Hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and doesn’t end until November 30. The people and places most susceptible to hurricanes in the United States are those who live along the East Coast, including Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and other coastal cities in North Carolina.

According to statistical hurricane research for 1886 to 1996 from the State Climate Office of North Carolina, a tropical cyclone or hurricane generally makes landfall along the coastline about once every four years. The last two hurricanes to visit the coast of North Carolina were Hurricane Irene, in 2011, and Hurricane Arthur, in 2014. While the odds are good that we won’t be hit with another hurricane for the next year or so, living on the coast is always a gamble. That’s why Network Real Estate suggests you prepare now, while things are quiet. To make the process easier, we put together a checklist of five things you can do now to protect your family and home.

1. Check your insurance coverage.

Review your insurance policy regularly and make sure it reflects the current state of your home, including any updates or renovations from the previous year. If you live on the coast, make sure your insurance also covers wind damage; flooding; valuable personal property such as jewelry, cameras and fine art that might not be covered otherwise; and additional living expenses in case your home sustains significant damage during a storm. If you don’t own your home, you’re not off the hook. Your landlord’s insurance won’t cover your possessions, but getting your own renter’s insurance will.

2. Install hurricane shutters.

Hurricane shutters prevent windows from breaking during a storm. While broken glass might not seem like a big deal, it can actually cause air pressure to rise inside a building, creating a pressure difference that could make the roof fail. Hurricane shutters are usually made from steel or aluminum, and can be attached to your home with screws, clips or a track system. Some shutter systems are even motorized, and can fold away when not in use. If motorized shutters aren’t in your budget, you can also keep a few sets of ¾-inch outdoor plywood boards on hand for each window. Since you don’t want to rush to put these in place while a storm is bearing down, do as much work as you can beforehand by installing anchors and pre-drilling holes to streamline the process.

3. Hire a landscaper.

When it comes to hurricanes, wind damage is often the biggest threat. Wind can knock down trees, send large trunks crashing into your home or rip down power lines, leaving you without electricity for days or even weeks. To avoid these unpleasant experiences, make an appointment with your landscaper ASAP. A professional can evaluate your trees and large shrubs, let you know if any are at risk, and make recommendations for branch trimming and tree removal.

4. Learn how to shut off your utilities.

Many people assume that once the hurricane has passed, the danger is over. This is not necessarily true. A hurricane can damage your utilities, and knowing how to safely shut them off can help prevent further catastrophe. Each member of you household should know how to shut off your home's natural gas (to prevent gas leaks and explosions), water (to avoid contamination from cracked lines), and electricity (to stop electrical sparks that could start a fire). And if you do have to shut off any of these utilities, remember to call in a professional to turn them back on again.

5. Sign up for hurricane alerts.

The best way to prepare for a potential disaster is to know in advance when it may be coming. You can do this by signing up for hurricane alerts. The National Weather Service has a list of providers and services that it trusts and recommends to the public. Subscribing to one of these websites will allow you to receive hurricane warnings and alerts by email or text message, so you will always be the first to know if and when danger is on the way and have time to prepare.

There are many benefits to owning a home on the coast, including beautiful views, a laid-back environment, and opportunities for fun, outdoor activities. That doesn’t mean that life on the coast is perfect, or that we should ignore the risks. By preparing for hurricanes, storms and floods, you can protect yourself and your homes against natural disasters and enjoy life by the beach with the knowledge that you’re ready for anything.