What to Do Before a Hurricane

Be Ready

Even if there’s no risk of a hurricane right now, make sure you and your family are prepared.

Stock up on emergency supplies for your home and car.
Write down emergency phone numbers and keep them near every phone in your house or on the refrigerator. Program them into your cell phone, too.
Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure your family knows where to find it and how to use it. Read the National Fire Protection Association’s tips for using fire extinguishers.

Find out where the nearest shelter is and the different routes you can take to get there if you have to leave your home.
Make sure that everyone in your family knows what the warning sirens in your area sound like — and what to do if they go off.

What’s next?

Make sure you have all the health and safety supplies you need before the storm. Check out Family, Health, and Safety Preparation for a guide on what you’ll need to prepare for the storm.

Family, Health, and Safety Preparation

During and after a hurricane, you may need supplies to keep your family safe and healthy. Remember that a hurricane could cut off your power and water supply. You also may not be able to drive because of damage to your car. Roads may be flooded or blocked.

That’s why it’s best to be prepared — stock up on everything you might need now. Be sure to:

-Prepare an emergency water supply
-Prepare an emergency food and medicine supply
-Gather safety items
-Gather personal items

Prepare an emergency water supply

Have at least 5 gallons of water per person (which should be enough to last 3 to 5 days)
Gather clean containers for water.
Get supplies to make your drinking water safe (like iodine tablets or chlorine bleach).
Prepare an emergency food and medicine supply

Put together a 3 to 5 day supply of food that doesn’t go bad (like canned food)
Make sure to have enough baby food or formula (if needed).
Gather any prescription medicines.

Supplies for Hurricane Preparedness

Gather safety items, including:

-First aid kit and instructions
-Fire extinguisher
-Battery-powered radio
-Extra batteries
-Sleeping bags or extra blankets
Gather personal care products, including:

-Hand sanitizer
-Wet cleaning cloths (like baby wipes) in case you don’t have clean water
-Tampons and pads
Tip: Make sure your supplies are stored together in a place that’s easy to reach.

What’s next?

Create your own hurricane plan to keep you and your loved ones safe. Check out Make a Plan to learn more.
Make sure your family, home, and car are ready for the storm. Check out Get Your Family, Home, and Car Ready for more information.

Identify Safe Places Indoors and Outdoors

Know the difference between a hurricane “watch” and “warning”

Listen for National Weather Service alerts on TV or radio or check for them online. There are two kinds of alerts.

A hurricane watch means that there’s no hurricane yet, but weather conditions could cause one. Experts will announce a hurricane watch 48 hours before they think dangerous winds will start.

A hurricane warning is more serious. It means a hurricane has already started or is just about to start.
For more information about hurricane watches and warnings, check out the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center. If you hear that there’s a hurricane watch or warning in your area, you can take steps to get ready.

Get your family ready

– Go over your emergency plan with your family. Make sure you have the supplies you need.
-Keep checking for updates about the storm. Watch TV, listen to the radio, or check online.
-Listen for disaster sirens and warning signals.

-Pack important documents (like wills or passports) with you.
-Call the hospital, public health department, or the police about special needs. If you or a loved one is older or disabled and won’t be able to leave quickly, get advice on what to do.
-Check your carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly.

Put pets and farm animals in a safe place

Keep in mind emergency shelters and many hotels may not let you bring animals with you if you need to evacuate. Ask your local public health department if pets are allowed in shelters. Read more about pet safety.

Get your home ready for the storm

-Clear your yard. Make sure there’s nothing that could blow around during the storm and damage your home. Move bikes, lawn furniture, grills, propane tanks, and building material inside or under shelter.

-Cover up windows and doors outside. Use storm shutters or nail pieces of plywood to the window frames to protect your windows. This can help keep you safe from pieces of shattered glass.

-Be ready to turn off your power. If you see flooding, downed power lines, or you have to leave your home, switch it off.
-Fill clean water containers with drinking water. You’ll want to do this in case you lose your water supply during the storm. You can also fill up your sinks and bathtubs with water for washing.
-Check your CO detector to prevent CO poisoning.
-Lower the thermostat in your refrigerator and freezer to the coolest possible temperature. If your power goes out, your food will stay fresh longer. Read more about food safety after a storm.

Make an emergency car kit

Always keep an emergency kit in your car in case you need to leave quickly during a hurricane. Make sure you include:

-Food that doesn’t go bad (like canned food)
-Jumper cables (sometimes called booster cables)
-Tools, like a roadside emergency kit
-A first aid kit and instructions
-A fire extinguisher
-Sleeping bags
-Flashlight and extra batteries
-Having a GPS — either in your car or on your smartphone — can help during an emergency too.

Make sure your car is ready

Fill your car’s gas tank. You may also want to consider making plans with friends or family to get a ride.
Double check your car’s emergency kit.
Move cars and trucks into your garage or under cover.

After The Hurricane

Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster or Emergency

Food may not be safe to eat during and after an emergency. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Your state, local, or tribal health department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area.

After Flooding

Food: Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water, perishable foods, and those with an unusual odor, color, or texture. When in doubt, throw it out.

Water: Do not use water you suspect or have been told is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula.


Note: Do not use your fireplace for cooking until the chimney has been inspected for cracks and damage. Sparks may escape into your attic through an undetected crack and start a fire.

Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat.

-Food Items in RefrigeratorThrow away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water.
-Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. When in doubt, throw it out.
-Throw away perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) in your refrigerator when the power has been off for 4 hours or more.
-Thawed food that contains ice crystals can be refrozen or cooked. Freezers, if left unopened and full, will keep food safe for 48 hours (24 hours if half full).
-Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened, or damaged.
-Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with floodwater because they cannot be disinfected.
-If cans have come in contact with floodwater or storm water, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup (8 oz/250 mL) of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Re-label the cans with a marker. Include the expiration date.
-Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula.

Store food safely

While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.

Feeding infants and young children

-Breastfed infants should continue breastfeeding. For formula-fed infants, use ready-to-feed formula if possible. If using ready-to-feed formula is not possible, it is best to use bottled water to prepare powdered or concentrated formula. If bottled water is not available, use boiled water. Use treated water to prepare formula only if you do not have bottled or boiled water. Person Testing Baby Formula’s Temperature by Dripping Formula from Feeding Bottle onto Wrist
-If you prepare formula with boiled water, let the formula cool sufficiently before giving it to an infant.
-Clean feeding bottles with bottled, boiled, or treated water before each use.
-Wash your hands before preparing formula and before feeding an infant. You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer for washing your hands if the water supply is limited

Clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces.

Discard wooden cutting boards if they have come into contact with flood waters because they cannot be properly sanitized. Clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces in a four-step process:

-Wash with soap and warm, clean water.
Rinse with clean water.
-Sanitize by immersing for 1 minute in a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach (5.25%, unscented) per gallon of clean water.
-Allow to air dry.


Safe Drinking Water

After an emergency, especially after flooding, drinking water may not be available or safe to drink for personal use. Do not use water you suspect or have been told is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, make ice, or make baby formula.

Note: Caffeinated drinks and alcohol dehydrate the body, which increases the need for drinking water.

Floods and other disasters can damage drinking water wells and lead to aquifer and well contamination. Flood waters can contaminate well water with livestock waste, human sewage, chemicals, and other contaminants which can lead to illness when used for drinking, bathing, and other hygiene activities.

Before an emergency or a temporary problem with a community water system, a community drinking water treatment facility should have an emergency plan in the event that service is disrupted. Water treatment facilities monitor drinking water to meet federal and state regulations.

Make Water Safe

Water often can be made safe to drink by boiling, adding disinfectants, or filtering.

IMPORTANT: Water contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals will not be made safe by boiling or disinfection. Use a different source of water if you know or suspect that water might be contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals.


If you don’t have safe bottled water, you should boil water to make it safe. Boiling is the surest method to make water safer to drink by killing disease-causing organisms, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

You can improve the flat taste of boiled water by pouring it from one container to another and then allowing it to stand for a few hours, OR by adding a pinch of salt for each quart or liter of boiled water.

If the water is cloudy:

-Filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter OR allow it to settle.
-Pour off the clear water.
-Bring the clear water to a rolling boil for one minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes).
-Let the boiled water cool.
-Store the boiled water in clean sanitized containers with tight covers.

If the water is clear:

-Bring the clear water to a rolling boil for one minute (three minutes at elevations above 6,500 feet).
-Let the boiled water cool.
-Store the boiled water in clean sanitized containers with tight covers.


If you don’t have clean, safe, bottled water and if boiling is not possible, you can often make water safer to drink by using a disinfectant, such as unscented household chlorine bleach, iodine, or chlorine dioxide tablets. These can kill most harmful organisms, such as viruses and bacteria. However, only chlorine dioxide tablets are effective in controlling more resistant organisms, such as the parasite Cryptosporidium.

To disinfect water:

-Clean and disinfect water containers properly before each use. Use containers that are approved for water storage. Do not use containers previously used to store chemicals or other hazardous materials.
-Filter water through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter OR allow it to settle, then draw off the clear water.
-When using household chlorine bleach
-Add 6 drops (about 0.5 milliliters) of unscented liquid household chlorine (8.25%) bleach for each gallon of clear water (or 2 drops of bleach for each liter or each quart of clear water). Add 12 drops (about 1 milliliter) of bleach for each gallon of cloudy water (or 4 drops of bleach for each liter or each quart of cloudy water).
-Stir the mixture well.
Let it stand for at least 30 minutes before using.
Store the disinfected water in clean, disinfected containers with tight covers.

When using iodine

-Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
-Store the disinfected water in clean, disinfected containers with tight covers.

When using chlorine dioxide tablets

-Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
-Store the disinfected water in clean, disinfected containers with tight covers.


Many portable water filters can remove disease-causing parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia from drinking water. If you are choosing a portable water filter, try to pick one that has a filter pore size small enough to remove both bacteria and parasites. Most portable water filters do not remove viruses.

Carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the water filter. After filtering, add a disinfectant such as iodine, chlorine, or chlorine dioxide to the filtered water to kill any viruses and remaining bacteria. For more information about water filters.

Finding Emergency Water Sources

Alternative sources of clean water can be found inside and outside the home. DO NOT DRINK water that has an unusual odor or color, or that you know or suspect might be contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals. This water cannot be made safe, so you must use a different source of water.

The following are possible sources of water:

Inside the Home

-Water from your home’s water heater tank (part of your drinking water system, not your home heating system)
-Melted ice cubes made with water that was not contaminated
-Water from your home’s toilet tank (not from the bowl), if it is clear and has not been chemically treated with toilet cleaners such as those that change the color of the water
-Liquid from canned fruit and vegetables
-Water from swimming pools and spas can be used for personal hygiene, cleaning, and related uses, but not for drinking.
-Listen to reports from local officials for advice on water precautions in your home.

Outside the Home

-Streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water
-Ponds and lakes
-Natural springs
-Water from sources outside the home must be treated as described in Make Water Safe in an Emergency.

Unsafe Water Sources

-Never use water from the following sources:

-Hot water boilers (part of your home heating system)
-Water beds (fungicides added to the water and/or chemicals in the vinyl may make water unsafe for use)

Be Safe After a Hurricane

Stay Safe Indoors

Never use a wet electrical device

-If it’s still plugged in, turn off the power at the main breaker. Wait for an electrician to check the device before using it.
-Learn more about electrical safety after a disaster or emergency.

If the power is out, use flashlights instead of candles

-If you have to use candles, keep them away from anything that can catch fire. Always stay near lit candles.
-Learn more about hazards related to power outages.

Be careful near damaged buildings

-Keep in mind that hurricanes can damage buildings and make them unsafe. If your home or another building has been damaged, make sure it’s safe before going inside.
-Leave your home or another building right away if you hear shifting or unusual noises. Strange noises could mean it’s about to fall.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

-Gas or coal-burning equipment creates carbon monoxide. This can include equipment like generators, pressure washers, charcoal grills, and camp stoves. -You can’t smell it or see it, but if carbon monoxide builds up in your home, it’s very dangerous. To keep your family safe:

-Never use gas or coal-burning equipment inside your home, basement, or garage. Keep it outside and at least 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
-Use a battery-operated or battery backup CO detector any time you use a generator or anything else that burns fuel
-Never run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your home, even with the garage door open.
-Never heat your home with a gas oven.
-If you have a carbon monoxide detector and it starts beeping, leave your home right away and call 911.
-To be safe, learn the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you think that carbon monoxide might have made you or a family member sick, go to a doctor or hospital right away.
-Check out Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After a Disaster for more information.

Stay Safe Outdoors

Keep away from floodwater

– Always follow warnings about flooded roads.
-Don’t drive through floodwater– it may be deeper than you think.
-If you have to be in or near floodwater, wear a life jacket — especially if the water is rising.
-Keep in mind that floodwater often carries germs. If you touch it, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer.
-Visit Flood Waters or Standing Waters for more information.

Stay away from power lines and dangerous materials

-Stay clear of fallen power lines. Call the electric company to report them.
-Watch out for power lines overhead.
-Learn more on how to protect yourself from electrical hazards after a disaster.

Protect yourself from animals and pests

Floods can bring mosquitoes that carry disease. Use insect repellent (bug spray) with DEET or Picaridin. Wear long sleeves, pants, and socks when you’re outside.
Stay away from wild or stray animals after a storm. Call 911 or your public health department to report them.
If you see a dead animal, report it to local officials.
Read more about rabies, a disease sometimes spread by animal bites.
Learn more on how to protect yourself from animals or pests after a disaster.

Fact Sheet: Clean Up Safely After a Disaster

Clean Up Your Home

After a hurricane or flood, you may need to clean up your home and yard. Take steps to stay safe.

Wear Safety Gear

-Protect yourself from injuries during cleanup by wearing:

-Hard hats
-Heavy work gloves
-Waterproof boots with steel toes
-Earplugs or headphones (if you’re working with noisy equipment)

Prevent or Clean Up Mold

After a storm or flood, mold can be a serious problem. Act fast to prevent or clean it up:

-Clean up and dry out your home quickly after the storm ends — within 24 to 48 hours if you can.
-Air out your house by opening doors and windows.
-Use fans to dry wet areas.
-Clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water.
-Fix any leaks in roofs, walls, or plumbing as soon as you can.
-Throw away anything that you can’t clean or dry quickly. For example, you might need to get rid of carpeting and some furniture.

If you notice mold, clean it up with a mix of bleach and water:

-Never use bleach in a closed space. Open windows and doors first.
-Put on rubber gloves.
-To make your cleaner, mix 1 cup of household bleach with 1 gallon of water.
-Clean everything with mold on it.

Disinfect Toys

Remember that anything that’s had contact with floodwater could carry germs. To keep your kids safe, make sure their toys are clean:

-Make a cleaning fluid by mixing 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water.
-Wash off toys carefully with your cleaner.
-Let the toys air dry.
You may not be able to kill germs on some toys — like stuffed animals and baby toys. Throw out toys you can’t clean.

Pace Yourself During Clean Up

Cleaning up your home can be a big job. Be sure to take care of yourself:

-Rest when you need to.
-Decide which cleanup tasks are most important, and focus on those first. That way, you’re less likely to be overwhelmed.
-Get help lifting heavy or bulky objects. If you lift too much on your own, you could hurt yourself.
-Try to work with other people, so you aren’t alone.
-Get support from family members, friends, counselors, or therapists.



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Vanessa Quinn

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