Stay safe this season: 5 storm preparation tips

While most storm seasons will pass without any major incidents, it's important to still take steps to help protect your home and family.

It's late summer, and as our thoughts turn to the first day back at school and the imminent arrival of fall, there's another major thing to keep in mind: Here in the U.S. we're firmly in the middle of hurricane season, which as reported by Live Science, runs from June 1 through November 30.

This year the season has already brought one catastrophic storm to the nation – Hurricane Harvey – which, at the time of writing, has dumped more than 30 inches of rain on Houston, Texas, leading to unprecedented flooding in the area. Thousands of people have had to be rescued from their homes and there have been five fatalities due to the storm so far. The devastation in Southeast Texas serves as a chilling reminder of Mother Nature's capacity to wreak havoc – threatening lives and driving people from their homes.

Hurricane Harvey also serves as a stark reminder that's it's never too early to be prepared for a major weather event. While most storm seasons will pass without any notable incidents, it's important to still take steps to help protect your home and family.

This article will take a closer look at some of the most effective ways to get ready for a major weather event, such as a hurricane. Read on to learn more:

A closer look at hurricanes
Before outlining preparation tips, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of what hurricanes are, and where they are most likely to strike. As explained by Live Science, hurricanes are major storms that originate in the warm water of the Atlantic Ocean, near the equator. They are fueled by the rise of warm air over the ocean into the upper atmosphere. This can lead to the formation of major thunderstorms and then hurricanes. Major risk associated with these storms include intense wind, heavy rainfall, occasional tornadoes and severe flooding, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security detailed. The flooding can come from rivers overflowing as well as coastal storm surges, which occur when the pressure of the storm pushes ocean water inland. The major threats to property and human life are the powerful winds and the flooding.

Hurricanes primarily threaten areas of the U.S. that are situated adjacent or close to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security detailed. This means the entire East Coast is at risk, from Florida up to Maine, as well as the Southern coastal states that border the Gulf – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are also under threat. Areas that border the Pacific, including Hawaii and the West Coast, experience some risk, but it is much lower. It should also be noted that some inland areas, away from the immediate coast are also under some threat. A number of military bases with Corvias housing, including Fort Bragg, Fort Rucker, Fort Meade and Randolph Pointe are all stationed in hurricane risk areas.

A hurricane approaches land.A hurricane approaches land.

Preparation tips
Don't be caught offguard by an approaching storm. In the days immediately preceding a major weather event stores become crowded and supplies rapidly diminish, making it harder to get everything you may need. If you plan now, while things are calm, you'll be in much better shape. Here are some of the most helpful and effective storm preparation tips.

1. Maintain your home and yard
An effective first step to keeping your family safe is to keep your property well maintained. While you may wonder how this relates to storm safety, there is a clear connection: Gutters cluttered with leaf debris can make it harder for water to escape off your property, and large trees and other plants pose a hazard in terms of fall risk during storm events. As such, the NSW State Emergency Service advised trimming large trees and plants, as well as keeping gutters as clear as possible at all times. For the trimming of larger trees, guidance and/or permission may be needed from a tree specialist, as well as the local government.

Yard cleaning should also be coupled with a roof inspection, the agency advised. Experts should be enlisted to look for any damage, such as holes or compromised shingles. A worn roof can increase the risk of leaks and further damage during a hurricane, so it's important not to overlook this step.

2. Create an emergency kit
Perhaps the most important step you can take to help protect your family during a storm is creating a kit of essential supplies. As detailed by the American Red Cross, the most essential basic items for this kit include a two-week supply of both food and water, as well as a flashlight and first aid kit. The food should be non-perishable and able to be prepared without an electric stove. The water supply should be determined based on the number of individuals – the American Red Cross explained how each family member should be allocated around a gallon of water for each day. The first aid kit should contain basic supplies such as bandages, medications and sanitary products.

Other important items to include in your emergency kit include copies of vital documents such as insurance plans and medical records, contact information for family and friends, a spare cell phone and charger, extra baby items (if necessary), waterproof clothing, warm clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, a whistle, pet supplies and entertainment items – board games, cards and so on. In essence, add anything you anticipate you may need during a storm, as well as during any periods during and afterwards without power.

3. Gather supplies for your car
As stated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is also helpful to have an emergency kit for your car, in the event that an evacuation is ordered. Supplies should be similar in nature to your home stash – a first aid kit, a flashlight, warm and waterproof clothing, blankets, plenty of food and water and so on. Please keep in mind that you should only evacuate well before the storm arrives – driving during the height of an adverse weather event can be incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening, due to the risk of falling trees, airborne debris and flash flooding. 

4. Invest in a fire extinguisher
It is important to have several fire extinguishers throughout your house, in the event that an electrical fire breaks out during or after the storm, the CDC stressed.

5. Keep up-to-date
If a storm does threaten your area, it is important to keep as informed as possible by listening to updates from local media, the NSW State Emergency Service explained. This is easier than ever in the digital age, with smartphone apps able to provide ongoing updates on the progression of a storm, including push notifications with any pertinent warnings. Have a battery-operated radio on stand by, in case the power goes out and your phone dies.