Having lived in Florida for the past 25 years, I’ve experienced way too many Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes to count, including: Hurricanes Mitch (1998), Ivan and Charley (2004), Wilma (2005), Irma (2017) and Ian (2022). And that’s not counting the “smaller” hurricanes and tropical storms that wreak havoc upon in between the “big ones.”

Hurricanes are unpredictable. You never know when one will change its course at the last minute and come right at you just when you’re breathing a sigh of relief. Take for example, Hurricane Michael, which took a last-minute turn from Southwest Florida heading north to literally flatten Mexico Beach and parts of Panama City in 2018.

It’s not a matter of if, but when disaster will hit. Sadly, hurricanes aren’t our worst enemy; it’s our complacency and disregard for the inevitable that will probably harm us the most. In other words, if you’re not smart, not realistic and not prepared, you’ll have no one but yourself to blame if you’re not organized when disaster hits.

The 2024 Ultimate Hurricane Checklist is the only hurricane checklist you’ll ever need. Yes, it’s long, and yes, there are some items that might seem a bit eccentric, such as dry shampoo, but trust me, if you were here and experienced the physical devastation and mental distress brought on our beautiful community by the ravages of Hurricane Irma in September of 2017 and Hurricane Ian in September of 2022, you know first-hand that you can never be too organized or too prepared.

The 2024 Ultimate Hurricane Checklist was created to help you get organized and prepare – as far in advance as possible – for a hurricane.

When it comes to hurricanes, my advice is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And when I say, “prepare,” I mean prepare as though your life depends upon it.

Think about it, if you had to give yourself a grade – pass or fail – how would you rate your hurricane preparedness when Hurricane Ian hit on Wednesday, September 28, 2022?

Snowbirds: be sure to prepare your homes before you leave to go back up north. You never know when disaster will hit!SNOWBIRDS: ORGANIZE YOUR HOME BEFORE YOU LEAVE


  • A “frill-free” landline phone & basic phone contract (more on this later)
  • BATTERIES! Save time and aggravation by keeping track of what size batteries you need. Narrow your battery needs down to no more than two (three max) sizes
  • Do NOT buy rechargeable batteries, which can’t be charged if the power goes out
  • Manual can opener
  • Wine key & bottle opener
  • Heavy-duty screwdriver with double-sided bits
  • Portable gas or charcoal grill w/plentyof propane or charcoal
  • Paper plates, plastic drinking cups, paper napkins & heavy-duty plastic utensils
  • Ice trays
  • Two boxes pre-cut aluminum foil sheets
  • Two boxes each,quart & gallon-sized Ziploc bags
  • LED lanterns (Amazon.com)
  • One or more large battery-operated fans (Amazon.com)
  • Several hand-held fans
  • Plastic tarps
  • A emergency drinking water storage system (WaterBOB.com)
  • Several gallon-size milk jugs to fill with water BEFORE the storm
  • One watertight file box for important files
  • A large, watertight container for garbage
  • A well-stocked first aid kit (replenish annually)
  • Bug repellent, insect bite ointment & sunscreen
  • Solar-powered walkway lights (charge during the day/bring inside at night)
  • Flashlights! (Look for flashlights that take AA batteries)
  • A small LED pocket penlight to hook to the inside of your shirt
  • Headlamps for reading & navigating property after the storm
  • Matches and multi-purpose lighters
  • Knee-high rubber boots in case of flooding
  • Several pairs of heavy-duty work gloves for cleanup
  • Facemasks & rubber gloves for cleanup
  • One or more large coolers with wheels and plenty of freezer packs
  • Automobile jumper cables
  • One or more high-capacity portable mobile phone chargers w/appropriate cords
  • One or more solar-powered mobile phone chargers w/appropriate cords
  • One automobile mobile phone adaptor plug and cord
  • Silicone pot cover to put over tub drain to prevent leakage
  • One can of unscented dry shampoo (you’ll be glad you did)
  • One or more 5-gallon spill-proof cans for gas (to be properly stored in garage)


  • Wi-Fi in your car. It’s worth the monthly fees in order to have access to the Internet!
  • Battery-operated transistor radio and/or TV
  • Generator & gas. Store and test twice a year in strict accordance to manufacturers operating manual.
  • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Gas-powered chainsaw (Use only with protective clothing, gloves, eye & ear protection)
  • NOAA weather radio


  • Make sure your insurance is up-to-date and understand exactly what your policy covers BEFORE hurricane season
  • Create an online account with your insurance company and keep a list of claims procedures, telephone numbers and policy numbers on hand
  • Prepare a detailed inventory of all personal property, including invoices for large purchases
  • Photograph all personal property and store to a flash drive or in the Cloud. Send a copy to an out-of-state friend or relative
  • Create a master list of accounts, contact names/numbers for all credit/debit cards, bank and mortgage accounts and insurance policies; also include contact information for lawyer, accountant, financial advisor, insurance agent, friends and family. Copy to a flash drive and wear around your neck for safekeeping.
  • Lubricate the locks and tracks of your shutters quarterly. Have broken shutters repaired in March or April
  • Set-aside plenty of CASH (small bills are best) in case of emergency
  • Stock-up on enough non-perishable food to last seven days
  • Stock-up on enough toilet paper & paper towels to last two weeks
  • Stock-up on propane cylinders & make sure they fit your grill
  • Stock-up on plenty of hand-sanitizer wipes & baby wipes for personal hygiene
  • Stock-up on disposable disinfecting wipes for easy cleaning
  • Stock-up on bottled WATER for humans & pets (1 gallon per person and pet, per day for a minimum of 14 days)
  • Buy disposable toothbrushes
  • If you live in a flood zone, purchase sand bags in advance. (Note: in lieu of sand bags, large bags of potting soil will suffice. After the storm, re-purpose bagged soil.)
  • Trim trees, palm fronds, coconuts and any loose branches
  • If you don’t have shutters and plan on using plywood to protect your home, have the plywood cut in advance and have a solid installation plan in place
  • Make sure to give a spare key to a friend for safe keeping


  • Keep two week’s worth of pet food, flea & tick/heartworm medicine and anti-anxiety pills in a watertight container
  • A copy of your pet’s currentvaccines and licenses
  • Secure animals in a portable/collapsible crate with their favorite toys and a long-lasting rawhide bone before, during and after the hurricane
  • Keep all pets on a harness AND leash AT ALL TIMES
  • All pets MUST be micro-chipped and have a current ID on their collars
  • Buy puppy “pee-pee” pads, just in case
  • Collapsible pet cages (essential in case you need to go to a shelter)


  • Put your shutters up! Do NOT wait until the day before the storm
  • Make a last-minute trip to the recycling center to drop off any unwanted hazardous materials. http://www.CollierCountyFL.gov
  • Remove fan blades from all exterior ceiling fans
  • Remove or tightly tie down exterior hanging light fixtures
  • Remove decorative knick knacks, pots, statutes and doormats, etc. from outside your home
  • Purchase boxed milk (Parmalat), as well as oranges, grapefruits and apples, which are nutritious and don’t need to be refrigerated
  • On your smartphone, turn Government Alerts “on”
  • Set aside blankets, pillows & inflatable mattresses
  • Set aside rain gear, including rubber boots and a rain jacket w/hood
  • Start making ice and filling as many Ziploc bags as possible. If the power goes out, these pre-packed bags of ice should keep everything cold in your freezer. Be sure to make enough to fill your coolers as well
  • Start emptying your freezer and refrigerator of any and all perishable items
  • Fill your cars’ gas tanks and top off all automobile liquids – – limit driving thereafter
  • Inspect your cars’ tires and make sure tire pressure is correct
  • Fill-up your 5-gallon spill-proof gas cans and store in garage or out-shed
  • Make sure you have plenty of propane, gas, batteries and other essentials on hand
  • If you decide to evacuate, do it now and don’t wait until it’s too late


  • Wash ALL dirty laundry, including sheets & towels
  • Completely clean your home
  • Change bed linens on all beds
  • Balance your bank statement(s) in advance to ensure you have sufficient funds
  • Pay credit card bills, utility bills and 1040 estimated taxes in advance
  • Be sure everyone in your family, from young children to aging parents, has detailed identification, including medical information, on them at all times
  • Keep a currentphoto of each and every family member and petin case of an emergency
  • Pack one suitcase per person and be ready to evacuate (I suggest preparing a packing list in advance, which will speed up the process when you’re under pressure)
  • Store all prescription medicines; spare contact lenses and eye glasses; checkbooks, passports & identification papers, insurance policies (hard copies), HUD statements, title insurance (home), car titles, medical records and pet licenses & vaccination records in a watertight container. Scan copies of the above items to a flash drive
  • Keep plenty of prescription medicine on hand. If you have any medicines, which need to be refrigerated, store them in a hard-sided, watertight insulated cooler with 1 or 2 ice packs
  • Keep plenty of old towels on hand in case of leaks (Note: layer 3 or 4 wet towels on top of your cooler for extra insulation)


  • Turn icemaker “off” & empty ice tray
  • Pre-cook ALL meat, fish and poultry
  • Crank-up the freezer & refrigerator settings to coldest setting
  • Crank-up the air conditioning to get your home as cold as possible.
  • Double-check to ensure all doors & windows are securely LOCKED
  • Pull all window blinds down to keep your home cool
  • Fill the bathtubs with water (cover drain w/silicone pot lid). THIS WATER IS NOT FOR DRINKING!
  • Fill several gallon jugs with water for toilet flushing purposes. Limit waste water use until given the “all-clear” by local utility company
  • Run the dishwasher and washer/dryer one last time
  • Charge all small electronic devices (laptops, mobile phones, tablets and external battery packs)
  • Back-up computer files to the Cloud or to an external hard-drive (store in watertight container)
  • Store computer/laptop in the dishwasher. This appliance, when closed and locked, is supposedto be watertight. (Note: I have heard some comments to the contrary.)
  • Fill several thermoses with coffee or buy cold-brewed coffee
  • Tell your out-of-town friends & family where you will be during the hurricane, as well as what your back-up plans are should you need to evacuate
  • Remind family and friends to limit calls and texts. Mobile phone battery life is a valuable commodity before, during and after a hurricane
  • Clear all voicemail messages, as well as all “deleted voicemails” from your mobile phone to ensure friends & family won’t get a “voicemail full” message when leaving a message
  • Put all hurricane supplies in one easily accessible location – off the floor


  • Pull your car into the garage as far as possible
  • Lock garage from the inside by closing safety latch & put lift on “manual”
  • Turn off hot water heater and corresponding circuits
  • Unplug all small appliances. (Toaster-ovens, coffee makers, hair dryers, televisions, computers and printers, et cetera.)
  • Put dry towels & bath mats on the floor surrounding all windows & doors
  • Close all interior doors tightly
  • Put all mobile devices on “low battery” mode
  • Leave your mobile devices ON at all times during the storm! After the storm, as long as there’s an Internet or cell connection, your family will be able the track your location
  • Everyone should pick a place in the home where he/she will remain for the duration of the storm
  • Have a “back-up” room where everyone goes in case the windows blow (ex: garage)
  • If you do move into the “back-up” room, take a headcount
  • Securely lock all exterior doors and put the key in close proximity to the door (possibly in a cooler for safe keeping). Make sure everyone knows where the key is located
  • Have a plan and discuss evacuation routes in advance. Make sure everyone understands
  • Be ready to evacuate immediately in case of flying debris
  • Wear long pants, sneakers and socks during the hurricane and afterward. (NO shorts and NO flip flops) Surviving a hurricane is not a fashion show!
  • Everyone should have a raincoat w/hood handy and keep a headlamp or flashlight in the pocket (besides shielding you from the rain, the hood and coat could protect you from flying chards of glass)
  • Keep passport, driver’s license/identification, cash and credit/debit/ATM cards together in a handbag or Ziploc bag and place next to your rain coat for quick retrieval should you need to evacuate
  • Turn the television “off” and keep off until power is stable
  • The moment you loose power, turn your air conditioner & corresponding circuits OFF. (Air handler first followed by condenser)


  • If you didn’t turn your AC off before the storm, it’s important you reset your HVAC system(s) by turning the air conditioner & corresponding circuits (air handler & condenser) OFF. After ten minutes, turn the circuits back on (one at a time) followed by the HVAC
  • Change AC air filters & return temperature settings back to normal
  • Run two cycle in both the clothes washer and dishwasher to ensure the water is clean
  • Return refrigerator/freezer settings back to normal
  • Run 2 or 3 full ice maker cycles before using the ice
  • Photograph and report any/all damage to your insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Replenish all supplies, including batteries, gas and propane, immediately after a storm
  • Remove batteries from all flashlights, radios & fans when not in use

Celebrate the end of hurricane season by donating all of the canned foods purchased for your emergency kit, as well as all of the unspoiled perishable items in your fridge, to your local soup kitchen; St. Matthews House in Naples, 239-774-0500,www.StMatthewsHouse.orgor Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers, 239-334-7007, www.HarryChapinFoodBank.org.


There’s something to be said for buying a “frill-free” phone and for maintaining a basic landline service (one that is not linked to your cable service). If, following a hurricane, your cable and/or electric power haven’t been restored; you shouldbe able to make calls using a landline phone.


If you plan on leaving town for longer than a week at any time during hurricane season, do the right thing and COMPLETELY empty your refrigerator and freezer before departing. If a hurricane is headed our way, don’t expect your friends, neighbors or home watch service to do this for you, as they will have plenty of other, more important tasks to take care of before and after the storm.


Contrary to popular belief, LED lanterns and flashlights are the best source of light before, during and after a natural disaster. Following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, nine of the 22 post-impact deaths were a direct result of smoke inhalation and/or burns caused by five house fires; the fires were attributed to the use of candles during power outages.