Hurricane Preparedness – From The Fire Chief

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(By Matt Love) The 2021 Hurricane Season has officially started. We know that most of our residents and visitors are well aware of this and have been preparing throughout the year for this season. Having a good plan and being prepared can greatly lessen the anxiety and stress of a storm event.

Here are several tips to assist you in getting prepared for Hurricane Season:

  • Make a Plan
    • Write down emergency phone numbers and keep them on the refrigerator or near every phone in your house.  Program them into your cell phone too.
    • Prepare an emergency supply kit.
    • Locate the nearest shelter and different routes you can take to get there from your home.  If shelter locations in your area have not been identified, learn how to find them in the event of a storm.
    • Pet Owners: Pre-identify shelters, a pet-friendly hotel, or an out-of-town friend or relative where you can take your pets in an evacuation.  Local animal shelters may be able to offer advice on what to do with your pets if you are asked to evacuate your home.
  • Gather Emergency Supplies – During and after a hurricane, you may need supplies to keep your family safe and healthy.  Remember that a hurricane could cut off your power and water supply.  You also may not be able to drive because of damage to your car.  Roads may also be blocked or flooded. It’s best to have a good supply of everything you might need ahead of time.  Be sure to prepare for the following:
    • An emergency food and water supply.
    • An emergency medicine supply.
    • Emergency power sources and flashlights
    • Safety and personal items.
    • Important documents, including medical documents, wills, passports, and personal identification.
    • A fire extinguisher. Make sure your family knows where to find it and how to use it.
  • Know the Difference Between a Hurricane “Watch” and “Warning”
    • A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 miles per hour (mph) or higher are possible in a stated area.  Experts announce hurricane watches 48 hours before they expect tropical storm force winds (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) to start.
    • A hurricane warning is more serious.  It means hurricane force winds are expected in a stated area.  Experts issue these warnings 36 hours before tropical storm force winds are expected in the area to give people enough time to prepare for the storm.
  • Get Your Car Ready
    • Fill your car’s gas tank.
    • Move cars and trucks into your garage or under cover.
    • Always keep an emergency kit in your car.
    • Visit Ready.gov for information on how to prepare your car and what to include in your kit.
  • Get Your Family and Pets Ready
    • Go over your emergency plan with your family.
    • Keep checking for updates about the storm.  
    • Call the hospital, public health department, or law enforcement about special needs.  If you or a loved one is older or disabled and won’t be able to leave quickly, get advice on what to do.
    • Put pets and farm animals in a safe place. 
  • Get Your Home Ready
    • Clear your yard.  Make sure there’s nothing that could blow around during the storm and damage your home.  Move bikes, lawn furniture, grills, propane tanks, and building material inside or under your shelter.
    • Cover up windows and doors.  Use storm shutters or plywood to cover your windows.
    • Fill clean water containers with drinking water.  You’ll want to do this in case you lose your water supply during the storm. You can also fill up your sinks and bathtubs with water for washing.
    • Check your carbon monoxide (CO) detectors batter to prevent CO poisoning.
  • Be Ready to Evacuate or Stay at Home – Always listen to authorities regarding whether you should evacuate or stay at home.
    • If you need to evacuate:
      • Grab your emergency supply kit and only take what you really need with you (cell phone, chargers, medicines, identification, and cash).
      • Follow the roads that emergency workers recommend even if there’s traffic.  Other routes might be blocked or flooded.  Never drive through flooded areas.
    • If you need to stay home:
      • Keep your emergency supply kit in a place you can easily access.
      • Listen to the radio or TV for updates on the hurricane.
      • Stay inside. Even if it looks calm, don’t go outside.  Wait until you hear or see an official message that the hurricane is over.  Sometimes, weather gets calm in the middle of a storm, but then quickly gets bad again.
      • Stay away from windows-you could get hurt by pieces of broken glass or flying debris during a storm.  Stay in a room with no windows, or go inside a closet.
      • Be ready to leave.  If emergency authorities order you to leave or if your home is damaged, you may need to go to a shelter or a neighbor’s house.

Here are some helpful links to assist you in preparation:

Please take the time to be prepared and to assist your neighbors, friends, and family with getting their preparations in line to keep our community safe during this hurricane season.

Chief Love has been the Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief since 2016. In 2019 he was selected by the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Lee County Florida as Fire Chief of the Year, and in 2020 he was named District Manager of the year for the state of Florida by the FASD.  He can be reached at the fire department headquarters at 239- 590-4200