Welcome to the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season. For those of you who are new to Florida and as a reminder to locals, the Atlantic Basin hurricane season, which includes the Caribbean, Bahamas, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the State of Florida, begins on June 1 and ends on November 30. Florida can have hurricanes any month of the year, but the official season is when storms are most prevalent. The beginning of the season usually starts slowly and the prime time for storms is in September.
Depending on which source you look at for storm predictions, this year we could be in line for 13 named storms with five becoming hurricanes, and two being major storms. This puts us in the normal range for yearly hurricanes. We all know how well these predictions turn out, so I say to begin planning now.
So what can you do to be better prepared? In easy terms, I want you to think and act smart. Be ready and be safe by heeding weather warnings, but don’t fall into the hype and craziness that many media outlets banter nonstop about. I don’t want you to go buy thousands of dollars of supplies or 100’s of gallons of water. There are some simple and inexpensive things to do now to be ready.
First off, obtain or update your Florida vehicle registrations and drivers licenses. What? Well this is actually required by law to have done anyways. As I’ve said before, if we have a catastrophic event and neighborhoods are blocked off for safety and to prevent crimes, you will not be allowed to enter the area without proper identification. A CROA card will not work. You have plenty of time now to get this done. No excuses! I’ll also write you the tickets if stopped for a driving violation.
Secondly, you want to make sure that in the event of a storm that you have a hurricane kit ready to go. These kits can be quickly thrown into your car when evacuating or to help you survive if left isolated for a few days. Go buy a few sturdy plastic containers. Make sure the lids latch correctly to keep water and debris out. You can also get some of those vacuum seal bags to really keep things air and water tight. One of these containers will be your storage for important papers, copies of insurance policies, documents, pictures, passports or etc. to keep dry or to bring with you in the event of evacuation. The other box or two will be your survival kit.
What to pack in your survival box? Let’s start with food. Remember this is survival, not the Sunday brunch at the Four Seasons. I’ve not seen too many families that typically drink 24 bottles of water per person each day or that need 12 loaves of bread. We all saw the ridiculousness happening at the stores last time. This is where the “think smart “thing comes into play.
Plan on at least a 3-day supply of food and water for each person. Non-perishable items kept in a cool dry location are best. Prepackaged foods can be bought now and will last until the end of the season. Granola bars, some canned food (with can opener), beef jerky or dried fruits are a good start. Bottled waters, juice boxes, Capri-sun and shelf stable milk are other options. I’m not a huge fan of SPAM but this or premade bacon is also good in a pinch. Add a few candy items, trail mix, breakfast and protein bars, boxes of cereal, fruit cups and even some chips. Don’t forget baby food or pet food.
Another of these boxes can include personal hygiene items, a first air kit, diapers, a few rolls of toilet paper or baby wipes. A flashlight with extra batteries, extra phone batteries, a hand crank radio with weather stations and light sticks are a must. I advise against using candles or anything with open flames. Basic hand tools, including a hammer, adjustable wrenches, screwdrivers and that lovable roll or two of duct tape with a plastic tarp will help with simple repairs. How about getting a small fire extinguisher? A gallon of non-scented bleach, plastic utensils and paper plates and towels can be handy too.
These are basic kits, if you have room, you can add more items to suit your family needs.
Around the homes. You also have the time now to ready your homes in preparation of a storm. Check the trees and shrubs around the house and have them trimmed, with branches properly removed, now. Remember to create a buffer around the house and make sure blowing limbs won’t hit the house. When winds are blowing, it may a bit late to trim. If needed, have a licensed arborist look at the tress for signs of rot or decay. Check the caulking or weather-stripping by doors and windows. Remember blowing rain will easily enter you home.
Make a plan now of what needs to be moved inside prior to a storm. Your pink flamingo is cute, but not when it’s flying into my home at 118 miles per hour. Have empty propane tanks filled now. With proper and safe storage along with the accompanied grill, if the power goes out, you’ll have lots of friends wanting to cook their thawing meat at your home. Please share the steaks, just do not use the grill inside the house or garage.
Now is also the time to plan for covering your windows if you desire. Home improvement stores have supplies and handy men have the time to precut any wood or install any hardware now to make putting up those coverings much easier prior to a storm. You may want to make sure gutters are clear and all downspouts are functioning as some storms can dump 30 inches of rain or more. A roof inspection isn’t a bad idea either.
If you have a generator, check it now to make sure it works. If fuel was left in there from last time, it may be gummed up. Do you also have a few extra gas cans? Keep them empty until a storm approaches. Remember the exhaust from generators will kill you. Do not run them inside the home or garage. If running, they should be kept at least 10 feet away from any opening to the home.
Contact your insurance company now. Make sure you have the proper coverage for your area. When a storm is out there, they usually won’t write or change policies. If needed, make sure jewelry, collectables, or other items are covered.
There are many more ideas to creating a hurricane survival kit. Again these tips are just the basics. Things can be added or removed if needed. There is so much other stuff to do just before a storm comes, if you have these items completed now, it will make life less stressful. I am not one of those doomsday preppers, but I do like to be prepared. Maybe it’s my type A personality or its the knowledge that I probably won’t be home during a storm because I will be available to come to work and help you. Either way, I am planning ahead now and WILL be ready when the storms come. Will you be? Please be safe.
Preparing in advance for hurricane season can determine not only how safely and comfortably you ride out the storm, but also how easy it is to handle the days and weeks after the storm has passed.
Here are some important steps.
Make a plan: All residents should prepare for hurricane season by creating a family plan and disaster supply kit, securing personal property and having a place to go in the event of an evacuation. A plan should answer the following questions. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings? What is my shelter plan? What is my evacuation route? What is my family/household communication plan? Learn more at www.floridadisaster.org.
The most important part of your hurricane plan is a Hurricane Kit that includes the basic life support you will need after a disaster. Prepare to be self-sufficient for at least three (3) days to two weeks.
Stock up: The 2019 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, which runs from May 31 through June 6, is a great opportunity to stock up on qualifying items exempt from tax to include in your disaster supply kit.
Tune in: Listen to and follow public announcements through local media, the County’s Social Media Channels: www.facebook.com/osceolacountyfl, www.facebook.com/OsceolaEOC, twitter.com/osceolacountyfl, and twitter.com/OsceolaEOC. You should have a weather radio and a cell phone (with a way to charge it in the event of power loss). Along with other resources, you can also sign up for text alerts from Osceola County at alertosceola.org.