Hurricane season preparation
Many of you know what to do when a hurricane approaches, but it helps to have a checklist as a reminder of things you need to prepare for hurricane season.
If you are new to Florida, this checklist is an essential part of life.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November with peak season from late August through early October. This checklist should help you meet basic needs. We also include links to more comprehensive guides.
The Hurricane Shelf Checklist
Every Florida resident should have a hurricane shelf in a closet or garage for recurring storm needs:
- Flashlights and battery-powered lanterns
- Fresh batteries of all sizes (Replace at least every two years)
- Weather radio with AM/FM, battery-operated or hand crank. (See recommendations below)
- First aid kit.
- Mosquito repellent.
- Tool kit includes a hatchet or axe, duct tape, hammer, nails, saw, can opener, pocket knife and a multi-tool.
- Blue tarps! Cord, rope for tie downs.
- Fire extinguisher.
- Sterno kit, restock.
- Matches in a waterproof container.
- If you still have a landline, add a corded phone to your kit.
Pre-Season Hurricane Supplies Checklist
Food and water should be replaced annually. Use it all up after hurricane season and replace over the winter. Gasoline should be used immediately after hurricane season is over and gas containers refilled with the first threat of a tropical storm this summer.
- Water: Bottled drinking water stays fresh for a year, so refresh your supply at the beginning of each season and use it up in the off-season. Don’t wait until lines form to buy it.
- Water containers: For storing tap water to bathe and flush toilets. These can be filled at the last minute, but you should already have the containers in-house.
- Gasoline: Keep your car’s tank near full all season. Buy gas containers now and, at the first hint of a hurricane, fill them up. Gas station lines are formidable the closer you get to a storm’s arrival and afterwards. After the storm threat passes, pour stored gas into your car’s gas tank. Store safely.
- Food: A pantry full of non-perishable foods, canned and packaged, is standard procedure in Florida. Stock up.
- Paper goods: Stock up on TP, paper towels, paper plates this month. There won’t be any left if you wait for the threat of a storm.
- Plastic goods: Plastic garbage bags and plastic eating utensils, plastic storage bags and heavy-duty trash bags for yard debris.
- Prescription drugs: Stay a month or two ahead on your prescriptions.
- Disinfectant: You may still have COVID supplies of disinfectants and hand sanitizers on hand. Replenish your supply for 2024.
Florida Department of Emergency Management Checklist2022-disaster-supply-kit-checklist-final-1
Hurricane Evacuation Checklist
Everybody has a different tolerance level and different needs. But whatever your threshold, you should think about it and have a plan long before you need it.
- Keep a list of local shelters. Communities often have shelters for people with special needs and shelters that allow pets. Go to the appropriate shelter.
- Have a go-bag and sleeping bag ready for each person, just in case.
- If you are leaving town, consider in advance where you will go, how to get there, and what you’ll need. If you have camping gear, have it ready to pack in your escape vehicle.
- Fill vehicle gas tanks before you even need to evacuate, and keep in mind the main roads will be crowded and out-of-town hotels already booked by smart planners.
- Wherever you are going, before you leave your house, unplug appliances and shut off electricity, shut off gas lines and your main water supply.
- If you are worried about flooding and have time, place sandbags and towels around vulnerable doorways and raise furniture and valuables off the floor. Bags of topsoil make excellent sandbags and can be spread on your lawn or your garden later.
- Don’t leave home without putting up your shutters.
- Lock the house up when you leave.
Hurricane Shelter Checklist
You may not think you’ll need to go to a shelter, but if you suddenly find “the big one” heading your way, you should have a go-bag ready for each person in your household.
Shelters don’t have much to offer, and most won’t allow pets, so identify shelters in your area that accept pets.
Every county will release it’s shelter plan on June 1 each year.
Your go-bag should contain:
- Clothing for 2-3 days
- Personal hygiene items, toothbrush, toothpaste
- Sleeping bag, air mattress, pillow
- Books and games
- Identification (driver’s license)
If you decide to ride out the storm at home
- Designate a “safe room” with strong walls and least exposed to outside elements (no windows, for example.)
- Fill the bathtub(s) with water that can be used for flushing toilets.
- Unplug appliances you don’t need but leave the circuit breaker on until the house loses power. Turn it back on after power is restored.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Have coolers on standby for items you use frequently to avoid opening and closing the fridge.
Nobody likes being told “what not to do,” but…
- Do not use candles or open flames inside your home. Fire-Rescue is way too busy to respond to your fire.
- Do not use generators indoors. Carbon dioxide exhaust can kill you and your family.
Do you have a generator?
- Start your generator once a month, and let it run for 5 minutes, to make sure it’s ready to go when you need it. If it doesn’t run, get it repaired soon so it’s one less thing to worry about later.
- If you forget or not diligent, at least test the generator at the start of hurricane season, keeping in mind your local small-engine shop will be overwhelmed when hurricane season heats up. Trust me, I’ve been there.
- Ethanol is OK for your car, but not small engines. Know where to buy ethanol-free gasoline for your generator. Here’s a list at pure-gas.org.
If you are camping when a storm approaches…
- Pack up and get ready to move on a moment’s notice.
- Florida State Parks and other campgrounds within the forecast cone will close, and you will have to evacuate, even if it’s several days away.
- Inland states such as Georgia and Alabama historically have opened makeshift campgrounds at fairgrounds and race tracks for evacuees to camp.
- Make sure you have enough gas to get to a place of refuge, even if you don’t expect the storm to come your way. Hurricanes can turn on a dime.
- Don’t panic, but get an early start so you’re not stuck in traffic fleeing an approaching storm.
If you have an RV in storage…
If you are storing your RV, you should ask about their policy in a storm. Some RV storage facilities will require you to remove it, but if you wait until the last minute, you will never get through on the phone. I know this from experience.
One year, I had to remove my travel trailer from storage, so I brought it home and sheltered it by wedging it between my house and my neighbor’s house. The storm missed us.
Another year, I left it in storage. A Cat 2 storm hit my house squarely, knocking out power for two weeks. The travel trailer, 25 miles away, was untouched. I brought it home after the storm passed and lived in it. I was the only one in the neighborhood with hot showers and a working stove (propane).
If you have a boat in storage…
- Ask about your storage lots policies with an approaching storm.
- If allowed, have ground anchors on hand so you can tie it down.
- If your boat damages other boats, you will likely be held responsible. Check your insurance policy for coverage.
- Some storage lots will require you to remove the boat.
If you have a boat in the water
- If you are in a marina, ask about the marina’s policies in the event of an approaching storm. Most marinas will require you to remove your vessel.
- If you are at your own dock, tie your boat securely.
- If your boat can be removed from the water, decide how and where you can store it in a storm. Sometimes that means moving the boat inland. Sometimes it means putting it in your garage or sheltering it between houses and tying it down to ground anchors.
A few picks from my own hurricane shelf
These are my suggestions for stocking your hurricane shelf based on personal experience. Florida Rambler may receive a modest commission if a purchase is made through these links. The income supports the cost of publishing this free web site.
- Flashlights and battery-powered lanterns: Coleman is our choice for affordable and reliable lanterns. An inexpensive choice is the Coleman Classic Hand-held LED Lantern ($14 on Amazon). Buy two or three.
- Fresh batteries of all sizes: We stock up on inexpensive Amazon Basics batteries at our house, allowing us to have ample supply without breaking the bank.
- Weather radio: After testing multiple radios, we settled on a battery-powered Midland ER10VP Weather Radio ($25 on Amazon) for its ease-of-use, small size, great reception and clarity of sound. We found more expensive hand-crank radios had more options but were complicated, not a good idea during an emergency. Fresh batteries!
- First aid kit: I have multiple first-aid kits for the car, kayaking, the RV and our home. At the core of is a trio of Johnson & Johnson 160-piece kits ($18 on Amazon)
- Mosquito repellent: A handheld Thermacell MR 300 ($20 on Amazon), and a twin-pack of Deep Woods Off ($20 on Amazon).
- Pocket knife: The one I carry and literally use daily is this Victorinox Swiss Army Rambler Pocket Knife ($28 on Amazon), just 2.3 inches long with a sharp blade, toothpick, tweezers, nail file, bottle opener, 2 mm flathead screwdriver and a magnetic Phillips-head screwdriver.
- Tool kit includes a hatchet or axe, duct tape, hammer, nails, saw, can opener, pocket knife, and I love this basic Leatherman Multi-tool ($50 on Amazon) to handle jobs too tough for my pocket knife
- Sterno: Keep it simple. Sterno folding stove, $12 on Amazon, and a 3-pack of Sterno canned heat, $7 on Amazon.
Consider a basic generator…
I purchased a Honda Portable Inverter Generator after Hurricane Wilma passed over my house in 2005, knocking out power for two weeks. Twenty years later, it still starts on first pull. It’s lightweight (46 lbs), quiet and fuel-efficient with enough power (2200 watts) for a refrigerator, fans, etc.
I test it frequently during the off-season to make sure it starts and doesn’t need repair. As I found out one year, the small-engine repair shops are too busy to help if you wait until the last minute.
- This popular model can operate a wide variety of appliances, making it perfect for portable use at home, camping, on the job site, or much…
- So quiet, your neighbors will thank you. The EU2200i operates at 48 to 57 dBA, which is less noise than a normal conversation. This makes it…
- Add a second EU2200i for additional power. Two identical models can be paralleled with an optional cable or cord for up to 4400 watts of…
Current Tropical Weather
Storm Updates for state and national parks in Florida
- Florida State Parks Storm Closures
- Florida State Forests Alerts and Notices
- Florida’s National Forests Alerts and Notices
- Everglades National Park Alerts and Notices
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Canaveral National Seashore
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Gulf Island National Seashore
- More National Parks, Preserves and Monuments
Closures for Water Management District Recreation Areas
- South Florida Water Management District
- Southwest Florida Water Management District
- St Johns River Water Management District
- Northwest Florida Water Management District
- Suwannee River Water Management District
Social Media worth following
In-depth updates from the National Hurricane Center
Storm-related Forecasts for Offshore Waters
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 14 years ago.