It's National Hurricane Preparedness Week and the American Red Cross is reminding Connecticut residents that hurricanes and tropical storms can impact our communities. Residents should get prepared now. Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a near-normal year for hurricanes with nine to 15 storms in the Atlantic Ocean. Of these storms, four to eight could strengthen to a hurricane with winds of 74 mph or higher, with as many as three becoming major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher.

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"Getting ready now can reduce the impact of hurricanes," said American Red Cross spokesman Paul Shipman. "Any one of these storms could pose a serious threat to people. Getting prepared ahead of time is the best way to be ready for any emergency or weather disaster."

Following are steps the Red Cross offers to prepare for hurricane season:

Build an emergency kit with a gallon of water per person, per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, copies of important papers, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information. Many of these items are available through the Red Cross Store.

Talk with household members and create an evacuation plan. Planning and practicing evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.

Be informed. Learn about the community's hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs as required and make plans for pets to be cared for.

Because standard homeowners' insurance doesn't cover flooding, it's important to have protection from the floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains and other conditions that impact the U.S. For more information on flood insurance, visit the National Flood Insurance Program website at www.FloodSmart.gov.

The Red Cross Ready Rating program helps businesses, schools and other organizations prepare for emergencies that can disrupt daily operations. Ready Rating offers specific steps that organizations can take to be better prepared. It includes a planning tool to help their employees or members know what their roles are in the early hours of an emergency, what their next steps are, and a resource center with tools that help businesses, employees and students develop and practice preparedness plans.

More information about this valuable program and the new components can be found at readyrating.org.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and donations to perform its mission. For more information, visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.