Everything You Need to Know to Prepare for a Hurricane

We talked to the Department of Emergency Management to get the answers to important hurricane preparedness FAQ.


Hurricane season is in full swing, and as we’ve seen on Maui, storm winds alone can wreak havoc. With this season rated as having a 50% chance of above-normal tropical cyclone activity, we need to stay vigilant and be prepared for the possibility of more storms. To help us get ready, we spoke to John M. Cummings III, Public Information Officer at the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management (DEM), for insight into this important topic.


“Hawai‘i is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from the continental U.S. This isolation can pose challenges for timely access to emergency resources and support following a disaster,” Cummings says. “With the increasing impacts of climate change, being prepared becomes even more critical. Our residents need to understand this, prepare to be self-sufficient for extended periods and take proactive steps now.”


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Hurricane Hector Nasa

Photo: Courtesy of NASA


Hurricane Preparedness FAQ


Where can you find the latest information about hurricanes?

The government provides several communication channels to keep people informed during emergencies.

  • Ensure your phone can receive Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) messages. Turning your phone off or setting it to airplane mode will disable these messages.
  • Follow your local government offices on social media.
  • Download the free HNL Info app to receive alerts on O‘ahu.
  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio to get updates from the National Weather Service. Here’s where to find your nearest station.
  • Monitor local TV and radio news stations.


SEE ALSO: New Facility Boosts Hawai‘i’s Emergency Broadcasting Capabilities


How do you put together a 14-day supply kit for a hurricane?

What you should pack:

  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – nonperishable foods, infant formula
  • Utensils, plates and manual can opener
  • Radio with extra batteries or hand crank
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Cell phone with a solar charger
  • Whistle – to call for help
  • Dust masks – to filter contaminated air
  • Sanitation supplies – heavy-duty garbage bags with ties, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, sanitary wipes, baking soda/kitty litter to absorb odors, disposable gloves
  • Tools – wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, basic tool kit, duct tape
  • Important documents and cash – keep these in a waterproof container
  • Maps of your island
  • Medical supplies – first aid kit, prescription medications, glasses/contact lenses, medical devices
  • Pet supplies – food, water, medications
  • Hygiene supplies – feminine products, personal hygiene items, diapers, incontinence supplies
  • Photos – of you and your ‘ohana to help locate each other if separated


Assembly tips:

  • Before buying new things for your kit, check what you already have at home.
  • Buy a few items at a time every time you go shopping, and buy extra when supplies are on sale.
  • Keep long-lived foods like peanut butter and canned meats and beans on hand.
  • Since bottled water can be expensive and unsustainable, you can try bottling your own tap water instead. Here’s how the Board of Water Supply recommends doing so: How to Store Drinking Water for an Emergency
  • If you can’t get all the recommended items in the list above, prioritize necessities like food, water and medications.


In addition to buying supplies, print copies of important documents and phone numbers and store them in waterproof sleeves. Go through an evacuation and shelter plan with your family. Here is an emergency plan template you can fill out to prepare for a hurricane.



How do hurricanes affect homes?

Hurricanes are tropical cyclones with winds that have reached a constant speed of 74 miles per hour or more. Their effects can be life-threatening and do tremendous property damage.

  • Hurricane-force winds can destroy homes that have not been built or retrofitted to withstand them.
  • Storm surge can cause flood damage to homes near shorelines and is the leading cause of hurricane-related fatalities.
  • Heavy hurricane rains can also lead to extensive flooding.


All these effects rolled into one storm can decimate homes, especially those on the coast. Many older homes in Hawai‘i also lack the structural reinforcements to defend against hurricane impacts. If your home was built before 1995 and hasn’t been retrofitted with hurricane protection, consider investing in an upgrade.


SEE ALSO: 5 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for a Busy Hurricane Season in Hawai‘i


How can you financially prepare for a hurricane?

Hurricane damage can not only devastate your property but also your finances. Standard homeowners and renters insurance typically don’t cover hurricane damage, so a specialized policy is highly recommended. Keep in mind that hurricane insurance and flood insurance are separate and cover different types of damage; hurricane policies usually cover wind damage. Here is a guide to the different types of policies and their coverage: My Insurance Doesn’t Cover What?


SEE ALSO: Maui Fires and Climate Change: Will They Raise Insurance Rates in Hawai‘i?


What should you do if a hurricane hits the island?

Before the Storm

  • Monitor local radio and TV stations for emergency information and important updates.
  • Board up your windows—and not just with tape. The least expensive option is 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.
  • Take photos and videos of the inside and outside of your home and property to keep a record of your belongings. Save multiple copies, preferably in a cloud storage so you can access them from any device later on.
  • Charge your mobile phones and external batteries.


During the Storm

  • Stay indoors away from windows, skylights and glass doors in case they shatter.
  • Close all interior doors and take refuge in a small interior room, like a closet or hallway, on the lowest level of your home.
  • If you see a round, calm area open in the storm, that is the eye of the hurricane. Do not go outside thinking the storm has passed; the full force of the hurricane will resume.


After the Storm

  • Look out for hazards outside like downed power lines, broken gas lines, contaminated water, weakened structures, broken glass, etc. If there is a lot of debris on the road, reconsider driving.
  • Take photos to document your losses.
  • When it’s safe to return to your home and you have photographed the damages, begin cleaning immediately to avoid further hazards like mold growth.



How can you explain hurricane safety to your keiki?

  • Describe hurricanes in simple terms: You might say, “A hurricane is a powerful big storm with lots of wind, large waves, and rain.”
  • Make it engaging: Turn the learning process into a game or interactive activity. Children learn best when they can participate. Here’s a printable Hurricane Safety Coloring & Activity Book.
  • Be reassuring: Let your kids know that hurricanes don’t happen often and you’re taking steps to keep them safe.
  • Create a family emergency plan: Involve your keiki when coming up with a family emergency plan so they’re in the know. Together, identify a safe room in the house to shelter in if a hurricane hits. Also, decide on a meeting place and how to contact each other if you’re separated during an evacuation.
  • Pack an emergency kit: Have your keiki help pack their own simple emergency kit with essential items like water, nonperishable snacks, a flashlight, batteries, a first aid kit and a favorite toy or book to comfort them.



How can you prepare to keep your pets safe in a hurricane?

As part of your family, your pets need to be included in your disaster plan. Write a list of contact information for pet-friendly hotels, pet boarding facilities and your family and friends who might be able to take in your pets if you need to evacuate. Keep a pet emergency kit with pet food, water, medication, leashes, carriers/cages and vaccination records. See the Evacuation Planning for Pet Owners guide for more details on kit necessities.