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The Atlantic hurricane season is underway and will last until November 30th.  This year, experts are predicting the season to be more active than usual.  They believe there will be between 13 and 19 named storms.  Therefore, it’s important to be prepared especially if you live along the U.S. coastline.  Here are some tips for staying safe.

Determine your risk

Some areas are more prone to flooding than others.  So, enter your address into FEMA’s Flood Map Service to determine your risk level.  This can help you decide the best steps to take to keep you, your family, and your belongings safe.  Many standard homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover flood damage.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to get federal flood insurance if it’s available in your area.

Pack an emergency kit

It’s not uncommon for hurricanes to cause structural damage, rip up trees and knock out power in the area.  Therefore, you need to have an emergency kit filled with necessities in case you’re stuck at home for a while.  Some of the things you’ll need are:

  • Enough water to last at least three days (that’s about a gallon a day per person)
  • At least a three-day supply of nonperishable food
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Battery powered radio or hand-crank radio
  • First aid kit
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items

Develop an evacuation plan

Don’t wait until the last-minute to come up with an evacuation plan.  Have a family meeting and get everyone on the same page ahead of time.  Decide the best place to go if disaster strikes, the safest way to get there and what to do if you guys get separated.  If you have any pets, call your local shelters, and see who accepts them.

Keep important documents safe

Create copies of any documents that prove your identity, show property ownership and financial records.  For example, your insurance policies, birth certificate, social security card, etc.  Store the copies in a waterproof and fireproof safe so they don’t get damaged.  Additionally, you can save a password protected version to a flash drive to take with you if you need to evacuate.

Prep your home

When preparing for a storm, there are a few things you need to do to get your home ready.  For starters, bring in any furniture, toys and tools lying in your yard.  Anything that can’t be removed, needs to be tied down.  You don’t want your belongings blowing away and causing damage to someone else’s property.  Next, clean out your gutters and drainage systems to help prevent flooding.  Finally, invest in storm shutters or get some plywood to protect your windows from objects that may go airborne.

Build an emergency fund

How are you going to pay your bills if your job needs to temporarily shut down due to damage?  Obviously, you can rely on your credit card, but there’s a much better solution.  Building an emergency fund allows you to avoid debt because you have cash readily available.  Ultimately, you want to have at least 6 months of living expenses saved, but $1,000 is a good place to start.  If you hear a storm’s coming your way, withdraw enough cash to last a few days in case the power goes out and ATMs are unavailable.