TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Whether you’re a hurricane-hardened native or a first-time Florida resident, you’ve likely heard the basics for hurricane preparation.

Now, WFLA’s Tracking the Tropics team is taking it one step further to bring you a list of our go-to hurricane hacks to make each season just a little easier.

Do I stay or do I go?

Before we dive into our top hacks, it’s important to note that hurricanes are not isolated to coastal communities. Rain, wind, and water can damage homes far inland, and storm surges can devastate even the most unsuspecting residents — that’s why it’s important to know your zone.

The rule is run from water, shelter from wind — that means evacuate with the threat of flooding. Remember, storm surge is the most damaging and deadly element of hurricanes.

If you do live in an area that needs to be evacuated, keep in mind you do not have to leave town. You can stay with family or friends who do not live in an evacuation zone.

Before you go…

Now for those handy hacks — The day before you plan to leave, fill a small cup with water and place it in your freezer. Just before you head out, put a coin on top of the ice and leave it in the freezer.

If you come home and the coin is still on top of the ice, you’ll know your freezer never lost power and your food is still safe to eat. If you return and the coin is submerged in water or refrozen under the ice – you’ll need to throw your food out because you lost power long enough for your freezer to thaw.

Heading to a shelter? Pack a sleeping mask and earplugs.

“Somebody is going to snore,” WFLA Meteorologist Rebecca Barry joked.

I’m staying. Now what?

So you’ve decided to stay and you’ve already got the basics: Flashlights, batteries, food supply, etc. What other things do you need?

Water! Before you scurry to the store in hopes of grabbing that last bottle of water off the shelf, think again. You DO NOT have to drink exclusively bottled water when you lose power.

Instead, save time and money by filling jugs and bottles with tap water before a storm for drinking.

What about your pets?

“This is a great hack,” WFLA Amanda Holly said.

Buy a kiddie pool, preferably before a storm, and sprinkle a layer of rocks or gravel on the bottom. Next layer on some sod to emulate a more comfortable area for your pets. Kitty litter works too!

“This is my number one hack to keep the dog a little happier when it’s miserable,” Barry said.

Want more hacks? Watch the video in the player above and tune in Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. CT for the latest from our Tracking the Tropics team.

Be prepared with the WFLA Hurricane-Ready Guide 2023 and stay ahead of tropical development with the Tracking the Tropics newsletter.