by Tammie McKay

If we learned anything in 2017, it’s that you can never be too prepared for a hurricane. Residents of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico will be reclaiming their lives for some time. As of press time, Puerto Rico is still in dire straits.

Another hurricane season is now upon us, and peak times (mid-August and late October) will be here before we know it. Most don’t think a hurricane can affect them, and certainly don’t think about preparing they’re scrambling to do so days before impact. The time to prepare is now; it only takes one storm to change a life or a community.

Here are a few safety precautions you can take: Evacuation Plan – Develop, discuss and practice an emergency plan with your family. If you own a pet, be sure to include a plan for them. If you are in an evacuation zone, be certain you know where you’ll go and how to get there.

Supplies – Assemble an emergency supply kit. All kits should include non-perishable food, water, batteries, weather radio, medications, first-aid kit, hygiene items, change of clothes, candles, lighter/matches, flashlight and back up chargers. Turn refrigerator and freezer dials to the coldest settings, and avoid opening the doors to help preserve food. Be sure to keep cash on hand for gas, if power is out, gas stations may only accept cash payments.

Insurance Checkup – Check with your insurance company on what your current homeowners/renters policy provides. Remember, flood insurance must be obtained separately and in advance. Keep a copy of your insurance documents with you. Having video or photos is an easy and quick way to document your home’s condition and personal belongings.

Prepare Your Home – There are several ways to strengthen your home against strong winds and rising water. Before the threat, trim back trees, cover all windows, bring outdoor items inside or make sure they are secure. Unplug all appliances not being used. Most communities will offer sandbags, be sure to put them in front of all doors, including the garage door.

Protect Important Documents – Many people have safety deposit boxes for their important documents and personal items, if you do not, don’t worry. A dishwasher is a great airtight alternative to protect your items.

Help Your Neighbor – Once you have secured your home and family, check in on your neighbors, as you may have an elderly couple or a single parent in need of assistance. Discuss supplies and evacuation plans. Check in after the storm passes. Working together makes a community stronger.

A hurricane can cause devastation during and long after it occurs. The ability to recover requires everyone to focus on preparedness, planning, and knowing what to do and where to go in the event of a hurricane.

Before, during and after a hurricane, remember to stay safe and make smart decisions. Do not walk on beaches, riverbanks, or in flood waters. If caught in rising water, move to higher ground. Do not hesitate to evacuate—possessions can be replaced, but lives cannot.