It’s Hurricane Season! Are You Prepared?
The official Florida hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, just as it is in the rest of the nation. The peak months for hurricane season typically run from August through October, with most storm activity historically occurring during these months when the waters in the equatorial Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico have warmed enough to help support the development of tropical waves. A common misconception in Florida is that there are parts of the state that do not get hurricanes. Since 1850, all of Florida’s coastline has been impacted by at least one hurricane. With its long coastline and location, Florida frequently finds itself in the path of these intense storms. The southeast coastline is extremely susceptible to a land-falling hurricane, followed by the panhandle. Areas around Tampa, Jacksonville and the Big Bend do not have as high of a risk of a direct strike from a hurricane but are still susceptible to a landfall each year. Even if the hurricane makes landfall elsewhere in the state, the impacts can be felt hundreds of miles away. Take the time to prepare for a natural disaster now. In general, much of the information that you may need can be found online from your local Office of Emergency Management who is responsible for planning and coordinating actions to prepare, respond, and recover from natural disasters.
Step 1 – Know Your Level of Risk
In general, everyone in the state of Florida is at some type of risk during Hurricane season. Start by knowing your level of risk is the first step in being prepared. The greatest killer of people during hurricanes is storm surge – the dome of water pushed ashore by powerful hurricane winds. Entire buildings can be moved and can cause more damage than the winds of a hurricane itself. Florida is extremely vulnerable to surge flooding because of its coastal and low-lying geography. Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. impacts from wind and water can be felt hundreds of miles inland, and significant impacts can occur regardless of the storm’s strength. Know if you live in an area prone to flooding and if you’re safe to remain in your home. Always know your evacuation zone and plan your potential routes of travel ahead of time. You must also consider your personal needs as well as the needs of your immediate family if they also reside in your home. Remember that young children, the elderly, and people with special medical needs may be at higher risk and should always have a plan in place to accommodate evacuation and transportation or sustained periods without electricity or water ahead of time.
Step 2 – Make a Plan
Now that you have identified your level of risk and fully assessed your potential needs during a hurricane it’s time to make a plan. This should include a step-by-step process of the needed actions prior to the arrival of a storm. Assess your home and prepare any items to secure or board up windows if needed. Be sure all gutters and downspouts are clear. Be sure that all locks and latches are working properly. Remember that condos and mobile homes may require special preparation, so it is a good idea to have any needed items well ahead of time. Assess your yard and be sure to remove any items that may get blown away during high winds. Prune trees and shrubs to help prevent falling branches. It is a good idea to make a checklist that you can follow if a storm in your area is inevitable. Make a list of items that you may need before, during or after a storm and have them ready to go before the storm arrives.
The following are some of the common items that many people include on their lists:
General – A 2-week supply of medication, a list of information on required medical devices, batteries, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, Cash (ATMs may not be available), cellphone and laptop chargers, books and games for children.
First Aid – Sterile bandages, gauze pads, scissors, tweezers, antiseptic, hand sanitizer, thermometer, disinfectant wipes, aspirin, antacids, soap, latex gloves, cotton balls, adhesive tape
Documents – A list of important and emergency phone numbers, insurance cards, medical records, banking information, personal identification documents, service animal or pet records and proof of ownership, pharmacy and prescription information. A list of emergency management numbers and planned evacuation routes. A list of local shelters.
Food and Water – Non Perishable packaged or canned food and beverages, baby food, one gallon water per person per day, disposable plates, cups, napkins and utensils
Pet items – Pet food and water, vaccine or microchip info, medications, leashes, food bowls, a pet carrier and tags
Step 3 – Know What to Do During a Storm
There will be a point in time when all evacuations will be over. Winds will continue to gain strength. Once they reach 40 – 50 mph conditions, Fire and Emergency Medical Services will not be able to respond to emergencies. It will be time for everyone to shelter in place. Above all, stay informed! Monitor local news, radio stations as well as online information from your local emergency management and the National Hurricane Center. Although it should always be verified for accuracy, social media in many different forms may also provide critical information as many emergency management organizations will also broadcast messages on social media if possible.
If floodwater starts coming into your home …
Do not go outside and wade through the water. Floodwater and storm surge can move very quickly, and live power lines could be in the water outside.
If there is a tornado or high sustained winds …
Take refuge in your safe room — an interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level of your home. The center of your house is the safest.
If the power goes out for six hours …
If there is food in the refrigerator, move perishable foods into an ice-filled cooler. Put a thermometer in the cooler to make sure it stays below 40 degrees. Meats and other perishable foods can stay about 40 degrees for two hours without spoiling.
If the water supply is affected …
It is always possible that the drinking water supply could be affected during a disaster. Monitor the news for boil water advisories, which mean there is a possibility of contamination. In this case, you should be prepared to disinfect the water.
If phone, cable and cell service are down …
Use a battery, Solar or crank-powered radio. Radio broadcasts are usually the last communication source to go down, and AM stations can broadcast longer than FM. Severe weather alerts are also transmitted through the NOAA Weather Alert Radio. Always keep cell phones charged as some parts of service such as text messaging may be available during an outage
Step 4 – What to Do After a Storm
In case of large-scale disaster, it could be weeks before roads are safe and opened, and rescue workers can deliver water and food to the area. It could be weeks before grocery stores and other basic services are restored as well. Stay informed. Wait until authorities say it is safe to return.
Preparing early and staying prepared is the only way to make sure you’ll be ready to ride out any disaster.
• Enter your home with caution
• Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home
• Use the telephone only for emergency calls
• Check refrigerated foods for spoilage
• Beware of snakes, insects, and other animals driven to higher ground by floodwater
• Do not use candles or open flames indoors
• Use a flashlight to inspect for damage
• Check electric or gas
• Turn power off if house was flooded
• Take photos of the damage will help in filing insurance claims
• Contact your insurance claims agent as soon as possible
In closing, the above is certainly not intended to be an all-inclusive list but we hope it has given you some ideas in order to help you prepare before, during and after a storm. Please remember to do plenty of research and gather information from your local state and county disaster management organizations as well as preparedness information provided by the National Hurricane Center. Above all, plan ahead and stay safe!
Let’s hope that the 2022 hurricane season is an uneventful one.