Storm Preparation Information

Taking proactive steps to protect your family and property from severe storms before they hit can save lives and minimize damage to your home or business.

Severe storms including hail storms, tornadoes, floods and hurricanes cause billions of dollars in damage in the United States every year. When big storms hit, many families find themselves disorganized and unprepared. When preparing for a storm, it is important to have a storm plan and make sure everyone in your home knows the plan, in case of emergency.

Having a plan increases your chances of keeping you and your family safe. If you live in an area prone to flooding, consider buying flood insurance, as flooding is typically not covered under most homeowners insurance policies. In order to stay safe, it is important to understand your risks and have a plan of action in place before the storm hits.

Creating Your Storm Safety Plan

The first step is to create a written disaster plan and review it with everyone in your family. Make sure everyone knows where to go and what to do in case of an emergency. Identify an emergency meeting place, such as a park, building, or other landmark near your home. If you get separated during the storm, have everyone meet at the designated location.

It is smart to assign an out-of-state friend or relative to be your family's emergency contact person. Teach all of the adults and responsible children how to shut off utilities in your home. Shutting off gas and water mains can decrease your risk of additional damage.

Steps You Should Take to Prepare for a Storm

To prepare for a storm, each family should have an emergency kit. Since you may have to evacuate on short notice, pack your emergency kit into backpacks and have them ready to go. Everyone in the family should know exactly where the emergency kits are located.

Your emergency kit should contain:

  • Battery powered flashlight
  • Portable battery powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • List of emergency phone numbers
  • Prescriptions and essential medicines
  • First aid kit
  • Nonperishable emergency food
  • Bottled water (1 gallon per person, per day)
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Disposable camera
  • Credit cards and cash
  • Change of clothing
  • Sturdy shoes or boots
  • Important papers, identification and bank information

When a severe storm is approaching, tune into a local TV or radio broadcast covering the storm and follow evacuation orders, if they are issued. Check your emergency supplies and make sure you have enough water for everyone in your home, typically 1 gallon of water per person, per day for at least 3 days. Fill up your bathtubs with clean water. Turn your refrigerator and freezer up to the maximum setting so your food will stay cold for as long as possible in the event of a power outage. If you have storm shutters on your windows, make sure they are closed and secured. If not you can use pre-cut plywood to cover exposed glass. To prevent damage from flying objects, bring outdoor furniture, tools, pots and toys in from outside. Secure important documents, photographs and other valuables in a waterproof and fireproof case.

Fill your car up with fuel and review evacuation routes. If you are ordered to evacuate, you'll want to leave immediately, so have your emergency kits and supplies already packed in the car. Before leaving home, unplug appliances, shut off the electricity, and other utilities including water and gas main lines. If you have time, consider moving furniture, electronics and other valuables to a second floor, or elevate it the best you can to project against flooding. Secure your doors by locking and bolting them shut before you leave.

If you evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind. If you have pets make sure they have an emergency kit with 3-5 days-worth of food and supplies, including a pet carrier, leash and current identification tags. Since most emergency shelters will not accept pets, if a severe storm is headed your way, it's always smart to try and place your pets at a kennel, or with a friend that is out of harm's way.

How to Stay Safe Immediately After the Storm

After the storm is over, return to your home only after you are cleared to return by authorities. Enter your home with caution.

Check for signs of gas and water leaks and damage to electrical or sewer systems. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, leave immediately, keeping doors and windows open. Call your gas company to report the problem. Stay clear of frayed electrical wires and downed power lines.

Do not drink any tap water or use tap water to prepare food until you have been notified it is safe to do so. Stay tuned in to a local radio station that is reporting status updates and recovery information.

Upon return home, use the disposable camera from your emergency kit to take initial photographs of the damage. Make sure you take pictures of any roofing, structural damage, flooding, broken windows or other debris, and make notes of anything that is broken or damaged. When it comes time to file an insurance claim, the pictures you take after the storm can go a long way in helping you recover from the storm, prove your claim is valid and getting approved for repairs as quickly as possible.

When you have settled back down, you can ensure you are treated fairly by your insurance company, avoid scams, and have your property repaired as soon as possibly by taking advantage of a free damage inspection by an experienced storm restoration contractor.

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The National Storm Damage Center provides everything you need to prepare for and recover from severe storm damage.