While there certainly has been some nasty weather this summer – heavy rains, lightning and thunder, sunny mornings darkened by black-cloud afternoons – Texas hasn’t had any named storms rumble in off the Gulf. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has come to the consensus that the 2017 Hurricane season could be more active than last year due to late summer El Nino. Hurricane Season lasts until November 30, so preparations for a hurricane should not be overlooked.

It’s not just the coastal areas of Texas that need to heed a hurricane warning. High winds can happen anywhere in Texas. And remember: Wherever there are creeks, rivers, lakes – any body of water – there could be heavy rains that cause flash flooding.

To be prepared, REALLY prepared, takes a bit of planning, but having those plans in place can be a lifesaving measure. Following are 4 steps to take before the winds begin to blow that can help you better weather the worst storms.

Preparing yourself, your home, and your family for a natural disaster is a difficult feat in itself. In case you care for a family member with a disability or a new baby, we’d like to help make the process less demanding and stressful.

Note: This does not cover everything you may need to know. For that, check the National Hurricane Service website. Also, an easy to follow and very thorough plan for what to do Before, During and After a Storm, especially as it pertains to utilities, is available on the Direct Energy website.

1. Evacuation Plans

This is particularly important if you live in a hurricane evacuation area, which is an area where you must leave your home in the event of a hurricane. The best advice: Don’t wait until a storm is imminent. Check your local city or county website for evacuation plans. Maybe even take the family on a little trip to become familiar with the route in good weather.

If you’re not in an official evacuation zone, you should still figure out where you could go if you have to leave your home due to damaging winds, storm surge or flash floods. In many communities, this could be a school, a shopping mall, a sports stadium or a place of worship.

And don’t forget about Fido and Miss Kitty! Leaving your pets behind is not a good idea, so if you can’t take them with you, check with local shelters or your vet for advice on how to keep them safe.

2. A Supply Kit

Again, don’t wait until the skies go black to put this together. By then, store shelves could be cleaned out and you’ll be out of luck.

Start with a large plastic tub that has a secure lid. In it, put:

  • Water – One gallon per person per day for at least three days.
  • Food – Non-perishable, enough for three days at least, and a non-electric can opener.
  • Radio – Battery powered or hand crank is best
  • Batteries – Extras for both of the above
  • First aid kit – You can pick these up at most drug stores.
  • Whistle to signal for help.
  • Moist towlettes and various sizes of plastic bags – For storage and sanitation
  • Maps of your local area
  • Solar charger for your cell phone

3. Protect Your Home & Appliances

Regardless of whether you stay or leave, it is important to know how to prep your home to protect your appliances and prevent broken pipes, gas leaks and power serges. It’s best if more than one person in the family knows how to perform these duties in case one person is caught at work or elsewhere when the storm is approaching.

Appliances – It is important to unplug appliances and electronics, and remove air conditioner fuses to avoid damage caused by power surges when lines and power are restored. Once the storm has passed, turn your appliances on one at a time to determine if there was any electrical damage.

A/C – If you have a major storm bearing down on your area, shut down your air conditioning system and cut off the power either at a master shut-off switch or in the circuit breaker. That way, it’s less likely to be damaged by a power surge or get shorted out by a flood.

Next, you should cover your AC unit to protect it from debris, tree limbs and excessive rain. One option is to cover the equipment with a tarp that is securely fastened to the ground or other solid object. Some people in storm-prone regions even construct wooden boxes to give their air conditioning systems a better chance of making it through the hurricane.

If you need help shoring up your air conditioning before a storm comes in, or restoring it to working order in the aftermath, call an expert HVAC technician today.

Electricity – Locate your circuit box and turn off all the individual circuits before you shut off the main line.

Natural Gas – The procedures for this could be different, depending on who your supplier is, so it’s best to check with them for details on disconnecting gas appliances and gas service.

Water – You want to find the shut-off valve for the water line to your house. Make sure the valve isn’t rusted – it should turn easily. Place a tag on this line and make sure everyone in the family knows where it is.

Know who to call if the lights go out

If you remain at home during a storm and the lights go off, the first thing to do is determine whether it is really a power outage or a problem with your own breaker. Reach for your flashlight and check your main electric panel. If you have blown a fuse or tripped a breaker, one or more of the switches may be turned off. Simply turn it back on and power should be restored.

If it is not a fuse or a breaker, check to see whether that power is out for your neighbors, too. Power can be lost in a very localized area. For instance, houses that are served by the same pole-mounted power transformer will be dark, while houses next door are fully lit.

If it is an outage, call your local utility company and report it.  For your convenience, the numbers are listed below:

Houston and Surrounding Area

CenterPoint Energy: 713-207-2222 or 888-572-5399 (toll-free)

Texas-New Mexico Power: 888-866-7456

Dallas/Fort Worth and Surrounding Areas

Oncor Electric Delivery: 888-313-6862

Texas-New Mexico Power: 888-866-7456

South Texas

AEP: 877-373-4858

West Texas

AEP: 877-373-4858

Oncor Electric Delivery: 888-313-6862

Texas-New Mexico Power: 888-866-7456

4. Documents

Make copies of important documents and place them in a plastic envelope inside your plastic supplies tub. This could include passports and proof of ownership for your home, car, RV, boat – anything that you’d have to prove you owned if a hurricane washed it all away.

Take a little time while the sun shines to figure out how to stay safe when it doesn’t. Hurricanes not only impact coastal communities but can also devastate inland cities and towns as well. Make sure you and your family are prepared and have a plan. Once that hurricane warning goes out, you – and your entire family — will be glad you did.

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From the oil fields of West Texas to the climate change debates in Austin to the wind turbines in the Panhandle, energy is ever-present for Texans. The Energy Department is a collection of stories, tips, and guides on how energy impacts you, your home, and your community. Read more thanks to our sponsor, Direct Energy.