(RNN) - Even if a hurricane isn't currently threatening your area, awareness could save your life in the case of any emergency.
One of the first steps to being prepared is making an emergency kit. The Department of Homeland Security recommends the following items:
- One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Additional supplies may be added based on your needs, including
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Glasses and contact lens solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler's checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Here are some other important steps to take before, during and after a hurricane.
- Make a family communications plan.
- Cover all of your home's windows, either with storm shutters or 5/8" marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape will not prevent your windows from breaking.
- Learn the elevation of your property and whether or not the area is flood prone. This will help you know if your property will be affected in the case of flooding.
- Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame of your home.
- Reinforce your garage doors.
- Unclog or clear all outdoor drains, rain gutters and downspouts.
- Buy extra batteries.
- Keep a full tank of gas if evacuation seems likely.
If you evacuate
- It is important to evacuate if you are instructed to do so, particularly if you live in a mobile home. Mobile homes and similar structures are particularly dangerous during hurricanes, even if they are fastened to the ground.
- Don't know where to go? FEMA has information you can use. To find an open shelter, you can also text SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362). (Standard text rates may apply)
- Identify potential places beforehand, including places that allow pets if you have them. Take your pets when you go.
- Follow recommended evacuation routes.
- Take your emergency supply kit.
- Tell your out-of-state family where you are going.
- Wear sturdy clothing, including closed-toe shoes and a hat.
- Unplug most of your electronics, except your refrigerator or freezer, unless there is a risk of flooding.
- If you don't have a car, make plans with family, friends, neighbors or local government on how you will leave.
- Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.
- Listen to a radio or, if possible, TV for information.
- Secure your home, close storm shutters and either secure your outdoor furniture or bring it inside.
- If you're instructed to turn off utilities, turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting and keep the door closed.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors.
- Close all interior doors.
- Keep curtains and blinds closed.
- Stay in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level of your building or home.
- Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water to use for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets.
- Experts warn to be extremely cautious even if there is a lull in the storm. The lull could be the eye of the storm, and winds will pick back up afterward.
- Continue to listen to the radio for any updates.
- If you have evacuated, do not return until officials say it's safe.
- If you cannot return home for a period of time, text SHELTER plus your zip code (Ex: Shelter 1234) to 4FEMA (43362) to find the nearest shelter in your area. A number of disaster-specific keywords are listed for your use in communicating with FEMA. Note that texting FEMA is not a substitute for calling 911.
- If you have long-term housing needs, you can apply for FEMA assistance here if you are in a federally declared disaster area.
- Before re-entering your home, walk around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks or any sign of structural damage. If there is damage, take pictures for insurance purposes.
- Watch for wild animals, particularly poisonous snakes that could have been displaced during the storm and use a stick to poke through debris before walking through it.
- Never use a generator inside your home, garage shed or any enclosed area because deadly levels of carbon monoxide can build up and remain for hours – even after the generator is shut off.
- Keep away from loose power lines and report them to your local power company.
- Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you know it isn't contaminated.