It is no surprise that hurricanes are a common concern in Florida. The Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th. Remember, hurricanes can and have happened outside of the season, but these months are certainly the most probable, with September being the season’s peak with more named storms than any other month on average. Whether you have lived in Florida your whole life or are just starting to call the Sunshine State home, we have put together a list of things to help you be more prepared for when the next storm hits. As a reminder, it is a WHEN, not an IF, that a storm will reach our area.
1.) Before a storm hits.
Before the storm reaches your area, you will want to ensure that you are signed up to receive text, email, or voice notifications from your local government or county office to ensure you have the most up-to-date information—plan through where you will go if there is a mandatory evacuation and how you will get there. Stay current on public transit changes and when they will close routes. Create a “Go-Kit” in advance with 3-days of supplies such as shelf-stable snacks, chargers for electronics, backup batteries, and other items that you feel necessary and can easily take with you. If you don’t need to evacuate, it is a good plan to prepare a “Stay-Kit.” For this, you will want to plan for two weeks worth of supplies and a month’s worth of medication and medical supplies. Make sure to have enough shelf-stable food and at least one gallon of water per day, per person in your home (pets included), and place all-important personal documents such as medical records into a water-tight container. Get your house secured by bringing in outdoor furniture, trim trees, secure trash cans, and anchor items such as grills or propane tanks. Protect windows if needed by using plywood or purchasing permanent hurricane shutters.
2.) During the storm
If you are told to evacuate, EVACUATE. Do not wait; just ten minutes can mean the difference between being unable to leave even if you need to. People in RVs, Mobile Homes, manufactured homes, and recreational vehicles should especially have an evacuation plan as these are not safe due to the high winds. Always follow evacuation routes and do not try to take shortcuts as they may be flooded or blocked. Take shelter in a safe room away from windows or doors, or get to a storm shelter in your community. Be prepared to not have internet, electricity, or water for a few days following, and remember that 9-1-1 will still take your call; however, they cannot assist until the storm passes.
3.) After the storm.
Stay at home or the shelter until officials give the all-clear for you to leave. Avoid downed powerlines; do not swim, walk, or drive through flood water. Flood water can very quickly sweep your car into flowing water. Flood water also can contain sewage, bacteria, and chemicals. Never put your generator inside the home and keep it away from air intake to ensure you are free of carbon monoxide. If you are running a generator and begin to feel sick, dizzy, or weak, get you and your family out of the house and into fresh air immediately. Stay safe by throwing away anything that may have been contaminated, be aware of drinking water alerts for your area, and wear proper safety attire when cleaning up debris. If you are working through stress or anxiety from the storm, the Red Cross offers a free Disaster Distress Helpline for you to call or text at 1-800-985-5990