“Active or extremely active.” That’s the projected outlook for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A typical hurricane season features 12 named storms, including about six hurricanes. This year, NOAA projects 13 to 20 named storms and 7 to 11 hurricanes, several with the potential of being Category 3 or higher.

There is a lot you can do to prepare for a storm, including protecting important documents, making sure you have adequate coverage in your homeowners or renters insurance, purchasing battery-operated radios, knowing food safety rules, and having a family emergency “go” kit.

At times, hurricane preparation to-do lists can seem overwhelming, especially for families juggling work and school schedules. My office has narrowed down seven essential things you need to know to help prepare for a hurricane.

Stock up on gallons of water. Having water on hand is a priority. The NOAA recommends at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day, for about three to seven days. This water would be used for drinking, cooking, and sanitary purposes in case your community loses access to clean water. Ready.gov also recommends filling a bathtub full of water prior to the storm. However, remember to keep small children away from any tubs of water. Listen to local warnings to determine whether tap water is safe to drink after a storm.

Fill up on gas. Any vehicles that you rely on for transportation should have a full tank of gas. Likewise, replenish your propane gas so you can use an outdoor grill to cook in the case of extended power outages. Just remember to firmly secure propane tanks to minimize damage during the storm, and keep grills outside when cooking after the storm.

Charge cell phones and laptops. Keep cell phones, laptops, and tablets fully charged leading up to the storm. During the storm, avoid using the phone except for serious emergencies and consider staggering usage between family phones in order to save battery power. Keeping phones charged is key, as many weather stations, localities, and power companies now provide critical updates through sites like Twitter. Consider adding the following Twitter handles for updates on storms and resources:

















Hook up a landline. Many families and young people today opt to use cell phones as a home phone instead of a landline. Consider hooking up a low-cost landline for emergency purposes, or make sure family and friends know how to reach you in case cell towers are down.

Stock up on medications. Check your essential medications to make sure you have enough supply to last you for several days following the storm in case you are unable to make it to the pharmacy. The Department of Health and Human Services also recommends keeping a copy of your current prescription on hand.

Have flashlights ready. While candles can be used in power outages, NOAA recommends flashlights to help prevent fire hazards. Keep flashlights in an easily accessible and central location and check to make sure they have batteries before the storm hits. Don’t forget to buy extra batteries to keep on hand.

Keep cash on hand. In the case of power outages, many ATM and credit card machines will not work. Some banks may be closed due to damage or power loss. The Virginia Department of Emergency management recommends having some extra cash on hand to make essential purchases after the storm. Having at least $50 to $100 on hand is suggested.

While these basic hurricane preparation tips will help you weather the storm, there are additional ways you can prepare. For an extended list of resources and other practical steps you can take to ensure your safety, visit my website at http://forbes.house.gov/constituentservices/hurricane-resources.htm