Cover Image
close this bookSurviving the Storms (FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1998, 8 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSafer, Stronger, Smarter
View the documentSeverity of Damage Linked to Wind Speed
View the documentKnow Your Weather Terminology
Open this folder and view contentsHurricane Preparations
View the documentWhat to do Before the Storm Strikes
View the documentFlood Insurance: The Best Protection Money Can Buy
View the documentEmergency Planning Could Save Your Business
Open this folder and view contentsA Boater’s Guide to Hurricane Readiness
View the documentRoofs Most Prone to Wind Damage

Safer, Stronger, Smarter

Building to Survive the Storm

Before a hurricane hits, even before you build, you need to know the flood risks facing your residence. Forearmed, you can take steps to protect your home from excess damage.

Here are some of the risks in hurricane flooding. In coastal areas, high winds and waves can drive fast flood - waters ashore where they pick up debris. The storm surge can batter your house, knock it over or collapse it. Severe coastal flooding erodes soil under your home, weakening its foundation and encouraging collapse.

Inland, torrential rains can cause rivers and streams to rise and flood rapidly, posing the same threats to your home.

You Need to Know

Ask local emergency management and building officials about hurricane threats to your area. Also consult local floodplain administrators. State officials in the federal Coastal Zone Management Program can tell you about erosion rates and history where you live.

How to Protect Your Home

If your area is at high risk, consider relocating your home to a less flood - prone area. Or, consider elevating it on an open foundation of piles or columns, so flood waters can pass underneath.

Buy flood insurance. Disaster assistance provides a helping hand toward recovery, but is not sufficient to fully replace your property. You want maximum resources to recover from flooding.

If You Are Building a Home

Contact local building officials, floodplain administrators and emergency management officials to learn about hurricane hazards. They can explain regulatory and permit requirements. Ask about state requirements, too.

Have work performed in compliance with a model state or national code. A qualified contractor, professional engineer or architect can assist you. Always obtain the proper building permits from your local building inspector or permitting authority.

Tropical Depressions Produce Deadly Storms

Hurricanes develop from tropical depressions (sustained winds up to 38 mph) to tropical storms (winds 39 - 73 mph) before becoming hurricanes (winds 74 mph or more).

The winds, a product of extremely low pressure zones powered by moisture from the sea and heat from condensation, spiral downward counter - clockwise. If the barometer drops below 1,000 millibars (29.53 inches), you should start monitoring weather broadcasts on the radio.

Usually the most dangerous part of a hurricane is the northeastern quadrant.

Wind gusts within a hurricane may exceed the sustained winds by as much as 50 percent. The time between the first rise in wind and a return to moderate levels is often 24 hours or more. But this varies greatly, depending on the size of the hurricane, its forward speed and its path. Rainfall also varies with these factors. As a hurricane passes through an area, 5 to 30 inches of rain may fall.

Keep in mind that a hurricane does not have to be a direct hit to cause great damage and that the course and intensity of a storm can change as it approaches your area.

Low pressure and strong winds around the hurricane’s center raise the surface of the sea a foot or two higher than the surrounding water in a dome sometimes 50 miles across.

As the storm reaches shallow coastal waters, the dome becomes a surge that can rise 20 feet or more. The surge may smash onto land as a whole, producing massive destruction and flash flooding of coastal lowlands, or it may come ashore in a series of giant waves.
The highest storm surge is usually from near the eye of the hurricane in the quadrant where winds are blowing toward shore.

A storm surge can crush vessels and structures, erode miles of beach and under - mine poorly anchored low - lying buildings.

FEMA Director
James L. Witt

Each year, millions of Americans face the threat posed by hurricanes. Violent winds, destructive storm surge and torrential rains can cause devastation of property, personal injury and death.

We at FEMA, together with our partners in your state emergency management agency, stand committed to assist you in protecting your homes and loved ones from these dramatic reminders of nature’s power.

Experience has shown us that lives can be saved and damage to property significantly reduced by consistently enforcing building codes, building safer, stronger buildings, and making the proper preparations when a storm is approaching.

Along with the many protective responsibilities that lie with government, there are individual responsibilities as well. Understanding and using the information contained in this publication will help you better prepare for this hurricane season. Working together we can prevent injuries and deaths associated with these powerful storms.

Protect Your Home From Hurricane Winds

Homes located in hurricane prone areas should be designed and constructed to withstand hurricane - force winds. High winds blow on the coast and inland, tearing off roofs, windows and doors. Heavy gusts can weaken or destroy your home’s structural components.

See your local building officials, emergency management officials or floodplain administrator to learn how vulnerable your home is to hurricane winds.

Simple methods are available to protect your home from wind damage. For example, install hurricane straps and clips around your house to hold it together. Your roof should be rated for hurricane wind speeds in your community.

Put shutters on windows and glass doors to protect them from flying debris.

Consult a professional engineer or architect licensed in your state before taking these measures.

Plywood or shutters properly installed over windows and glass doors provides the best protection from high winds and flying debris.

Hurricane Preparedness Tips

When a hurricane threatens your area, you must decide whether to evacuate or ride out the storm at home. Listen to the radio for weather advisories, and if authorities recommend evacuation for your area, leave promptly.

In general, plan to leave if you live on the coast or in a low-lying area not far inland, in a mobile home, or aboard a boat. You also should leave if you know your home is not structurally sound or if it is in an area that continually floods or is near a stream or gut likely to overflow in heavy rainfall.

If you need to seek emergency shelter, wait for notification from the American Red Cross officials of shelter locations.

Public shelters are set up as a temporary, emergency means of caring for people. A shelter’s primary function is to provide a roof over your head. Food, blankets and amenities may not be available. Pets, weapons, alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs are not allowed in shelters. Smoking may be banned.

If you go to a shelter, travel light. Put everything into a portable disaster kit, including:

Non-perishable food

Drinking water (two to four quarts per person per day)

Valuable papers such as your driver’s license or other identification, bank books, insurance policies, property inventory and photographs

Eating and cooking utensils, can and bottle openers

Toiletries and sanitary supplies

Medications, prescriptions, important medical information, eyeglasses, cleaning solution for contact lenses, hearing aid, and walking aids.


Portable radio with extra batteries

Flashlight with extra batteries

Blanket or sleeping bag for each

Small valuables such as photographs

Before you leave your home:

Unplug all electrical appliances and machines and store them as high as possible.

Turn off electricity at all breakers plus the main switch. Label breakers to identify what the lines carry.

Store toxic materials as high as possible in the most protected area available.

Agree with family members on a location to meet or a means of reaching one another with messages in the event you become separated.