and to the point, most relevant to the person using it, and can give a degree of detail even the best long wall of text can’t.

    I certainly encourage (if the page owners are happy to leave it up) if you’re still reading this and facing an active hurricane, and have some concerns or questions… you’re more than welcome to email me ( I’ve put a great amount of time into helping folks by answering their questions on their particular situations over the past few years during hurricanes and severe weather on mediums like Facebook news pages and such. I’ve been through Charley and Irma in Orlando and have spent a lot of time traveling throughout much of the Gulf and Atlantic regions… and so feel very connected to pretty much all areas facing hurricanes. And I earned my meteorology undergraduate degree from the University of Oklahoma (superb at severe weather), and then finished all coursework towards a Masters Degree at Florida State University (big on hurricane research).

    In the end, if you are facing a storm… I think the best, simplest advice I can offer you to start from is: stay calm, stay sharp, and focus on working out the best choices and then following through on them when you need to. And you’ll be very well prepared to survive the storm.
    Hurricanes aren’t the end of the world, so try to work past the paralysis panic and confusion can bring, and work in the here and now of what you should do. Keep it simple. And 99.999% of the time, you’ll get through it alright, with just a good story to tell and a few shingles to replace 🙂

    Hope it goes well! To God alone belongs all glory,

    1. Thanks for the feedback, and we agree with some of your comments but respectfully disagree with other comments.

      We added the axe based on direct recommendation from hurricane survivors, local, state and federal authorities and public reports. We agree spending money on adding a dormer is not practical, but if the person lives in a flood zone this was a public recommendation after Harvey and Katrina. We will stick with the suggestion, but also agree that evacuating when you are likely to flood is the better plan.

      We suggested evacuation based and public recommendation, and personal decisions. We agree staying in the path of a Cat5 is a lot different than staying in the path of a Cat1 hurricane. And both of those have different risk based on the home and the homes location. So we must defer to local authorities on recommendation and only remind people to use their own judgement. And we also noted gasoline will be scarce so having extra 5gal tanks can make a huge difference. And having multiple clear evacuation routes and leaving early can avoid major problems.

      Regarding availability of housing for evacuation. We think we will respectfully disagree on this one. The rough estimate is 1.5mil hotel rooms nationally (in formal chains), and roughly double that in smaller hotels. Add in AirBnB and similar rental services, add in friends and family and finally add in regional disaster shelters, and the number of spaces is staggering. One estimate is 60 to 90 million being able to be relocated temporarily without a lot of “spin up”. Now we also believe it would not be fun to live in the Superdome during Katrina (or live in evacuation tent cities). We did hit on the basics of being able to prove you are you and have copies of key paperwork ready throughout the series.

      Regarding recommending evacuation – we are recommending that the public follow the announcement of authorities BUT also use their own judgement. As you can see, most of the article is about sheltering in place, and stocking up, because both families we got feedback from chose to do it. The first family got lucky and stayed in their home without incident during hurricane Fran, Bertha, Matthew and Hugo. The 2nd family got flooded out with 2 to 3 feet of water in their home in Texas during Hurricane Harvey (Cat4 on landfall). The 2nd family was not listed as being in a flood prone area. So, we understand your feedback but respectfully disagree based on direct feedback from people who lived through it. You noted you lived through a few, so we will take the more conservative/safe suggestions.
      The HAM radios were used heavily in response to Harvey in the early recovery, so we understand that some people may not be interested, but some are, so we will leave that in but gladly add in your other suggestions.

      Our intent is to build a good reference (unfortunately we agree with the wall of text issue). We did look at some way to customize, but given liability risk and other constraints our only other option was to get even more verbose and write an actual book that went through more detailed situations with likelihoods and specific risk factors. Also given time constraints, our goal was to share our family’s suggestions and then get feedback to improve that list (which is what we finally chose). We may do a book or interactive site long term, if we can figure out how to make it practical, useful and somehow keep it up to date.
      We ABSOLUTELY agree with your last two paragraphs – stay calm and carry on is EXCELLENT advice. We also strongly suggest training, practice and community are in most cases way more important than stockpiles of “things”.

      Also, thanks for the tips on McDonalds. Neither family was aware of that, so we appreciate all the feedback on that. We will add those ideas to the “After the Hurricane”. We are also going to try to get more details on the Cajun navy as the feds were very slow to respond.

      As you have been through a few, please feel free stop back and comment on our 2nd post During the Hurricane and 3rd post After the Hurricane (once we get them completed).


      1. For what it’s worth, I would rather read a ‘wall of text’ than the trite advice you get from most outlets. Things like including specific ham radio models are useful to me, not because I want to know which model to buy, but because it gives me a practical example of which model one might choose based on the advice given. Without specifics like this, you are left wondering whether you have applied the article’s suggestions correctly or not when selecting a model yourself.

        With all due respect, the suggestion of a dynamic page that will adapt to one’s own situation is a terrible idea as far as education goes. This will only give someone very specific information for a very specific scenario, and it will not teach anyone how to cope well in a real disaster situation. It would be the equivalent of giving a person a single fish, rather than this article’s goal of teaching a person to fish so they can look after themselves.

        Yes, the long article may put some people off, but this site seems to be aimed at those who are interested in the topics rather than providing general advice to passers by. So for those of us who are interested in these subjects, we really appreciate all the detail and the reasoning behind the recommendations.

        1. Thanks. We do struggle with the type of articles we post. Specific recommendations that someone can use immediately vs general educational content. We do swing back and forth and hope we hit the right balance – and look for feedback to confirm exactly what you mentioned.

  5. Great article! I’ve lived in Louisiana all of my life, 20 years in Baton Rouge alone. I evacuated for Katrina to my parents’ house (central Louisiana) from Baton Rouge, while my future husband stayed with his mother and elderly grandmother just south of Baton Rouge. He said that was the scariest storm he had ever been through. In his Baton Rouge neighborhood alone, at least one home on every block had a tree fall through the center of it. To avoid the nightmare traffic on the interstate, I evacuated around 3am a day or two before the storm hit. (The roads were clear.) The weather was very scary at my parents’ home, as well. Luckily, our homes had no damage other than missing shingles and limbs down, but the neighborhood next to mine flooded. Generators and window a/c units were a godsend, if you happened to have them! Gas was scarce, but we found a gas station that was refused in the middle of the early morning hours, and would refuel and top off our vehicles every day before there was a line. The few stores that had power ran on cash only for a week or two, until credit card machines were back up. Land and cell phone lines were jammed for a week or more, so I made calls to my parents using the Onstar satellite phone in my vehicle.

    Shortly after, Rita hit Baton Rouge. I rode that one out. Although it was a weaker storm, it still caused damage with the already weakened trees and saturated ground from Katrina. I had a tree fall through the fence in my back yard.

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