Planning for and dealing with Hurricanes

Hurricane_Harvey_400.jpg © The American National Red Cross 2017

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November. During this period storms may develop into hurricanes, a powerful storm that produces strong winds and rain that can cause severe damage, destruction and the potential loss of life. One of the most destructive effects of a hurricane is the storm surge, often causing serious flooding. Learn how to plan and prepare before, during and after a hurricane to be Red Cross ready.


  • Know the risks in your community: This will help ensure you are better prepared. Find out if you live in an area where hurricanes could happen.
    • Download the Canadian Red Cross Be Ready App for instant access to information and alerts.
    • For up to date information on hurricane conditions, storm maps, and weather warnings, visit the Canadian Hurricane Centre to identify risks across the country.
    • Know the difference between a hurricane warning and a hurricane watch:
      • A Hurricane Warning means a hurricane is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. Evacuate if advised to do so.
      • A Hurricane Watch means a hurricane is possible in your area. Stay alert for more information.
  • Make a plan:
    • Talk with your family about what to do if a hurricane strikes. Discussing hurricanes ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for younger children.
    • If a hurricane is forecast, secure everything on your property that can be blown around or torn loose.
    • Trim dead branches and cut down dead trees to reduce the danger of these falling onto your house.
    • If you live on the coast or in a low-lying area near the coast, be ready to move inland or to higher ground. High winds can create large waves, which may become storm surges when they reach the shore.
    • If you are on a farm/ranch, sheltering livestock may be the wrong thing to do because some shelters may not withstand high winds. Depending on your location and available shelter, leaving animals unsheltered is preferable, or if time and personal safety permits, evacuation away from the danger zone should be considered.
  • Make a personalized preparedness kit: Families should be prepared to be self-sustaining for up to 72 hours.


  • Stay informed by listening to the latest warnings and advisories on the radio, television, or the Canadian Hurricane Centre website.
  • Close windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood.
  • Do not drive through flooded areas. The undertow may be stronger than it looks.
  • Never go out in a boat during a storm. If you are on the water and you see bad weather approaching, head for shore immediately. Do not go down to the water to watch the storm.
  • Evacuate if advised by authorities. Be careful to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
  • If the eye of the hurricane passes over, there will be a lull in the wind lasting from two or three minutes to half an hour. Stay in a safe place during this time. Remember once the eye has passed over, the winds will return from the opposite direction.


  • Check on vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours (the elderly, ill, disabled) who may require assistance.
  • Organize rescue measures if people are trapped or call for emergency assistance if you cannot safely help.
  • Listen to the radio for further information and instructions from officials.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding.
  • Put on sturdy shoes and protective clothing to help prevent injury from debris, especially broken glass.
  • Do not light matches or turn on lights or appliances until you are sure there are no gas leaks or flammable liquids spilled. Do not shut off utilities unless they are damaged. Leaking gas will smell.
  • If you are away from home, only return home when it is safe to do so.
  • If you suspect your home is unsafe, do not enter. Rely on the professionals to clear your home for re-entry, if you are unsure.
  • Once you return home, take the opportunity to review your family emergency plan and restock your personalized preparedness kit.
  • People affected by flooding should restore their homes to good order as soon as possible to prevent further damage and to protect their health.
    • Maintain good hygiene during flood cleanup by minimizing contact with floodwater or anything that may have come in contact with it.
    • Do not use water that may be contaminated for washing, cleaning, and drinking or food preparation.
    • Wear protective clothing, including rubber boots or sturdy boots, safety glasses, hard hat, rubber gloves and a dust mask. 

Be Red Cross ready and find out more about the risks in your community, make a plan and get a kit.