It is no secret that Fort Myers and Southwest Florida are prone to hurricanes, storm surges and flooding because of its proximity to the coast and low-lying geography. If you live in the area then hurricane preparedness is critical. But do you know how to prepare your house for a hurricane? How do you best protect your family and your home for the big storm? Hurricanes are stressful. And preparing for a hurricane can also be stressful, especially if you are doing it last minute before a storm. That is why it is critical to prepare well in advance. Preparation should happen before hurricane season even starts, not right before a storm. So in this article we provide critical tips for preparing your house and family for a hurricane in the Fort Myers, FL area.
1. Prepare well in advance
One of the most critical things you can do is to be prepared. But the question is how to prepare your house for a hurricane. One of the most important things is to prepare both your house & family for a hurricane well in advance.
If you want to be prepared and avoid a hurricane disaster then it is best practice to start your hurricane preparedness well before hurricane season starts. Waiting to do your hurricane preparation right before a storm may end badly. First, it adds unnecessary stress. Second, it may seriously limits your ability to get adequate supplies and put up your home’s hurricane protection in enough time.
2. Have a hurricane plan ready
How do you prepare for hurricane season? Have a solid plan!
There is no other way to say it. Planning is critical. So we recommend having a hurricane plan in place before hurricane season even starts. The earlier the better.
A plan will make your hurricane preparation a lot smoother and easier vs. “winging it” at the last moment.
There are several resources to help you create a hurricane plan, such as the following:
3. Get familiar with hurricane websites and alert services
Knowing about potential storms in advance is important. Hearing about the storm by chance from a friend or co-worker might not give you enough time to get ready. You want to make sure you get alerted about approaching hurricanes as soon as possible.
One option is to keep up to date with the weather on your local news. Another option is to sign up or monitor severe weather alert systems and hurricane websites.
Luckily there are several services that alert you of approaching storms. Some of our favorite helpful services are below:
- FEMA Mobile App & texts – sends alerts from the National Weather Service for up to 5 locations in the US
- National Weather Service Alerts Website For Florida by County – bookmark this page to check for real-time updates for severe weather warnings by your county in Florida
- National Hurricane Center site for active tropical cyclones and disturbances – bookmark this page to check for real-time updates for severe weather warnings
You should also bookmark or know your local government site where the status of a storm is updated. For Greater Fort Myers/Southwest Florida these include:
- Lee County Storm Updates – on the Lee County Government Website
- Charlotte County offers several ways to stay informed with updates, which you can find at their “How to Stay Informed” site
- Collier County provides local updates on their Emergency Homepage
You should also understand the difference between a storm watch and an advisory (warning). This is important as each one has certain timing and actions associated with them.
4. Know your hurricane evacuation zone and have an evacuation plan
What are hurricane evacuation zones? According to Lee County, FL’s website evacuation zones are “areas that may be inundated by an abnormal rise of water pushed onto shore by a hurricane or storm event.” The zones determine evacuations in emergencies to move people away from a dangerous storm. Evacuation zones are ranked in order of their impact from a storm surge. There are five zones, A to E. Zone A is evacuated first and so on.
To see what zone you are in you can check out Lee County’s map of evacuation zones, routes and emergency public shelters.
Most areas of Fort Myers are in Zones A, B and C, but you should look up your zone for your specific address.
You can also search for your evacuation zone by your address using FloridaDisaster.org’s know your zone tool.
You can also reference our guide on Southwest Florida Hurricane Evacuation Zones.
Know the location of local emergency public shelters
It is also recommended to know where your local emergency public shelters are located. Worst case scenario if you have to evacuate your home and go to a shelter it is important to know exactly where to go.
If you live in Fort Myers, Cape Coral or anywhere else in Lee County you can use the county’s map for a list of shelters. There are designated shelters for Fort Myers including the East Fort Myers, San Carlos and Tice areas, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, Estero, Lehigh Acres, and North Fort Myers.
For other areas in Southwest Florida you can find your shelters at the links below:
- Charlotte County – visit their shelter listing site.
- Collier County – get information on Collier shelters on their dedicated Collier County shelter locations page
- Sarasota County you can
5. Stock up on supplies in advance
Hurricanes can cause issues beyond just damage to your home. Their damaging effects can cause several other problems. You need to have your prep supplies ready to go.
Outages also limit what foods you can store in your fridge and your ability to cook. They also limit restaurant’s abilities to prepare food. Prepare for the worst. So you need to have a stock of non-perishable foods ready. Grocery stores usually get really low on supplies before and during a hurricane. In turn, you need to make sure you have an adequate supply of non-perishable food and water well in advance of a hurricane.
Power outages means folks will use their generators. This causes long lines at the gas stations and may even cause a gas shortage. Having a full tank of gas is important. Filling up a gas container if you need it is also important. It is also a good idea to use fuel stabilizer if buying it in advance.
Have a preparedness kit
Have a preparedness kit ready in your home and/or in your vehicle’s trunk. It is important that you have enough food, water and other supplies for your family and any of your pets to last at last several days.
Some important items you should have in your preparedness kit include:
- food (including plenty of non-perishable food) and water
- first aid kit
- fully charged mobile phone
- battery power: disposable batteries, chargers, back-up batteries for your mobile phones
- sanitation supplies
- necessary medications
- baby formula and supplies if you have infants
- pet food and supplies if you have pets
FEMA’s Ready.gov has a very thorough emergency supply checklist that you can download.
6. Know how to prepare your house for hurricane
Now that you and your family have a plan in place, adequate supplies and are prepared you must make sure your home is prepared as well.
Bring in debris and objects that have potential to damage your home
You want to stay safe during the storm. One of the biggest sources of danger and damage to a home during a hurricane is flying objects and debris. One way to limit this danger is bringing in any objects in your yard that have the potential to get blown away during high wind gusts.
Bring in any objects that have a potential to go airborne like patio furniture, bikes, planters, yard art, kid’s toys, etc.
This is a easy way to limit your risks and help your family stay safe during the storm.
Secure your home with hurricane home protection
Prepare your house windows for a hurricane
Your home’s openings, including glass windows and lanais are the most vulnerable spots of your house during a hurricane. They are at risk of breaking if an object hits them. This is what hurricane protection is for.
If your Fort Myers home has impact windows or hurricane shutters you are ahead of the game. Hurricane shutters and impact glass are made specifically to withstand up to a category 5 hurricane. They are made from impact resistant materials such as aluminum and steel.
Which are better, hurricane shutters or impact glass windows? Check out our guide on storm shutters vs. impact glass to see the pros and cons of each.
Hurricane panels are also a common option to protect your home’s glass openings. If your home has manual hurricane shutters, such as aluminum hurricane panels then you will need to plan ahead. Panels can take 2-3 days to install. If you are you are not able to install the panels yourself make sure you have a panel installation service you can use.
If you are planning on putting your panels up yourself then check out our instructions for installing hurricane panels.
Check out this article to learn when you should put your hurricane protection on your house.
Secure your garage doors
Your garage doors are usually the biggest opening on your home. They are also usually overlooked when it comes to hurricane home protection. To prevent serious damage you can install hurricane impact resistant garage doors.
Being prepared for a hurricane in Fort Myers and elsewhere in Southwest Florida is important. Signing up for hurricane alert services will help you be aware of approaching storms. You should be prepared well in advance with a hurricane plan, supplies, and preparedness kit(s) ready. Understanding your evacuation zone, your evacuation routes, and the emergency shelters in your community is also critical.
Once you and your family are prepared you must make sure your home is prepared for the hurricane as well. Bringing in items that have a potential to go airborne is a good first step. Making sure your home has impact windows, hurricane shutters or hurricane panels is critical to protecting the vulnerable spots of your home. If you are unable to install your home’s hurricane protection yourself you should have a hurricane shutter installation service ready.