Libby McMillan Henson
prepping apartment for hurricane

Hurricanes are stressful situations. It’s important to take control early, securing everything you can, and making sure you have what you need to prepare for the impending storm. Coastal residents are at higher risk, but in Florida, even inland structures can incur damage if a powerful storm crosses the state.

First Things First

Pay attention to any communication from your apartment management. They will tell you what to expect from them, and what is left to you. In the meantime, start securing any belongings you have outside your unit. All patio furniture should be brought inside, as should potted plants, yard décor, hanging items or anything else that can become a missile in heavy winds. If you have storm windows, be sure they are closed.

Understanding Mandatory Evacuations

If you live in the path of a hurricane, pay attention to Mandatory Evacuations. This is an important phrase: when enacted by government officials, it doesn’t mean that you are legally obligated to leave . . . but it DOES mean that if you stay, you have no right to expect emergency services should you need them.

The fact that a Mandatory Evacuation has been called means that officials anticipate situations which could result in medical emergencies: things like downed trees, impassable roads, structural damage, a lack of power, a lack of water. Ignoring the evacuation and staying would mean you’ll be on your own, no matter what happens.

RELATED: Emergency numbers to have

Understanding Sea Level Pressure

If your apartment is ground level and near a coast, you’ll want to pay attention to the forecast for storm surge. The low sea level pressure associated with hurricanes (example: 925 MB vs. the average of 1013 MB) is what allows water to rise. Wind-driven wave action is then on top of the rising water level caused by low pressure. When combined, these two factors can mean water inside your apartment, even if you’re not right on the coast. (Hurricane Katrina floodwaters went far inland).

Prepping your Apartment for Staying

If you stay during a storm, you must be prepared for the worst-case scenario: no electric power, no ability to travel, no ability to buy food or water, and no cable or internet. Here’s a list of items to procure: a portable radio, flashlights, batteries, lots of drinking water, lots of dried and canned food (beef jerky is a good staple), a fully-charged mobile phone power source (or two), candles, matches, a first aid kit, mosquito repellant, recently filled prescriptions, pet food and prescriptions (if you have a pet).

Battery-operated fans are also a good idea for southern climes if it’s August or Sept. and you might be happy to have a tub full of water. Make sure your bicycle is in good working order, so you don’t have to rely on gas, which can be scarce, or public transportation, which could be out of service.  Have some good books, magazines, puzzles or games on hand in case you go a few days without power.

If your apartment complex allows grilling, or has a grilling station, you might be able to grill some frozen foods if you have charcoal or propane.

Hot Tip: Be aware that if you lose power, you cannot leave your frozen food in the freezer or the eventual stench will ruin the refrigerator.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to make a list of documents and keepsakes you’d want to take with you, should the weather make you change your mind about staying. This list would include licenses, titles, passport, insurance policies, deeds, wills, letters and photographs, jewelry and smaller irreplaceable items like art.
It’s a good idea to have a large rubber tub which could hold these items if you decide to evacuate.

Prepping to Leave Your Apartment

This list is much the same, only you’re going to take your important items with you. So you definitely need a large rubber or plastic tub to hold your paperwork and photos. If you live near the coast, consider moving artwork, small antiques and other things you love to high points within the apartment.

If you’re leaving behind a pet cat (many people do, in a projected Category 1 or 2 storm), fill several large vessels with water. Open the toilet lids and put out at least a week’s worth of dry food. If you’re near the coast, put more food and water up on the kitchen counter, and leave a clean litterbox. You could also fill the bathtub with water. If you're leaving WITH a pet, be sure to have anything you could need, from leashes to medications and carriers.  Your veterinarian can advise you on whether or not a tranquilizer is an option for travel.

Fill your car with gas as early as possible; it can become difficult to obtain during mass evacuations. Make plans for where you’re going several days in advance. Hotels and other accommodations can fill up fast.  If you’re leaving your car in the parking lot, don’t park it beneath any large trees or coconut trees.

RELATED: 6 reasons to splurge on a garage

Hot Tip: It’s a good idea to eat your frozen meat, or consider giving it away, if you plan to evacuate. Leaving it inside a freezer which loses power could result in having to replace the entire refrigerator, due to the smell.


If the forecast is grim for your town, let your apartment management know you are leaving. (This may already be on their early instructions). Check in with close friends and find out who’s going (and where) or staying. Consider leaving a key to your place with a trusted friend if you think you'll want an update on its condition beyond a visual inspection from outside. Don’t advertise the fact you’re evacuating to neighbors you don’t know. Lastly, remember to let friends and family know you’re traveling to a safer place.

At ApartmentGuide, we wish you the best of luck if a hurricane is coming your way. Make good decisions and stay safe!





About The Author

A contributing editor and video producer at ApartmentGuide and, Libby McMillan Henson has created award-winning content for radio, tv, print and digital for over two decades. Libby recently authored a book about her home base of Greenville, SC, and has also lived in Austin, San Francisco, Nashville, Boston and Sanibel/Captiva Islands. A lifelong traveler and photographer, Libby loves exploring new places and sharing her finds.