Preparing For a Hurricane When You Live in an Apartment

in Health & Safety, Help Me Now! on by
Apartment building and several cars flooded by a hurricane.

Many annual events are anticipated with joy and plans for celebration, but hurricane season definitely isn’t one of them. Every year from June 1st through November 30th, typically peaking between August and October, hurricanes normally ravage 10 states. In order of severity from worst to least, those states include Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New York, and Massachusetts.

Newer homes in these places usually have anti-hurricane provisions included in their construction. However, many older apartment complexes have nothing to protect tenants from things like 100+ mile-per-hour winds and torrential rains.

Before the first hurricane watch is announced in your area, it’s important to plan out a few ways to keep your family safe:

The Difference Between a Hurricane Watch and a Hurricane Warning

When a hurricane is forecast to hit within 36 hours, it’s considered a “hurricane watch.” This is the time to immediately start stocking up on food and other necessities and doing everything you can to safeguard your home. When a hurricane warning is announced, on the other hand, that means the storm is expected to hit full-force within 24 hours. By this time, you should be fully stocked on food and water, have emergency steps and supplies in place, and all your windows and doors secured as well as possible.

Taking the First Steps

At least a few months before hurricane season arrives, you should determine whether or not your location is going to be susceptible to evacuation. City maps and planning departments can tell you if your home is located in an area typically affected by flooding and storm surges. If it is, find out where the closest evacuation areas are. Prepare a sealable, waterproof backpack, satchel, or small suitcase to hold all your family’s vital documents, including your driver’s licenses, social security cards, and insurance and medical records.

If your apartment has leaky or ill-fitting windows, doors, or spots in the ceilings — or any other maintenance issues you can think of — you’ll want to get your landlord to fix them all well ahead of hurricane season. Ask them to reinforce the windows and doors if you live in a high-risk area, and for additional materials you can put up yourself later on if things get really bad. Finally, report any dangling branches or overgrown trees that could fall on your unit to the property owners or city maintenance department as soon as you notice them so they can be trimmed well ahead of the strong winds.

Staying Points

Most people choose to stay in their apartments during a hurricane if they appear to be safe. Be sure to review your home and auto insurance policies to determine exactly what they will cover in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane. Make sure every cell phone in the apartment is fully charged at all times and that everyone in the household carries a self-contained power bank with them, as power outages are very common during big storms.

Bring any outdoor furniture, toys, or planters you might have on your balcony inside to keep them from flying all over the place during high winds. Be sure everyone in the household knows exactly where the safest room in the unit is — preferably one with no windows — and when in the storm to gather there.

Emergency Kit Essentials

Family checks over emergency checklist well ahead of hurricane season.

This gear should not only include a fully stocked first aid kit, including any necessary prescriptions, but also food and water to keep you and your family sustained for at least one week. One gallon of water per person per day is standard in these instances, as well as a way to purify more water if needed. Shelf-stable comfort foods including tea, coffee, chips, chocolate, and cookies will ease stress. Use disposable plates and eating utensils for easy cleanup. A propane stove ensures that you can have hot food in the event of a power outage, and flashlights, lanterns, and batteries will keep you out of the dark.

Additionally, you should have plenty of clean clothes, pillows, and blankets on hand, along with toilet paper, soap, and trash bags. Keep a crank or battery-powered radio nearby, too. A stash of cash is essential if a power outage renders credit and debit cards unusable, as are plastic tarps, duct tape, and rope when it comes to fixing leaks and other minor repairs. If you really want to go all out, you can also have a small generator set up and ready to go by the time the rains hit.

Exit Strategies

There’s always a chance the hurricane will be more forceful than anticipated, so you’ll need to determine in advance what you will do, the route you will take, and where you will go. Make a list of several evacuation shelters in case some fill up and are unavailable. Put together an emergency texting tree on your phone and choose who will be on your out-of-state emergency contact list. Make sure everyone’s car is full of gas, and take photos of your possessions for insurance purposes.

After the Storm Hits

Stay indoors until you get an official word that it’s safe to go outside. After all, a perceived lull in the storm could just be a consequence of your position in relation to the eye of the hurricane. Stay tuned to your radio or TV, and stay away from all windows until you get clearance from authorities that it’s safe to exit.

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