The best way to protect people and property during Florida’s storm season is to know as much as possible about hurricanes and how to prepare for them. That’s why we’ve put together this hurricane preparedness guide. It’s jam-packed with helpful hints and facts, including the most common terms used by weather forecasters; lists of basic supplies; steps to secure your home; what to do during a power outage; and much more. Our goal is to help you weather the storm safely with as little stress as possible.
When is hurricane season?
Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30, with storms typically peaking in August and September. Regardless of the forecast, knowing how to get ready for hurricane season can truly be a lifesaver.
What is a tropical depression?
A tropical depression is a low-pressure weather system that originates in the tropics. Also called tropical cyclones, these storms vary by intensity, size and the angle in which they approach your area. Here is how these weather systems are categorized: Tropical depressions have maximum sustained winds of 38 mph. Tropical storms vary in wind speeds from 39-73 mph, while hurricanes have winds 74 mph and greater. Typically the upper right quadrant (the center wrapping around the eye of the storm) is the most intense part.
What are the effects of a tropical depression?
The greatest threats of a tropical depression are damaging winds, storm surge and flooding. This, in part, is why Hurricane Katrina, with its 28-foot storm surges, was so catastrophic to the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines.
Hurricane Terms You Should Know
Just like every other scientific discipline, meteorologists have their own terminology. Become familiar with the following terms to get the most out of hurricane advisories.
- Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical storm conditions are possible in the area.
- Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in the area.
Watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm-force winds.
- Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected in the area.
- Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the area.
Warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of tropical storm-force winds.
- Eye: Clear, sometimes well-defined center of the storm with calmer conditions.
- Eye Wall: Surrounds the eye and contains some of the storm’s most severe weather, including the highest wind speed and most precipitation.
- Rain Bands: Bands coming off the storm that produce severe weather conditions, such as heavy rain, wind and tornadoes.
- Storm Surge: An often underestimated and deadly result of ocean water rising as a result of a land-falling storm. A storm surge can quickly flood coastal and sometimes inland areas.
The best time to get your home ready and prepare an evacuation plan –– in case a warning is issued –– is during a hurricane watch. During a warning, carefully follow the directions of officials, and immediately leave the area if they advise it. In the event of an Extreme Wind Warning/Advisory, which means that sustained winds of 115 mph or greater are expected to begin within an hour, immediately take shelter in the interior portion of your home or another well-built structure.
Florida Hurricane Tropical Storm Forecast
Predicting a tropical storm’s path can be challenging; there are many global and local factors that come into play. The storm’s size and path can directly influence what sort of wind patterns guide, enhance or hinder its growth, and vice versa. Forecasters have computers crunching huge amounts of data to help them predict where the storm will go. This enables them to calculate two to three days out fairly accurately. These predictions are based on what forecasters refer to as “computer models” and “spaghetti models.”
Generally the forecast track or path is given using the consensus of these models. The National Hurricane Center has the most up-to-date information on tropical storm developments, forecasts and weather alerts, discussions analyzing the data and more. Check out NHC.NOAA.gov.
How do they name hurricanes?
Hurricane names are picked randomly, then rotated and recycled every six years. If a previous hurricane was catastrophic, deadly and costly (i.e., Charlie, Katrina, Irene), the name is officially retired. To view 2021’s list of tropical storm names Click here to read about 2021’s list of tropical storm names.
FEMA Hurricane Preparedness
When there’s a disaster declaration in Florida, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) coordinates with state officials to determine where there is a need for disaster recovery centers and how long they should remain open. For example, in October 2018, after Hurricane Michael, FEMA opened 29 centers in Florida’s Panhandle, where representatives of state, FEMA and other agencies, assisted more than 49,000 survivors.
FEMA’s Public Assistance Program helps state and local agencies defray the cost of response and recovery by providing supplemental federal disaster grants for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures and the repair, replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged publicly owned facilities and the facilities of certain private nonprofit organizations.
Here are a few tips from FEMA on how Floridians should prepare for a hurricane.
Before the storm:
- Sign up for local alerts and monitor local news/weather reports.
- Stock up on emergency supplies.
- Secure your property.
- Put critical documents and records in a safe, waterproof container.
- Have an evacuation plan and a packed go bag.
During the storm:
- Listen to local authorities and follow their directions.
- Stay away from windows and shelter on the lowest level in an interior room.
- Move to higher ground if there is flooding or a flood warning.
- Grab your go bag and leave if advised to evacuate.
- Never walk or drive through water or on flooded streets.
After the storm:
- Do not enter damaged buildings until they are deemed safe by qualified inspectors.
- Avoid downed trees, poles and power lines.
- Ask for help removing heavy debris (wear gloves and thick-soled shoes).
- Only drink tap water after authorities say it is safe.
- Don’t walk or drive through water or on flooded streets.
- Open doors/windows whenever you are home to air it out.
- Get rid of soaked mattresses, upholstered furniture.
- Remove saturated flooring, paneling, drywall, insulation and electrical outlets.
- Clean out and disinfect debris and mud.
- Dry out the structure and remaining contents.
Florida Hurricane Preparedness Plan
Step 1: Prepare your hurricane kit before hurricane season starts.
Step 2: Develop an evacuation plan that includes evacuation routes, shelter locations,
out-of-state contacts and where to meet if you get separated from family.
Step 3: Secure your property.
Step 4: Plan for power outages.
Step 5: Stock up on non-perishable foods and water.
Step 6: Have a plan for your pets.
Florida Hurricane Preparedness Kit
The most important thing is to prepare your hurricane kit before hurricane season starts. Here’s a suggestion: In May, take inventory if what you have and make a list of what you need. Then pick up a few items every week. This way you’re sure to find what you want and avoid last-minute crowds and empty shelves.
What if you have to evacuate?
No one likes the thought of evacuating, but some storms are so powerful or the area you live in is especially vulnerable, that it’s the best/only way to stay safe. Hurricane experts recommend getting your hurricane preparedness kit ready before the start of hurricane season. (Don’t worry it’ll come in handy if you get to stay home –– especially if you lose power.) Be sure to pack your hurricane kit in an easy-to-carry bag so you can grab and go.
While the following list is quite comprehensive, every family’s needs and situations are different.
Use it as a guide, and pick those items that match your requirements and situation.
- Battery-powered/hand crank radio; NOAA weather radio with tone alert (extra batteries for both)
- Cash ($500 minimum)
- Change of clothing, including long-sleeved shirt, long pants, sturdy shoes for each person
- Diapers and infant formula for babies; toys and games for older kids
- First-aid kit
- Flashlight (extra batteries)
- Important documents (birth certificates, identification, insurance information, bank account numbers, immunization records) in a waterproof container
- Manual can opener
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, plastic ties
- Non-perishable food (at least a three-day supply per person)
- One gallon of water per person per day (three-day minimum)
- Paper and pencil
- Paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
- Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, tampons or pads, soap, shampoo, etc.)
- Prescription medicine, contact lenses, extra glasses, if you have them
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Water purification tablets
- Whistle to call for help
Items to Have for Hurricane Preparedness
- Battery-operated radio (include extra batteries)
- Books, magazines, toys, games for recreation
- Cooler and ice packs
- Digital backup of family photos
- Evacuation plan in case family members get separated
- First-aid kit (include any prescription medication you may need)
- Flashlights (include extra batteries)
- Lighter or matches
- Manual can opener
- Non-perishable food (enough to last at least three days per person)
- Personal hygiene items and sanitation items
- Phone charger(s), spare cell phone(s)
- Special needs items: baby and pet supplies
- Video/photographs of personal property
- Water (enough to last at least three days per person)
- Waterproof container with cash and important documents
Document Your Assets: Create a Home Inventory
What if the unthinkable happens, and a hurricane damages or destroys your home. Can you prove your home was secured on the outside when the storm hit? Do you have an inventory of your possessions –– from furniture and everyday items such as dishes, linens and books to electronics, collectibles, artwork and jewelry? Having your preparations and assets documented gives you a huge advantage when you have to file an insurance claim.
Follow these steps when documenting your possessions for insurance purposes:
Step 1: Create a video
- Using your phone or other videotaping device, walk from room to room showing and describing the possessions you want covered in your homeowner’s policy. If it’s not obvious, include where in your home these items are located.
- Remember to include your garage and freestanding structures listed in your homeowner’s policy.
- Be sure to enable the date/time stamp feature on your phone or video camera.
Step 2: Take photographs
- Use a digital camera to photograph the possessions you want covered.
- Make sure photos are clear and close up enough to identify items.
- Print photos and record where each item is located in your home.
- Be sure to include date and time if your camera does not have date/time feature
Step 3: Write everything down.
- Describe each item and where it is located in your home.
- Consider grouping your possessions in categories (i.e., art, hobbies, by rooms, etc.).
- Include serial/model numbers for electronics, major appliances.
- Consider creating a written record to accompany your video or photographic documentation as well
Step 4: Get appraisals for one-of-a-kind valuables, jewelry, artwork, antiques and memorabilia.
Step 5: Store your home inventory list in a safe place.
- Safe deposit box
- Fireproof container
- With a trusted family member who doesn’t live with you
- With your insurance agent
- Email a copy to your workplace
- Store an electronic version in your personal email so you can access it from
- another computer
Step 6. Update your home inventory whenever you add or remove items from your household.
Step 7. Consult with your insurance agent regarding coverage and keeping a copy of your documentation
Securing Your Home:
Here’s a checklist of what you need to do to secure your home in the event of damaging winds, storm surge and flooding. Do NOT wait until the last minute!
- Cover all your windows and sliding glass doors, either with hurricane shutters or wood.
- Taping windows and doors will not protect them from hurricane-force winds. In fact, it can create large, dangerous shards of glass. Hurricane shutters or impact-resistant windows and sliders are much more effective.
- If possible, use straps or clips to securely fasten your roof to the structure of your home.
- Trim trees and shrubs and clear rain gutters.
- Reinforce garage doors.
- Bring in all outdoor furniture, garbage cans, potted plants, decorations and anything else that is not tied down.
- Stay away from windows and doors, and close, secure and brace internal doors.
- Protect your electronics. Unplug computers, printers, docking stations. Move them off the floor and wrap in plastic in case of flooding.
- Create a home inventory to make filing an insurance claim easier.
Plan ahead in the event a storm leaves you without power by following these six tips:
Fill your vehicle tank(s) and generator far in advance of an approaching storm. Don’t wait until the last minute as gas stations may run out. Also, if there is a power outage, pumps may not be working.
Prep and test your generator.
Have extra cash on hand in the event ATMs in your area are not accessible or working.
Charge your cell phone and limit use after power is out.
Try to prevent light from entering and warming the house by covering your windows on the inside. If you have back-up or battery-operated fans, only run them when you are in the room.
- Fill your bathtub and large containers with water for washing and flushing only.
- In a pinch, and once it’s safe to go outside, you can use a bucket of pool water to flush toilets.
- Turn your refrigerator/freezer temperature down if you expect a power outage.
- A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. (Think about what you want and where it is located before you open the door.)
- Cooking during a power outage can be challenging. Canned heat, such as Sterno or Safe Heat, is a great option. Be sure the brand you buy is safe to burn indoors.
Foods for Hurricane Preparedness
What foods should be on your hurricane preparedness list?
Stock up on your favorite non-perishable, easy-to-prepare foods. Plan on a two-week supply for home and three-day supply in case you have to evacuate. Here are a few suggestions.
- Canned beans, fruits, juice, pasta, vegetables
- Dry cereal
- Granola and energy bars
- Peanut Butter/Almond Butter
- Ready-to-eat canned soups and canned meats (chicken, salmon, tuna)
How much water do you need for hurricane preparedness?
The suggested amount of water is one gallon per person, per day for drinking and sanitation (two-week supply for home; three-day supply for evacuation).
Freezing and Food Safety:
Have a cooler with ice packs on hand to cool drinks and snacks after power has been out for more than four hours. Check out this food safety guide for when to discard perishable food: FoodSafety.gov/Keep/Charts/Refridg_Food.html.
Visit CDC.gov for additional information on how to stay safe in the event of a power outage. Remember, any severe storm has the potential to be deadly and destructive.
Pet Hurricane Preparedness
Make a plan for your pets like the one you have for you. Arrange a safe room, stock up on food and water, contact nearby shelters to make sure they accept pets, if you have to evacuate. If you are out of town when the storm is likely to hit, arrange for someone your pets know to take care of them. Here are a few other suggestions:
- Invest in a pet carrier.
- Make sure your pets wear collars with ID tags at all times.
- Bring pets indoors during a storm; never leave them chained up outside.
- Attach sticker to door or window saying there are pets inside.
- Prepare an emergency kit with food, water, medicine, first-aid kit, leash, rabies tag, important documents, picture of you and your pets to prove ownership.
- Microchip your pets.
Florida Hurricane Coverage Questions You May Have
Hurricane season begins June 1, which makes May the ideal time to review your homeowner’s coverage for severe weather events and make sure you have enough to prevent large financial losses.
#1 What is hurricane insurance coverage?
In Florida, your homeowner’s hurricane insurance covers damage from windstorms and wind-driven rain.
#2 Does my homeowner’s hurricane coverage cover flooding?
Typically no. You must purchase a separate policy to cover flooding caused by a hurricane or tropical storm.
#3 Does hurricane coverage include hail?
Damage caused by hail is generally covered; however, there may be a hail deductible.
#4 Does hurricane coverage include wind?
Hurricane, or windstorm insurance, covers wind damage from any source: tropical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes or other storms.
#5 How do I know if I have hurricane coverage?
The fastest way to find out is ask your insurer or call JAISIN Insurance Solutions at 888-509-0062.
#6 Is homeowner’s hurricane insurance coverage worth it?
Definitely. Florida is the state with the highest risk of being hit by a hurricane, and as you know hurricanes can be extremely destructive. The cost of hurricane insurance depends on where your property is located, what it is worth and how high a deductible you’re willing to pay.
#7 Is hurricane roof coverage separate in Florida?
No, but Florida does have the 25% Rule, which states that if more than 25% of your roof is damaged by a windstorm event, you are entitled, with a few exceptions, to a new roof.
#8 Does full coverage car insurance cover hurricane damage?
Yes. Comprehensive car insurance covers your vehicle for hail, hurricane-force winds and other natural occurrences including damage from floodwaters.
#9 Do I need to buy hurricane coverage for my RV?
Towable RVs (such as a fifth wheel) are covered under your vehicle’s liability insurance. If you have a motorhome, self-propelled RV or motor coach, you may need additional coverage known as “other than collision,” which helps pay for fire, storms, floods and certain other natural disasters.
#10 Can I add hurricane or wind coverage during hurricane season?
The smart thing to do is get hurricane or wind coverage before the season starts in June. Once a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued, insurance companies are not allowed to issue new or additional coverage.
#11 What comprehensive coverage won’t cover after hurricane.
Standard policies typically cover damages caused by wind, such as a roof blowing off, a tree falling on a roof or car, or windows breaking from flying debris. They generally don’t cover flooding.
One of the best pieces of advice we can leave you with is this: If you’re going to live in Florida, spend some time getting to know and understand the cycle of a tropical depression.
Prepare ahead of time and listen to the directions of officials as the storm approaches. Secure your home, or find a safe shelter before its arrival, and know how to proceed safely during the aftermath.
We Are Here to Help
The 2021 hurricane season is just around the corner. If you are uncertain about your current coverage, call JAISIN Insurance Solutions at 888-509-0062 today and talk to one of our storm specialists about our free policy review.