VOLUME 7RIn the Event of an Emergency
How to Prepare for a Weather Crisis in Texas or Florida
By Anna Quinn
Though it’s been several years, Texans can likely still remember where they were when Hurricane Harvey devastated the state. Prompting the largest disaster response in Texas history, the storm flooded 80,000 homes and left them with 18 inches to 5 feet of floodwater. Then, 300,000 were left without power.

And Floridians definitely won’t forget the damage caused by Hurricane Ian. One of the most powerful storms to ever hit the United States, the 2022 hurricane left 2.6 million without power and caused $12.6 billion in damages, according to USA Today.

These hurricanes were important reminders about the need to stay prepared for any type of emergency. Here’s how renters can try to keep themselves and their homes safe.

Build an Emergency Kit
Keeping an emergency kit handy can be life-saving if tenants are stuck without water, power or food for several days.

Here are some essentials listed on Ready.gov:
  • Battery-free flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio that has National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for severe weather alerts
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Duct tape
  • Dust respirator mask
  • Extra batteries (if a battery-operated flashlight or radio are only options)
  • First aid kit
  • Food (nonperishable, a week’s worth at minimum)
  • Garbage bags
  • Local maps (preferably laminated to avoid moisture damage)
  • Moist towelettes
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Plastic ties
  • Water bottles (a week’s worth at minimum)
  • Whistle
  • Wrench or pliers

These items should be put in airtight bags and stored in easy-to-carry containers such as a duffel bag or plastic bins. Additional items like prescription medications, pet food or important documents may also be necessary.

Evacuating? Secure the Home First
Securing the home before evacuating for an impending storm can minimize damage and, in some cases, help to make sure insurance will pay to replace or repair personal belongings.

Any loose items in outdoor areas such as patio furniture, bikes or plants should be taken inside. Tenants should also unplug all appliances, including freezers and refrigerators, when there is a risk of flooding. Consider moving smaller appliances several feet off the ground. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also recommends elevating furniture if time allows.

After these items are securely inside, Consumer Reports recommends walking around the rental with a smartphone or camera to photograph all belongings and housing conditions. This will help tenants provide proof to insurance companies of items damaged in the storm.

To minimize damage while they're gone, tenants should make sure to close and lock doors and windows that could otherwise blow off during high winds. Interior doors should also be closed to minimize the chance that the structure will collapse if storm winds get inside. Stacking sandbags in front of doors and using plywood to seal up windows can help brace them as well. If they have the ability and can do so safely, tenants should shut off electricity and main water valves before leaving.

Texas state and Florida state provide evacuation checklists for even more details.

Know the Emergency NumbersEspecially in the rush of an emergency, it can be critical not to go searching for important phone numbers. Keeping an “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) list in an obvious place, such as a landline phone or the refrigerator, can help keep things organized.

For families, a printable “communications plan” provided by FEMA is a good place to start. This will include work and school information, medical contacts, insurance information, and contact numbers for each member of the family.

Emergency phone numbers such as disease and poison control, travel hotlines, state and federal warning numbers, and weather services should also be added to the list.

Texas and Florida both have additional lists of helpful local and state numbers.

Even if the weather seems OK all year, make sure to test all supplies at least once a month and restock (or replace expired food) as needed. Although in-state landlords may be in the same risky weather predicament in their own homes, it is wise to keep in touch with them too once the weather settles down again and any property damage is visible. Whether gathering emergency contacts, putting together supplies or securing the home, taking these steps can help tenants protect against Texas weather damage.