The most important thing to do now, before any hurricane warnings, is to make a family plan.
Prepare an emergency kit, including cash, prescription medicines and three days’ worth of food and water (for people and pets). If your house floods and you can’t return immediately, this kit will be essential. Be sure to consider provisions for those with special needs, like older people. If you need help coming up with a list, this one from Wirecutter, a New York Times company that reviews products, has suggestions for any household.
If you live in a coastal area, it’s important to become familiar with community evacuation plans, zones and routes.
And plan a meeting spot for your family. Don’t count on having cellphones.
Listen to local news media for the most up-to-date information on how to prepare and when to evacuate from the area. “The biggest issue I see people running into is that they just wait too long,” said Alberto Moscoso, a former communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “When it comes to hurricane and storm preparation, now is always the right time.”
Next, do what you can now to protect your documents and valuables.
Photograph or scan important documents like driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, passports, prescriptions, tax statements and other legal papers. Upload the images online for safekeeping. Store documents in a fireproof, watertight container, or take them with you. FEMA’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit has a checklist of documents you’re likely to need in order to claim insurance and other benefits.
When the time comes to evacuate, take irreplaceable keepsakes with you, if possible. Otherwise, move belongings with sentimental or monetary value upstairs or to high shelves to protect them from floodwaters. It’s common for people to underestimate how high water will go.
“Anywhere it rains, it can flood,” said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
If possible, make sure that your home has flood insurance. Most homeowner’s policies do not cover flood damage, and flood insurance takes 30 days to become effective.