Nationwide Catastrophe Response Unit

Hurricanes are among the most powerful severe weather events found in nature. These fearsome storm systems can pack a punch, with the strongest producing wind speeds of 150-170 mph or higher. When they hit land, they can cause catastrophic destruction.1 This is why it’s never too early to think about hurricane preparedness and how you can protect your family, home, property, and business. Here are some essential hurricane safety tips to help you prepare.

Understanding hurricane watch vs. warning

There’s a big difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning, and understanding it is crucial.

What is a hurricane watch?

If you live in the southeastern coastal regions of the United States, chances are you see at least one hurricane watch every year. A hurricane watch does not necessarily mean a storm is coming. When current conditions indicate that a hurricane could happen, that’s when a watch is issued. This happens 48 hours in advance of the possible storm’s arrival. In the event of a hurricane watch, review your evacuation plan and prepare your home so that it’s ready if a storm system does roll through. Pay close attention to local officials for updates on the weather conditions.2

What is a hurricane warning?

On the other hand, hurricane warnings mean that a hurricane is expected to arrive. These warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of the impending storm.2 In the event of a hurricane warning, immediately complete storm preparations and evacuate the area if directed to do so by officials.2

Hurricane safety tips

Before a hurricane

If conditions are right for a hurricane in your area, this is how you can prepare:

  • Stay tuned to local radio, official news and/or community websites, and TV for warnings, safety announcements or instructions.
  • Have a bag ready and plan your evacuation route so you’re prepared if leaving the area becomes necessary.
  • Stock up on emergency supplies but be aware others will need supplies, too.
  • Reinforce the outside of your home, particularly doors, windows, walls and roofs.
  • Move anything inside that could become flying debris in high winds, but only if there’s enough time and it’s safe to do so.
  • Anchor outdoor items that are unsafe to bring inside, such as fuel tanks.
  • If emergency officials haven’t directed you to a public shelter, get your family to the basement, a closet, a small room or a hallway away from windows. The more walls between you and the outside, the better.
  • Review insurance policies and catalog your belongings, if there is time.3

During the hurricane

The decisions you make during the storm are crucial. Here are some actions you can take:

  • Follow any guidance from local officials. If you’re told to evacuate, follow the plan you made and do so. Make sure you bring essentials like the bag you prepared before the storm.
  • Stay away from windows. Keep yourself to the lowest, most interior section of your home as possible.
  • In the event of flooding, move to higher ground.
  • Never attempt to walk or drive through floodwaters.3

After a hurricane has passed

If you and your family were evacuated from your home – or if it has been severely damaged from the hurricane – wait for authorities to give the all-clear to re-enter. Then:

  • Look for flooding in the wake of a hurricane and avoid it. Never attempt to enter floodwater.
  • Be on the lookout for downed power lines, trees and poles. Some may still be upright but could still be highly unstable.
  • Do not enter your home until it has been inspected for damage to the electrical system, gas lines, septic systems, and water lines or wells.
  • If dark, use a flashlight – not matches, a candle or a lighter. An open flame could ignite leaking gas.
  • Avoid drinking any tap water until you get confirmation it’s safe from local officials.
  • If there is water damage, consider hiring a professional water damage cleaning service.
  • Begin your cleanup as soon as possible – washing and disinfecting items that have been touched by floodwater or disposing of items that cannot be saved. Protect yourself with gloves and sturdy, thick-soled shoes. Do not attempt to remove any heavy debris by yourself.
  • Once you’ve gathered necessary documents and evidence of your claim (photos or video), contact your insurance company or agent.3

Does home and renters insurance cover hurricane damage?

There is no single policy designed to cover hurricane damages, so how can you protect your home from them? Your homeowners or renters policy may cover some damages from wind, however, flooding is not typically covered. For maximum protection, you’ll want to purchase flood insurance and windstorm insurance. These are two separate policies, and together they should protect your home from any hurricane-related damages your standard home or renters policy will not.4

Even with the best preparation, you can still sustain damage from unexpected events like a hurricane. You can reach our claims center any time you need us. Get a quote from Nationwide today, and start protecting your home with the right homeowners insurance for you.

Arranging for repairs

  • If your property sustains storm damage, you will likely need a contractor and/or roofer to make repairs.
  • For repairs, select one from our On Your Side® Property Repair Network or you’re free to find your own contractor. Contact your claims associate for additional information.
  • Most contractors are honest, but some use fraudulent practices. Here are some tips to help avoid contractor fraud:
    • Watch for high pressure sales tactics: Be wary of a contractor that shows up unannounced or tries to rush you to make a “now-or-never” decision.
    • Use only licensed and insured contractors: Check with the Better Business Bureau ( and verify they are licensed in your area.
    • Don’t sign an incomplete contract: Never sign a contract with blank spaces or one that is otherwise incomplete.
    • Submit the claim yourself: Contractor’s shouldn’t submit insurance claims on your behalf.
    • Only pay after the work is finished: Never pay or sign completion agreements until all the work has been completed.
  • If you suspect contractor fraud, contact local law enforcement, call the National Insurance Crime Bureau at 1-800-TEL-NICB, or call the FEMA disaster fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721.

[1], accessed April 2022
[2], accessed April 2022
[3], accessed April 2022
[4], accessed April 2022

Need to file a claim? Visit our claims center or call 1-800-421-3535.

Nationwide offers this information to help you make decisions that may help you mitigate your risk. Of course, we can't address every possible risk or guarantee these tips will work for you. However, we hope that you will consider which of these may help you in your efforts to protect your family and yourself.