- Randall Hill/Reuters
- Hurricanes can be extremely dangerous so it’s important you do not underestimate them so you can better keep yourself, your loved ones, and your pets safe.
- Evacuation orders should be taken seriously and you should avoid standing in front of windows or going outside during a hurricane.
- Having a “hurricane party” can be dangerous and so can lighting candles or using gas lamps, especially if the winds are very strong.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
When preparing for a hurricane, there are a few things you should keep in mind for the safety of yourself and others. After all, these storms can have a severe, damaging impact on the areas they hit and those who reside there.
Although facing down a hurricane can be scary, there are some steps you can take to prepare your home and family for these potential disasters.
Here are some mistakes you should avoid making during a hurricane.
Mistake #1: Trying to ‘ride out the storm’ even though you’ve been advised to evacuate
Unlike some other natural disasters such as earthquakes or fires, hurricanes typically come with several hours or days of advanced warning, so it’s important to evacuate if the storm is set to hit your area or if you’ve been told to do so.
To stay in the loop, whenever you hear of any hurricane or storm threat in your area, you’ll want to frequently tune in to emergency services for announcements about if and when you should evacuate. If you’ve been given a voluntary evacuation order, it means officials and authorities strongly encourage you to begin leaving your area to seek a safer location.
If you’ve been given a mandatory evacuation order, you should follow officials’ instructions to get to a safer area as soon as possible as “emergency management officials use a mandatory evacuation as a protective action in certain emergencies to help save the lives of residents and first responders,” per Weather.com.
Both voluntary and mandatory evacuation orders mean there will likely soon be a threat to your area so they should be taken seriously. Remember to carefully follow instructions as there’s usually a certain time when you should and can evacuate as well as specific routes you are advised to take.
If you or a loved one needs help with evacuation, try researching evacuation-assistance organizations in your area. For instance, New Orleans has the Evacuteer organization, a team of volunteers dedicated to helping people evacuate in the event of a major storm.
But before facing any hurricane threat, you and your family may want to take time to craft an evacuation plan, which includes familiarizing yourself with your evacuation routes and zones as well as your nearby shelter locations.
Mistake #2: Leaving your pets behind to fend for themselves
Include your pets in any evacuation plan. Keep in mind that, in many cases, public shelters do not allow non-service animals inside during natural disasters – so you’ll want to check your local laws and policies ahead of time and plan accordingly.
For starters, you may want to research which hotels in areas not threatened by a hurricane are pet-friendly in advance, as Greta Gustafson, media relations specialist for the American Red Cross, told INSIDER.
Creating a pet-focused disaster-preparedness plan in advance can also help tremendously. This includes assembling an emergency kit with pet supplies like food, copies of their medical records, and a secure carrier.
Read More: 8 ways to prepare your pets for a hurricane
Mistake #3: Opening your windows or doors
“There is a common and unfortunate belief that opening a window during a hurricane can equalize pressure and help prevent damage,” said Sam Maizlech, an outdoors & survival expert for Glacier Wellness. “In reality, there is no chance that your home is airtight and creating large openings will likely only cause more property damage.”
Keep all doors and windows shut tight for the duration of any storm – in many cases, you may also want to properly board them up, too.
Mistake #4: Staying close to windows during the storm
Even if your home is all boarded up, stay away from its windows during the worst of the storm. If a window does break, then it’s best to steer clear of that area of your home until the storm subsides as you never know what sort of debris could fly through the opening.
During a storm, it’s best to seek shelter in interior rooms such as a windowless bathroom, hallway, or even closet, as explained by the National Weather Service. You’ll also want to try to get as low as possible, preferably underground or in a basement area.
Mistake #5: Lighting candles and gas-lit lanterns
- Rob Kim/Getty Images
To lower your risk of starting a blaze, you’ll want to avoid using flame-lit candles or gas-based lights during or just after a hurricane.
“Although power outages are practically guaranteed during a hurricane, it’s important to avoid using candles or lanterns [since] the extreme winds can often damage gas lines and create leaks, lighting a fire should be avoided at all costs,” Maizlech told INSIDER. “Instead, stick with battery-operated flashlights until your gas lines are secured and power is safely restored.”
Mistake #6: Having a ‘hurricane party’ during the storm
Hurricane parties, when people gather and typically drink alcohol as a sort of distraction from the storm, are known for being a bit of a tradition but they’re not exactly a safe one. After all, when dealing with a dangerous situation you’ll likely want to be as alert and prepared to deal with it as possible.
“We do not encourage hurricane partying,” Don Walker, public information officer for Brevard County Emergency Management, told USA Today. “During times of emergencies, it’s important that people remain aware and alert at all times.”
Mistake #7: Not having an updated emergency-preparedness kit
Preparation is key and your home (especially if it is in an area that has frequent weather-related threats) should have a special kit that can help you handle a hurricane or serious emergency.
According to Ready.gov, this kit should include enough water and food to last you and those in your household at least three days, medications, first-aid supplies, cash, flashlights, and extra batteries. You can visit the official website for more ideas for items to include in your disaster-preparedness kit.
And if you already have a kit prepared, remember to check on it now and then to ensure the food in it has not expired, the information in it is updated, and the items inside of it are still in working condition.