Stock up on essential supplies to help you through a hurricane evacuation, or if you have to bunker down at home during a storm. And learn what home damage may not be covered under your home insurance policy.
10 essentials to put in your hurricane kit
Pack this list of top essentials in your hurricane kit before hurricane season starts or before one reaches your area.
- Flashlight. A flashlight can help you navigate in the dark and light up dark corners. The best disaster flashlights conserve battery power and provide multiple uses like flashers to signal for help.
- First aid kit. Keep a medical kit in a box stocked up with two weeks worth of any prescription medications you take, bandaids, antibiotic cream, pain-killing medicine, gauze and tape, disposable gloves, tweezers and a first aid manual.
- NOAA weather radio with tone alert. You likely have local weather stations around your area that broadcast alerts to specialty radio receivers. If you own this receiver certified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, you can hear weather alerts in real time. Make sure you stash extra batteries in your kit too.
- Multitool with pliers. This compact tool can offer life-saving assistance from opening packages of food, cutting wire or securing a screw in place.
- Sanitation supplies. Hand sanitizer, dish soap and personal hygiene items can kill off harmful bacteria and ensure you’re keeping a sanitary environment in a haste to protect yourself after a hurricane.
- Power bank or portable charger. Back up your phone or laptop battery with juice from a portable power bank, making calls possible if you don’t have access to electricity.
- Whistle. Return to the traditional way of signaling for attention — no batteries needed. Search for waterproof whistles that others can hear from far away. Plus, a few designs offer extra functionality with a compass or the ability to sound off under water.
- Dust mask. Dust masks can keep harmful dust particles out of your lungs, unlike cloth masks that many people use to protect others from asymptomatic illnesses. These masks can be invaluable after a hurricane damages a building, putting insulation and other particles in the air.
- Waterproof lighter or matches. Cooking and keeping yourself and your family warm may come down to your fire-making abilities. A durable, high-quality lighter or matches can make that job almost effortless, and waterproofing your fire source means it’ll work even if stormwaters reach your door.
- Important documents. Pack up important information in a waterproof bag, like birth certificates, insurance policies, important medical information, passports, and deeds or leases to your home.
What food do I need to prepare for a hurricane?
When packing enough food and water for a hurricane, you’ll need at least three days’ worth for evacuation planning or two or more weeks for staying home. This level of preparation is recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Food and cooking items to put in your hurricane emergency kit include:
- Gallons of water — At least one gallon per person for each day
- Paper plates, cups and utensils
- Can opener
- Nonperishables like beef jerky, canned goods
What else should I have ready?
Try keeping these everyday items stocked up and in a safe, accessible place during hurricane season:
- Personal hygiene: Toiletries, wet hand wipes, garbage bags with ties
- Plastic sheet and duct tape
- Medicine or medical supplies for at least seven days
- Pet or baby supplies
- Pencil and paper
- Family and emergency contact numbers
- Important documents like your ID and bank account number
- Change of clothing
- Blankets for sleeping and jackets during cold weather
- Fire extinguisher
- Extra fuel for your generator or car
- Local maps
Where to buy premade hurricane survival kits
You can buy a well-stocked kit from most major superstores like Target, Walmart or Amazon to jumpstart your hurricane essentials. If you’re willing to spend extra, though, you’ll find the most comprehensive premade kits at specialty survival gear stores, like Cabelas.
How to prepare your home for a hurricane
The basics of preparing for a hurricane involve securing your home to prevent damage. Steps you can take before the hurricane hits:
- Board up doors and windows with large panels of thick plywood, installing them near the closest studs for sturdiness.
- Unplug electrical devices to avoid damage during a power surge.
- Turn off your utilities, if local authorities recommend it.
- Secure or store loose objects in the yard.
- Stack sandbags around exterior doors or around plumbing to keep minor flooding at bay.
Ask an expert: How to prepare for a hurricane
“Due to COVID-19, emergency kits will look different this year: You’ll need items for at least one week.
Include non-perishable food, water, medicine, a first aid kit, PPE, disinfectant supplies, masks, hand sanitizer, batteries, pet food, books, puzzles, games for children, solar-powered cell phone chargers and special dietary [food]. Place these items into an emergency go-bag in case you need to evacuate.
Items will fly away and cause damage during a hurricane, so be sure to tie down any patio furniture, play equipment and any other lightweight items in your yard.
Board up windows in advance to avoid breaking glass, and place sandbags around your property to stop any potential flooding.
Finally, document your belongings (before a disaster), your losses (after a disaster), and your expenses (as you repair/rebuild).”
How to keep safe during the storm
If your city is under a hurricane warning or watch, follow several steps to stay on top of safety for you and your family. Roszak advises:
- Have a NOAA weather radio all hazards on hand for the latest broadcasts.
- Communication is critical. Make sure your family knows how to contact one another, and how everyone plans to meet up at the designated reunification spot.
- Fill up your gas tank.
- Choose evacuation routes that are less likely to be used by large crowds of individuals.
- Keep copies of all financial, personal, medical, and household documents in a safe and secure place (i.e. printed out or stored in the cloud). Have hard copies ready in a to-go bag in the event of an evacuation.
- Call your insurance company and make sure your home and belongings are protected during a damaging hurricane.
- Sometimes it is easier to call out of the impacted area or region than call within the region. Designate a family member or friend that lives in another county or state to be your emergency communication coordinator.
- Have children memorize their home phone numbers and address.
After the hurricane passes
- Check in with loved ones. Once you’re on safe ground, let others know about your safety with a phone call. Likewise, check on family and friends that live near you.
- See if you qualify for government disaster relief. If your home or small business gets damaged or you lose your job because of a disaster, the federal government provides multiple programs to restore your situation. That can include disaster loans for small businesses, uninsured home damage or tax breaks for damage to your home.
Does home insurance cover hurricane damage?
Yes, home insurance covers damage caused by hurricanes, but it doesn’t cover all types of hurricane damage. Unless specifically excluded, you’ll have coverage for direct physical damage to your home, roof or damaged belongings.
However, watch out for these common exclusions:
- Flooding. Your standard homeowner’s insurance won’t cover flooding from storm surges or heavy rainfall. You’ll need separate flood insurance for this protection.
- Wind damage. Most home policies cover wind-related damage, but some insurance companies exclude all or some wind damage in specific cases. Pay attention to the language around wind damage in your policy, and clarify any questions with your insurance company.
How to file home insurance claim for hurricane damage
You can begin the process of repairing and restoring your home, taking it one step at a time. Start with:
- Make temporary repairs that protect your home from future damage. Keep all repair receipts.
- Call your insurance company to let them know about the damage.
- File an official damage claim through your insurer’s claims system, either online or over the phone.
- Avoid cleaning up the damage until after a claims adjuster has inspected your home. This helps the adjuster evaluate what damage happened during the storm.
- Gather photos and receipts that prove your home’s hurricane damage.
Compare home insurance that covers hurricane damage
Shop around for the best home policies with hurricane and wind damage protection:
The most basic hurricane essentials include everyday supplies for cooking, hygiene and sanitation. Combine that with tools like a first aid kit or multitool that you can use in a variety of ways, and you’ll have a solid hurricane kit on hand.
If you have a little extra time before a storm comes your way, prepare with the right home insurance policy that also provides protection for wind damage.