▶ Watch Video: Hurricane Hilary intensifies as it heads toward Southern California

Hurricane season is here — and with weather conditions becoming more extreme, it’s important to be prepared. While the Atlantic hurricane season typically peaks in September, keeping the Southeast and Gulf Coast on edge, the first major threat of this season is targeting Southern California, where Hurricane Hilary is forecast to dump heavy rain after hitting Mexico.

While different levels of preparedness are needed depending on your location, there are things you can do before you’re impacted by a storm in order to stay safe.

“You want to know what you’re going to do well before the season starts, because it’s going to be hard to get everything in place if you’re threatened by a storm or a storm forms and you don’t have a week to prepare,” says John Moore, a meteorologist and spokesperson for the National Weather Service.

Does this advice apply to you? It’s possible — even if you don’t live on the coast. Hurricane threats can exist for everyone, Moore says, but it’s important to know the level of risk for your area.

“If you live along the coastline anywhere in the United States, you’re at threat of being impacted by tropical storms during hurricane season, so those areas should definitely prepare,” he says. “Also, areas far inland… maybe you live a few 100 miles inland, and you’re not directly impacted, but those streets can definitely be impacted.”

For example, if you live in a flood-prone area or in an area that’s more susceptible to wind damage, you’ll want to take extra precautions. 

Here are some steps you can take to prepare.

Develop a hurricane and communication plan

Moore says it’s important to be prepared with a plan for how you’ll navigate hurricane season. 

“Creating a communication plan (is) something you can do well before you’re impacted by storm,” he says. “And by that I mean, who are you going to contact if you have to evacuate? Who are you going to pass information along to? Is all your family going to contact the same way if you guys get split up during evacuation?”

And while your hurricane plan may change based on evacuation orders, Moore suggests having a plan in place, including options for where you can travel to. Make sure you have some travel funds set aside. And don’t forget about a plan for your pets, too. 

Stock up on disaster supplies

Whether you’re evacuating or sheltering in place, being prepared with necessary items is a must, Moore says. He suggests items you should have on hand include: 

  • Non-perishable foods
  • Water
  • Medications
  • Batteries
  • Chargers
  • A radio
  • Flashlights
  • Cash

“Have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of 3 days,” advises the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, adding that more than a 3-day supply of water is a good idea, if possible.

“Electricity and water could be out for weeks. You may need a portable crank or solar-powered USB charger for your cell phones.”

This checklist on Ready.gov, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, can help you make sure you have everything you need. In addition to the items listed above, it also recommends:

  • A first aid kit
  • A whistle (to signal for help)
  • A dust mask
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • A manual can opener
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • A wrench or pliers

If you have a pet, make sure you’ve got enough food, water and any necessary medicine for them too, along with a pet carrier and items like a leash or litter box.

Prepare your home

“You don’t want to wait until right before a storm makes landfall to strengthen your home,” Moore says. Consider steps like reinforcing gutters and trimming or cutting down trees that may fall during high winds. 

“It’s going to be really hard to do (these things) if you’re threatened by a storm in a few days. So you want to get those accomplished pretty early.”

NOAA also suggests installing storm shutters, accordion shutters or impact glass as well as sealing outside wall openings. 

“Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand hurricane-force winds. Many retrofits are not as costly or time consuming as you may think,” NOAA’s website advises. 

It adds, “If you’re a renter, work with your landlord now to prepare for a storm.”

Stock up on plywood, steel or aluminum panels ahead of time in order to make sure you have them on hand for windows and doors. 

And if you’re planning on using a generator for the first time, or if you haven’t used one in a while, make sure you’re doing so safely and test that it works ahead of time. 

“We see a lot of deaths after storms from people using generators improperly,” Moore says. “A lot of people die from carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Check in with your insurance

Call your insurance to make sure your house is adequately covered for potential damage. This is something you can do well before hurricane season starts, and especially before a storm forms, Moore says. 

Note that homeowner’s and renter’s insurance often doesn’t cover flooding. You may need a separate flood insurance policy.

Moors also advises making sure you have important documents handy but safely stored in case you need them after a storm.

“Take the time before hurricane season begins to document your possessions: photos, serial numbers, or anything else that you may need to provide your insurance company when filing a claim,” NOAA says.

Stay informed on weather updates

Have multiple ways to receive weather information and the latest watches and warnings as we progress through the hurricane season, Moore says. 

And with misinformation floating around the internet, he urges people to make sure they rely on “trusted sources of information such as your local media outlets, the National Weather Service’s social media pages and National Weather Services products.”