The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st – Are You Ready? Every Florida resident should have a plan for what they will do when a tropical cyclone threatens their home. The start of hurricane season is a good time to take digital photographs of all household belongings, important documents, and even prescription medication labels. It’s also a good idea to freeze a small cup of water and keep it in your freezer with a coin on top of the ice – that way you can tell if the power was out so long that perishable items defrosted, even if they re-freeze.
Nassau’s emergency management professionals work closely with meteorologists to gauge the potential impacts of weather systems and determine the need for evacuations. While most structures built in Florida’s coastal counties since 1998 can tolerate temporary hurricane winds, they cannot withstand storm surge and flooding – the adage to remember is, “shelter from wind but run from water.” Know Your Evacuation Zone – maps are published in the online at www.OneNassau.com and the Property Appraiser’s interactive mapping system. Evacuations are only ordered when lives are in danger and they are issued in time for everyone in the area to safely leave before the onset of tropical storm-force winds. When ordered, gather your family, pets, essential supplies and identification, and go to a safe place outside of the potential impact area.
Residents who might need evacuation transportation assistance or have special medical needs and plan to evacuate to a public shelter should enroll annually in the online Florida Special Needs Registry, preferably before hurricane season begins. Visit https://snr.flhealthresponse.com/
Evacuation plans should designate a primary and back-up emergency shelter: a relative or friend’s site-built home, a suitable hotel, or as a last resort, a public shelter. Plan to relocate electronics that could be damaged by flood water and protect smaller items like flash-drives and documents in sealed plastic bags. Make a checklist so you don’t forget to take critical supplies: prescription and over-the-counter medications, toothbrush and personal hygiene items, spare eyeglasses, cell phone and charger, special-diet and pet foods, cash, a few changes of clothes, sturdy shoes, favorite pillow, blanket/sleeping bag, pet supplies, bug repellent, etc. Before leaving, turn refrigerators and freezers to their coldest settings in case the power goes out. Prepare to remain sheltered 3-5 days: the day prior to impact, the day of impact, and at least a day or more afterward.
Do not return to the evacuated area until emergency management officials announce that it is safe to re-enter. Infrastructure needs to be assessed for damage, roads need to be cleared and kept open for emergency responders, utility restoration, and debris removal. If you must go outdoors in the impacted area, wear appropriate shoes/boots and never drive through water covering the roadway. Remember that snakes, bugs, and unhappy animals may have moved into the area and standing water can hide physical hazards like sharp debris items or deep holes, harbor infectious bacteria, or might even be electrified if live power lines are down.
Even outside of the evacuation zone, many households could be without power or clean drinking water for days; turn off and unplug major appliances and other electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges when power is restored. If using a generator, make sure it is in a well ventilated area (NOT indoors) away from open doors and windows to avoid deadly carbon monoxide.
If local roads and businesses are closed it will be difficult to get fresh supplies. Each household should maintain an emergency supply of bottled drinking water, non-perishable food items, a manual can opener, hand sanitizer, first aid supplies, and household bleach. Plan for a fresh gallon of water for each human and pet to drink every day. If a “boil water” notice is issued and no heat source is available, sixteen drops of bleach in a gallon of water can make it safe to drink. Use one part bleach and nine parts clean water to make an excellent solution for sanitizing hard surfaces.