All gun owners should be practicing safe handling and storage principles when it comes to guns in the home, especially if children are present. But what I’m talking about are the additional measures that we need to consider when natural disasters strike.

When Hurricane Harvey caused massive flooding in Texas, it reminded me that natural disasters are a fact of life. Floods, wildfires, mudslides, tornadoes and, yes, hurricanes can all create conditions that can, or should, force us to increase our safety protocols.

I moved to Florida recently, and Hurricane Mathew in 2016 was my introduction to tropical storms. Then, last week, less than 12 months after Mathew, Hurricane Irma slammed into South Florida, forcing yet another evacuation. It reminded me of how important it is to have a solid plan to secure firearms when you are forced to abandon your home … especially if you have too many guns to take with you (as I do).

Looting often follows, with thefts of guns from homes, businesses and cars increasing. Unfortunately, a significant number of guns that end up being sold illegally on the street are stolen from vehicles, sometimes even police cruisers. And, in too many cases, gun owners did not take even modest steps like simply locking their cars.

No matter the reason you find yourself needing to leave a gun (or guns) in your vehicle, give some thought to how you secure them. The glove box and console are often the first places that veteran thieves look, and their locks are easily defeated; experienced thieves using pry bars or large screwdrivers can force them open in seconds. And looters tend to be even less “delicate” in breaking into vehicles.

If you drive a typical sedan or coupe, the trunk is preferable. By the way, always pull over and lock up your firearms before you get to your destination; you avoid having a potential thief notice you tucking “something” away.

Many SUVs and trucks do not have a trunk, although many pickups have locking tool boxes in the bed. Depending on your particular vehicle, a locking metal case attached via a cable lock to a seat frame may be the way to go. It may seem like a pain, but it is nothing compared to finding your vehicle broken into and your gun gone.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Being preoccupied and/or impatient is a sure way to lose focus and make mistakes. An astonishing number of people have left their handguns in public bathrooms. Most admitted that being “in a hurry” was the primary cause.

It’s also easy, after carrying for years, to get complacent, even careless. I know a veteran homicide detective who admitted he let his gun fall out of its holster in a restaurant booth!

But when the world around us is in chaos because of something like a hurricane, we can become so engrossed in dealing with other issues that our attention falters. Forcing ourselves to remain calm and follow our established disaster procedures is a good way to keep on track.

We should all maintain complete and unbroken control of our guns in our day-to-day lives. Safes are a good start. And don’t forget insurance: You will likely need additional or amended coverage, tailored specifically to firearms. But, when major disasters occur, taking whatever steps are necessary to protect our guns is even more important.

As always, be smart. Be safe.