Prepare for hurricane season

Hurricanes are tropical cyclones that form in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. They are considered among the most destructive forces in nature, along with tornadoes and earthquakes.

Our Houston campus is the most vulnerable to hurricane effects, though the storms caused by hurricanes can travel further inland and also cause damage. Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30 each year, peaking in early to mid-September, but hurricanes can happen at any time.

Though the wind speed must reach 74 miles per hour in order for a storm to be categorized as a hurricane, tropical storms and depressions can be just as devastating to human life and property. Though there is nothing we can do to stop hurricanes from forming and wreaking havoc, we can prepare for the worst and help make our families, homes, and businesses as safe as possible.


Make a Plan

Though hurricane winds and rain can be damaging, the single biggest threat to life from hurricanes is the storm surge and resulting flooding after the storm has passed. Even if there’s no risk of a hurricane in the near future, preparing now can help you and your family stay safe when a storm brews.

Everyone needs to be prepared for the unexpected. Your friends and family may not be together when disaster strikes. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children or parents are safe? You may have to evacuate or be confined in your home. What will you do if your water, gas, electricity, or phone services are shut off? Making a plan before the worst happens can help you stay safe and stay in touch:

  • Find out where the nearest hurricane shelter is and the different routes you can take to get there if you have to leave your home. Alternatively, arrange to stay with a friend or relative who lives much further away from the coast than you 
  • If you have pets, make sure to include them in your emergency plans. Keep in mind that most public shelters do not allow pets

Write down emergency numbers and keep them near every phone in your house, on the refrigerator, or somewhere else that is easily accessible. Program these numbers in your cell phone as well. Include phone numbers and other contact information for:

  • Emergency management offices
  • Police/law enforcement
  • Fire and public safety
  • Medical services
  • State, county/parish, and city/town government
  • Local utility companies
  • Your property insurance agent

Your list also should include a friend or relative who lives much further away from the coast than you and who has reliable access to their phone or voicemail. If you and your family become separated and phone lines in your area are down, you may be able to call your emergency contact and check in with them.

  • Make sure that everyone in your family knows what the warning sirens in your area sound like, and what to do if they go off
  • Stock up on emergency supplies for your home and car


Emergency Supplies

The emergency supplies you will need include water, food, medicine, and personal care items. Consider the things you would need to stay put if utilities in your home were shut off for several days, as well as what you could use in a temporary shelter situation if evacuation is necessary.

Emergency Water Supply
  • Secure at least 1 gallon of drinking water per person (and pet!) per day; more water is recommended for hot climates, pregnant women, and people who are sick. It would be wise to plan for at least 3 to 5 days.Though you should keep a few gallons of water ready-to-drink, you may want to keep some in your freezer (or deep freezer, if you have one). Doing so can help your freezer operate more efficiently and help keep food items cold if the power goes out
  • Gather clean containers for drinking water. Unopened commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable emergency water supply
  • Obtain supplies to make your drinking water safe, like iodine tablets or chlorine bleach, or review guidelines on how long to boil water to purify it in case water treatment plants in your area stop working due to flood waters or storm surge
  • You can choose to fill up your sinks and bathtubs with water to use for washing
Emergency Food & Medicine
  • Put together a 3- to 5-day supply of food for each person. Food should have a long storage life and require little to no cooking, water, or refrigeration in case utilities are disrupted. Things like peanut butter, canned tuna fish, and packaged crackers are good options.
  • Be sure to meet the needs of family members on special diets, including babies (baby food or formula).
  • Don’t forget about pet food and supplies, if needed.
  • Opt for food that is not very salty or spicy, since these foods increase the need for drinking water and can deplete your supply faster.

Keep the following items on hand to help you prepare food if there is a loss of electricity, gas, and/or water:

    • Paper plates, bowls, cups, and towels
    • Knives, spoons, forks, and cooking utensils
    • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
    • Propane gas, charcoal grill, or a camp stove
    • Manual can opener
    • Stay current on your prescription medicines, and try to get 60- or 90-day supplies if it’s an option
Other Emergency Supplies
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and/or candles & matches
  • Extra batteries
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio to listen for storm and evacuation information
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Wet wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Garbage bags
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Local maps (hard copies, in case cell phone towers are damaged)
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Sleeping bags or extra blankets
  • Personal toiletries (soap, toothpaste)
  • Disposable hygiene items (such as Q-tips, tampons, diapers)


Home Preparations

When a hurricane is on its way, make sure your home is ready to face the storm.

  • Clear your yard of things that could be easily blown away in a storm, like bikes, lawn furniture, and BBQ grills; store them inside or secured under shelter
  • Cover up exterior windows and doors using storm shutters or nail pieces of plywood to the outside. This can help protect you and your family from shattered glass
  • Know how to turn off the power to your home in case of flooding, downed power lines, or if you have to evacuate
  • Check your carbon monoxide and smoke detector batteries to make sure they will work throughout hurricane season
  • Lower the temperature in your refrigerator and freezer to their lowest possible temperatures. If power goes out, keep the doors closed as much as possible to keep the food fresh longer


Car Preparations

During hurricane season, you may not be home when a hurricane warning goes into effect or you may need to evacuate your home quickly.

  • Keep your car’s gas tank full. Long lines at gas stations are something you want to avoid
  • Similarly, keep your car in good working order- have the oil changed and fluids checked regularly, and make sure the tires are inflated to the correct pressure
  • Keep an emergency kit in your car, including jumper cables, a roadside emergency toolkit, first aid kit, and food and water


Hurricane Watches and Warnings

Now that you’re prepared for the worst, do you know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning?

A hurricane watch means that there’s no hurricane yet, but weather conditions could cause one. A hurricane watch is issued when a tropical cyclone containing winds of at least 74 MPH poses a possible threat, generally within 48 hours. A watch does not mean hurricane conditions will occur, only that these conditions are possible. Hurricane force winds may also be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding, and/or river flooding. This is the time to prepare your home, car, and other property (boat, farm, etc.) for the potential storm. 

A hurricane warning is much more serious. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane-force winds are expected within 36 hours. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force. This is the time to shelter-in-place or find a hurricane shelter and get your family to safety. 

You must evacuate if you are ordered to do so by local government, though if you are able to evacuate sooner, you should. You should strongly consider evacuating if you live in a vulnerable place, such as a flood plain, mobile home, or high-rise building.


After the Storm

After the hurricane has passed, be cautious before you go outside. If power lines are down, trees or tree branches have fallen dangerously, or flood waters have started to rise, it’s not safe to go out.

Be aware that tap water may not be safe to drink. Listen to the radio or watch the local TV stations for announcements about utility power and services.

You can prevent mold growth from the excessive moisture by disinfecting rooms and allowing them to air out. Throw away any food that may be unsafe, like unsafely thawed meat or other perishable items.

Though hurricanes can be devastating, making a plan and preparing with your family beforehand can make the experience much more bearable.

For more preparedness resources, visit TWU’s Emergency Management webpage or follow us on social media @twuready.