Homeowners Hurricane Survival Guide

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy flickr
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog telling business owners what they needed to do when a hurricane is imminent.  Now, with Hurricane Dorian a distinct possibility next week, I thought it high time to help homeowners prepare for the worst.

      1.       Don’t wait until the last minute – The biggest mistake you can make is to wait until the last minute to protect your property and your family.  Wait too long and you’ll be fighting with thousands of other panicked Floridians over everything from food and water to plywood and batteries.  Even though Dorian is still days away from making landfall in the US, I for one am going to head out to the store tonight to lay in everything I need if worst comes to worst. 

     2.      How much is too much? – Another problem when it comes to hurricane preparation is most folks buy way too much of the wrong things.  I’ve seen shoppers crowd the checkout aisle with a shopping carts filled to the brim with bottled water.  I hate to break it to you, but in every hurricane that has ever hit north Florida, the water has never gone out.  Even if it did, all you have to do to have a family-sized supply of water for at least a week is to fill your bathtub.  Personally, I keep a supply of a couple dozen empty wine bottles with screw tops handy for storm season.  It beats those expensive little plastic bottles for storing fresh water hands down.
Image courtesy flickr
Do you need to toss out everything in the fridge?Food is another area where many people miss the boat.  During the past half dozen hurricanes to hit north Florida, my power has yet to be lost for more than 3-days.  If you lay in a supply of ice prior to the storm, you can stoke your fridge sufficiently to keep from having to toss out everything inside it.  Sure, you may lose some frozen food.  That’s the price you pay during hurricane season.  But the stuff in the fridge will weather the storm if you put enough ice in there.   What I do before a storm hits is fill a half dozen empty 2-liter soda bottles ¾ full of water and freeze these for later use in the fridge.  Not only do they stay frozen for a long time, they won’t leak water all over the fridge like bagged ice does.  Once the power goes out, the trick to keeping the food inside from going bad is to avoid opening the fridge under any circumstance.  Better to pack a big cooler with everything perishable you need to ride out the storm.

      4.      Howe Sweet Home – Whether you have protection for your home’s windows or not, the most serious threat to them is flying debris.  That means you need to police your yard to make sure there’s nothing that the wind can pick up and hurl through them.  Also, make sure you have several large tarps on hand in case a falling tree limb pokes a hole in your roof.  Prior to and following a hurricane, you won’t be able to lay your hands on a tarp for love or money.  The same goes for batteries.  Stock up early, since you’ll use them one way or another regardless of whether the storm hits your area.

      5.      Do you have your bugout bag ready? – While most hurricanes permit us to ride out the storm in our homes, if a Category 4 or 5 is forecast to hit the area, your best bet is to get the hell out of Dodge.  Having been forced to take to the road during Hurricane Mitch, I can tell you that it’s no picnic trying to get anywhere on the road with a hurricane breathing down your neck.  Not only does the traffic gridlock, but almost impossible to come by on the road.  Fortunately, I brought with me enough camping gear to make being stuck livable.  Trust me when I tell you sleeping in a tent is far better than being forced to try to sleep in your car.  That being said, if you live near the coast like I did, you’ll need to have your bugout bag ready to go before the storm track threatens the area.  In addition to a tent, it’s a good idea to pack a small camp stove, a coffee pot and at least one pot and one pan.  This way you won’t be forced to eat cold food for however long it takes until you can head home.  (Don’t think you’ll be able to find an available hotel room to ride out the storm. Those are in even shorter supply than fuel during and after a hurricane.)

Image courtesy flickr
      6.      Do you have a plan, or haven’t you got a clue? – Depending on how accurate the weather forecast, a hurricane can change course at the last minute.  If as in the case of Mitch, the storm heads further out to sea, good for you.  However, if the storm track takes a last-minute wobble that puts it on a collision course with north Florida, you need to have an evacuation plan in hand before the roads all turn into parking lots.  Depending on the size of your family, this could mean rounding up the troops before heading out on the open road.  If you hope to get out while the getting is good, that also means preparing your home for the blow a day or two before panic sets in.  Take the time now to get what you and your family are going to need.  Make sure everyone knows where to meet in the event that an evacuation is ordered. 

      7.      The devil’s in the details. – No matter how well you prepare for a hurricane, there always seems to be something you forget to do.  One of the most important last-minute items to add to your checklist is to make sure you turn off the power and water to your home before you head for the hills.  If the power should surge or a pipe should break while you’re away, your home may survive the hurricane only to have the aftermath cause as much or more damage than wind and rain ever could.  Another good idea is to do a walkthrough of your home to take a video with your smartphone of your belongings.  This will prove vital should the storm damage your possessions and you need to make an insurance claim. 

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on home owner’s insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. A Hurricane is a comen! Yes it the season in Florida, (you could tell by the mass rush for the bottle water at the stores today). This guide help you prepare. It does little after the fact!


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