Hurricane season runs June 1 to Nov. 30, but it's difficult to tell when you see people running through parking lots, pushing through stores and panicking in gas lines, shocked that a storm is coming. Residents of hurricane-prone zones take the quiet season for granted, and when year after year of relative calm goes by, a major hurricane's impending arrival evokes fear and flight.
Hurricane preparedness means completing these nine tasks before the Memorial Day weekend begins:
- Have up-to-date insurance, including flood insurance: Know what your policy includes, check your deductible and understand your policy's limits in terms of coverage (for example, outdoor space such as screened-in patio areas or outbuildings, is generally excluded from coverage). Post-storm mold issues are also generally excluded, as are some personal effects, such as fine art, cash and collectibles. Flood insurance is not part of your regular coverage and is available through a private insurer or through the national flood insurance program.
- Have an escape plan: If you live in an evacuation zone, a mobile home, close to the ocean or in a low-lying area that floods regularly, prepare leave. Pack a suitcase and know when and where to go, whether it's a local shelter, a friend or relative's home.
- Have your important papers together: Gather your home, life and medical insurance papers, your passports, mortgage, banking and credit card information, marriage license, birth certificates, Social Security cards and military records in a waterproof container. Keep it with you or store it in a safe location.
- Have sufficient food, water and supplies: At least five days' worth of water and nonperishable food, including non-salty snacks; sports drinks (for the potassium and electrolytes), a charcoal or propane grill, matches, lighter fluid, flashlights, batteries, weather radio, baby items (diapers, formula, wipes) and ice. Additional helpful items include a battery-operated TV, fan and generator. If ice and water are in short supply, freeze water in every container you own for drinking or cooking food.
- Charge your electronics: Keep cell phone use to a minimum, except for emergencies, and buy a battery-operated phone charger for continued use after the power goes out.
- Do your laundry before the storm: Start out with clean clothes, sheets and towels. Some time may pass before another wash day arrives.
- Fill your bathtub with water: This water is for flushing toilets if you lose water pressure.
- Keep your gas tank full: The pre-storm gas lines are long, the wait miserable and frequently end fuel-less. Stop every chance and top off.
- Show patience and kindness: Check on your neighbors and see if they need help. Offer to assist with shutters, share supplies and swap phone numbers. When everyone pulls together, everyone pulls through.