After Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the East Coast in 2012, it’s more important than ever to make sure you, your home and your family are prepared to weather hurricane season when it strikes—as it inevitably does each year, on coastal areas all over the world. While you can never predict when, where, and with what force a superstorm will strike, you can make sure that you have what you need and have taken the proper steps to be ready when it does. Here are some simple steps you can take to increase your odds of successfully weathering the storm.

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Before the Season Hits

If you wait until the season is upon you to get ready for a hurricane to hit, you might be left scrambling, and many things may get overlooked. So, before the hurricane is on its way, make sure you have the following in place.

Check Your Insurance

Does your home insurance have hurricane and flood coverage? Does it provide you with living expenses in case your home is uninhabitable after the storm? And is it up to date, reflecting the currently condition and value of your home? If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, then you’d better speak to your agent right away and get things put in order. Also be sure to do a complete inventory of your home and document everything you have with photos or video to make filing your claim easier in the case of disaster. It’s also a good idea to protect any receipts you might have for expensive items.

Prepare Your Home

Preparing to fortify your home against hurricane damage ahead of time can make a world of difference when you’re trying to get ready to hunker down or evacuate in the face of a major storm. Having the following in place ahead of time can make things a lot easier.

Install hurricane shutters or cut thick plywood boards to fit each window of your home. If you’re using boards, pre-drill holes and install anchors so they can be quickly put in place.

  • Put head and foot bolts on doors for additional protection.
  • Pick up and install some hurricane straps or clips that help hold your roof to your walls.
  • Designate or build a safe room that can withstand the forces of a hurricane where your family can stay while the storm passes.
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Create an Emergency Preparedness Kit

Having a well-stocked emergency preparedness kit will make life a lot easier in the case of a hurricane. A good kit contains:

  • Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
  • Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc.)
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map(s) of the area
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys
  • Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Rain gear
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Camera for photos of damage

Related: 6 Emergency Essentials for Surviving 72 Hours Without Power

In Case of Evacuation

Have a family meeting to establish an evacuation plan that involves transportation to a safe place for you and your family, including pets. Be sure to gather all important documents and identification to take with you.

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When the storm is upon you

When you hear a hurricane is on its way, chances are you will have at least a day or two to prepare or evacuate, as hurricanes generally travel at a fairly slow pace. (Though they can, at times travel as fast as 50 mph.) As soon as you learn of a hurricane warning for your area, it’s time put your hurricane preparedness plan into place and start making your last-minute preparations.

Gather Supplies and Prepare for Service Outages

Head out to your local store immediately and pick up as much non-perishable food as you can; or better yet, make sure you have some stockpiled in your emergency kit beforehand. Fill your car’s fuel tank and pick up a couple gas cans full of fuel for your vehicle, along with propane for your barbecue so you can cook if the power goes out. Your water may be shut off, so you should also fill your bathtub and any large containers you may have with drinking water.

Be prepared to eat all your perishable items first and fill your fridge and freezer with bottled water and sealed non-perishable food items that can retain the cold and keep your food colder for longer in the case of a power outage. You can also try cooking and freezing all your raw meats, which will both preserve them for longer and help keep your freezer cold longer.

Store any Valuables Safely

If there’s a risk of flooding in your area, be sure to store any valuables in a waterproof place. A good idea is to hang them from the ceiling of a room in the highest part of your house. Dry sacks are also a great way to keep valuable items from getting wet.

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Watch the News

The more you know, the better able you will be to prepare and respond to the emergency. Keep an eye on The Weather Network or listen to the NOAA Weather Channel for critical information from the National Weather Service and updates about the hurricane’s status.

Evacuate if Necessary

You can choose to evacuate voluntarily, or an evacuation order may be issued for your area. If the latter happens, you need to heed the order and get your family to the closest shelter. In either instance, it’s best to not wait until the last minute, as you are likely to be panicked, face traffic jams or hazards like washed out bridges and roads. It’s best to have an evacuation plan in place well ahead of time that can be put into play when the need arises. And don’t take any unnecessary risks like going back to your house to salvage possessions before the storm hits. Having an evacuation plan in place is a great way to make sure the process goes smoothly under pressure

Via Mother Nature Network, WikiHow, American Red Cross