Hurricane season officially began on June 1, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s initial outlook for 2019, we can expect up to 15 named storms and eight hurricanes with as many as four reaching Category 3 or higher through the end of the season on Nov. 30. The Better Business Bureau urges consumers to pay attention to weather alerts, take necessary safety precautions and plan ahead to avoid potential scams in the wake of storms.

It only takes one hurricane or tropical storm to cause a disaster. That’s why it’s important for all of us to be weather-ready so that you may act quickly if and when bad weather comes our way.

The BBB recommends taking the following safety precautions to protect your home and other property should a hurricane strike:

Keep all gutters and downspouts clear of debris.

Know where your home’s water, gas and electric cutoffs are located. You might need to turn these off in a hurry if a water pipe breaks in the storm, you smell gas or if walls are torn open and wiring is exposed.

Create and maintain an inventory of your personal possessions. Use a camera to take pictures or video of both the interior and exterior of your home as well as your property, including items stored on your property such as vehicles or lawn/farm equipment.

Make sure you have adequate insurance from a trustworthy agent/agency. Keep all of your insurance policies organized and in an easily accessible spot. Discuss with your insurance agent what liabilities you might have, if any, should any of your personal items or trees cause damage to neighboring homes or properties during a storm. Go to bbb.org to find an agent or broker you can trust.

Create an emergency kit. Your emergency kit should include the following:

n Enough food and pet food to last at least three days.

n One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.

n First aid kit/medication.

n Flashlight with extra batteries.

n Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities if necessary.

n Cellphone with battery-operated charger and extra batteries.

n Portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries.

n Non-electric can opener.

n Cash and credit cards.

nImportant phone numbers.

n Shoes and appropriate clothing.

n Blankets, bedding or sleeping bags.

n Baby wipes or waterless antibacterial cleansers.

Create an evacuation plan. Make sure your family knows the location of emergency shelters and designate a friend/family “point of contact” in case you become separated.

Secure the garage. Garage doors often are blown in or sucked out during hurricanes. Many garage-door makers sell reinforcement kits.

In case of severe weather:

n Pay attention to evacuation notices as well as flash flood alerts in your area.

n Stay indoors at all times with all doors and windows closed.

n In case of high winds, go to an interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet, hallway or bathroom. Stay away from exterior walls, glass-enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses.

n Wrap yourself in blankets and wear bike helmets to shield yourself from flying debris. Crate your pets in an interior room.

n Do not try to walk through flowing water that is more than ankle deep, and do not let children play around streams, storm drains or other flooded areas.

n Do not drive through flooded areas.

n Remember to do your homework before choosing a company to perform any post-storm repairs.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.

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