How to Survive in a Hurricane

When a hurricane strikes, making the right moves may be a life-or-death matter. More hurricanes happen during September than any other month, but hurricane season spans late May through November and can push relentless rain and wind up to 100 miles inland. Preparation is important.

If you’re told to evacuate, do not hesitate. And if you’re caught in a storm, here are tips on how to stay safe during a hurricane:

  • Stay inside. Don’t try to move to another location. You may not be in the ideal spot, but being on the roads when a storm is underway or imminent is too dangerous to risk. Floodwaters come up fast and move quickly. Water doesn’t need to be more than a foot deep to sweep your car away.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are shut tight. Close your curtains or blinds to put a buffer between you and the glass, which may break from winds, branches, or flying debris. If you have time, bracing exterior doors with heavy furniture is a good idea.
  • Don’t tape or crack your windows. If you haven’t braced your windows with plywood or permanent storm shutters, you’re out of luck at this point. The advice to tape windows is useless, and getting near them as winds pick up is incredibly dangerous. You may also have heard that you should crack your windows to relieve the pressure, and this, too, is bad advice. Letting in the wind and the rain does not help the situation at all. Keep your windows shut, and keep away from them.
  • Stay in the lowest level of the building, and find an interior room. That may be a closet, bathroom, or stairwell. (Stay out of elevators during a storm.) Upper-level and exterior rooms are more vulnerable to damage from high winds; you’re safest where there are the most barriers between you and the storm.
  • Bring pets inside.
  • Avoid using candles. High winds and flame make the risk of fire much too great. Reach for a flashlight instead.
  • Shield yourself with whatever you can. Especially if you don’t have an interior room, putting a table between yourself and a window or door may keep you safe from glass or debris. Cover yourself with a sofa cushion or mattress.
  • You may be instructed to turn off your utilities at some point in anticipation of losing power, so it’s important to monitor for this direction. If you’re without power for either reason, avoid opening your refrigerator so that it keeps food cold as long as possible.
  • Your home may flood during a hurricane. If it does, turn off your electricity and move to a higher floor. Floodwater may be contaminated with sewage.
  • At some point, the wind and rain are likely to die down. Don’t be tempted to go outside; this may just be the eye of the storm and a lead-in to more high winds and pounding rain.

For official communications related to hurricanes, please visit the websites of FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Hurricane Center for the latest information. Please note that this is general preparedness information, not specific to a particular storm.