Hurricane Irma Checklist: Everything You Need to Stay Safe
Use our in-depth guide to staying safe before, during and after a hurricane.
With Hurricane Irma—the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic—set to make landfall in Florida as early as Friday, the South is once again preparing for a brutal lashing at the hands of Mother Nature.
Irma is currently classified as a rare Category 5 storm, which according to the National Hurricane Center, can result in a "high percentage of framed homes being destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse." Fallen trees and power poles have the potential to isolate residential areas, with power outages lasting for weeks to possibly months, rendering most of the area uninhabitable for weeks or months.
If you're currently under a hurricane warning OR watch, please take this threat seriously—even if, like most Floridians, you've already weathered your share of monster storms.
WATCH: Best Foods to Stockpile for an Emergency
So, start stockpiling that non-perishable food, brush up on your family's emergency plans, research local evacuation routes, and scroll down for our in-depth guide to staying safe before, during and after a hurricane.
- Frequently listen to radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards for official bulletins of the storm's progress.
- Be prepared to evacuate quickly and know your routes and destinations. Find a local emergency shelter.
- Ensure you have extra cash on hand.
- Fill your car's gas tank, in case an evacuation notice is issued.
- Prepare to cover all windows and doors with shutters or other shielding materials. Use hurricane shutters or board up windows and doors with 5/8inch plywood.
- Check batteries and stock up on canned food, first aid supplies, drinking water and medications. Fill plastic bottles with clean water for drinking.
- Bring in lightweight objects such as garbage cans, garden tools, toys and lawn furniture.
- Check your emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply, especially medications or other medical supplies. Keep it nearby.
- Fill bathtubs and sinks with water for flushing the toilet or washing the floor or clothing.
- Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
- Turn refrigerator to maximum cold and keep it closed in case you lose power.
- Turn off utilities if told to do so by authorities.
- Move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.
- Store important documents (passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, deeds) in a watertight container.
- Put an ax in your attic in case of severe flooding.
- Stay indoors.
- If winds become strong, stay away from windows and doors, even if they are covered. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway.
- Don't walk on beaches, riverbanks or in flood waters.
- Use flashlights in the dark if the power goes out. Do NOT use candles.
- Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
- Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage or contain dangerous insects or animals.
- Be alert for tornadoes—they are often spawned by hurricanes.
- Let friends and family know you're safe via the Facebook Safety Check.
- If evacuated, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
- Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes.
- Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
- Watch for closed roads. If you come upon a barricade or a flooded road, turn around.
- Stay on firm, dry ground. Moving water only six inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from power lines.
- Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until officials say it is safe.
- Avoid electrocution by not walking in areas with downed power lines.