Hurricane season officially begins Monday.
"A lot of these plans are not complicated," the president said after a disaster-preparedness briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Individuals should be ready with a supply of nonperishable food, water, first aid kits and radios that will work in the rain, he said.
The president said state governments have the primary responsibility for preparing and responding to disasters. He said all the resources of the federal government are there to back them up.
"We are determined to be as prepared as possible when the next catastrophic hurricane hits the United States," Obama said.
During his presidential campaign, Obama criticized the Bush administration's late response and poor preparation for Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The points Obama drilled home Friday were similar to those raised after Katrina.
While FEMA and the federal government has made many changes since 2005 to improve its preparations and response, government investigators said there are still some holes in the agency's plans.
A report issued Friday by the Government Accountability Office says FEMA does not have a plan to coordinate all the national disaster exercises and cannot track whether other federal agencies and communities across the country are prepared to respond to disasters.
In its response to the report, FEMA said it relies on cooperation from other agencies to complete some of its plans.
In a separate briefing at the White House, the director of the National Weather Service, Louis Uccellini, echoed Obama's message to people living in hurricane-prone parts of the country.
"They can't wait until a storm is approaching the coast," Uccellini said. "They have to make their plans now."
Forecasters are predicting a normal hurricane season, with 4 to 7 hurricanes of which 1 to 3 are likely to be major storms. The first tropical depression of the season is currently in the Atlantic, heading north. It's not expected to hit the United States.
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