How You Can Prepare to Evacuate Your Home for a Hurricane


Illustration by Claire O’Neill/The New York Times

When a hurricane is poised to make landfall and the authorities issue an evacuation order, you may not have much time before you leave to protect your home from the storm — and from flooding.

But if there is one message those affected by Hurricane Harvey have for those in Hurricane Irma’s path, it is that it’s never too early — or too late — to prepare.

Anita Precella Savala, who was rescued from her home in Houston a day after Harvey came ashore, said Wednesday that she wished she had been better prepared. “My house survived two hurricanes,” she said. “I never saw this coming.”

Here’s what you can do to get ready.

Before You Leave

Make a family plan. Pack an emergency kit, including cash, prescription medicines and three days’ worth of food and water (for people and pets). If your house floods and you can’t return immediately, this is essential. Be sure to consider provisions for those with special needs, like older people. If you need help coming up with a list, this one from The Sweethome, a New York Times company, has suggestions for any household.

Plan a meeting spot for your family. Deanna Frazier, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that forgetting to do so was one of the most common mistakes during Hurricane Harvey. “Cellphones may not work or you may not have your cellphone with you,” she said. “There were a lot of people who were looking for loved ones and disconnected from them. Those are the kinds of things that you need to think about.”

Listen to local news media for the most up-to-date information on how to prepare and when to evacuate the area. “The biggest issue I see people running into is that they just wait too long,” said Alberto Moscoso, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “When it comes to hurricane and storm preparation, now is always the right time.”

Take documents and protect valuables. Photograph or scan important documents like driver’s licenses, social security cards, passports, prescriptions, tax statements and other legal papers. Upload the images online for safekeeping. Store documents in a fireproof, watertight container, or take them with you. FEMA’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit has a checklist of documents you’re likely to need to claim insurance and other benefits.

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