Living in Florida means residents get sunshine and sand pretty much year-round, but living here also comes with the added chance of hurricanes. According to the National Weather Service, hurricane season in Florida begins June 1 and runs until Nov. 30. While this year’s season is predicted to be near-normal, meaning approximately two to four major hurricanes, planning and preparation can make a huge difference in your safety and recovery both during and after the hurricane.
How to Plan for a Hurricane
Hurricanes can cause widespread devastation during and after their occurrence. It is necessary to have a plan in place that you and your family can carry out in the case of a disaster.
First, determine how your family will communicate during and after a hurricane. Keep important numbers in your wallet in case you cannot access your phone’s contact list and ensure that you have copies available. Remember, in the case of a disaster, you may need to text or use social media to communicate with family members rather than calling. Phone lines are typically overwhelmed after a disaster, so it is necessary to have one or two ways to reach your loved ones.
Establish the needs of each member of your family. Consider things such as the ages of your family members. Are some of them children or elderly? Will they require special attention or support? Also, keep in mind any dietary or medical needs, languages spoken, cultural or religious considerations, locations frequented, and so on. These details will come in handy when preparing your evacuation kits and plans.
Figure out which evacuation route you will take if necessary and where you will meet in case you are separated. If you choose to stay home, decide on a plan for protecting your property. When will you bring outdoor furniture in or anchor anything that cannot be brought indoors? When will you have the necessary equipment such as sewer backflow valves or shutters installed? The sooner you make these decisions and plans, the better.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane
Because hurricane season is inevitable, you should make preparations that will keep you safe in the case of a disaster.
Prepare your property by installing shutters to cover your windows, anchoring fuel tanks, reviewing insurance policies, and cataloging belongings. In the case that you must leave the area, be sure to bring in any loose items and trim any trees that could potentially fall into the house.
Collect and store any important medical, educational, financial and legal documents in a place where they will be safe from water damage.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends signing up for local alerts and monitoring the local weather. While there are some alerts that you can receive without having to sign up for them, such as Wireless Emergency Alerts, it is good practice to keep an eye on what is going on in your area.
In Central Florida, you can sign up for alerts with CodeRed, which will deliver evacuation notices directly to your phone. Your local weather station will usually have alerts that you can sign up for and receive during this season. It is also important that you know the terms used to describe each hurricane condition and take the appropriate action. Watches, warnings and advisories should all be taken seriously. You can find in-depth definitions of each term at https://www.weather.gov/safety/hurricane-ww.
Prior to the onset of a hurricane, take the time to learn evacuation routes and the locations of shelters in your area. If you need a shelter that will support anyone with special needs, take the time to find out where those shelters are located. You might also take the time to prepare a plan in the case that you do not have to evacuate. Determine the safest places in your home, such as windowless rooms or storm shelters, and practice heading there quickly.
Make sure you take the time to gather emergency supplies both in a to-go bag that you keep in your home and in a bag that you keep in your car. Since you do not know where you will be when a hurricane strikes, it is best to have multiple sets of supplies. Be sure to keep your car’s gas tank at least half full and include at least three days’ worth of supplies in your emergency supplies kit. Don’t forget to include necessities such as medications and the needs of your pets. Your kit can include items such as:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First-aid kit whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
- Local maps
FEMA provides a more extensive list of emergency kit items here. Additionally, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida assembled 1,000 disaster relief packs, which could be among the first items to get distributed to anyone in Florida impacted by a storm this year. Each disaster relief pack can meet a family’s immediate nutritional needs for three days and does not require warming or refrigeration. The packs contain Abbott nutritional products and drinks for adults and children and will be stored at the Second Harvest Food Bank until necessary.
There are plenty of useful tips and resources available to Florida residents in preparation for hurricane season. Do your research, make a plan, and take the appropriate steps to prepare before the onset of a hurricane. This will help you stay safe during a potentially stressful and dangerous situation.