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Be Prepared: Hurricane Season Lessons Learned

By Eric Carlson | NSWC PCD Emergency Manager | May 12, 2020

PANAMA CITY, Fla. —

How timely that May is Hurricane Preparedness month in our state.  We’ve had tornadoes across the Panhandle of Florida already in 2020, COVID19 came to visit, river and coastal flooding in some areas and now the Hurricane season is predicted to be above average!  So, what can we do to be prepared if a destructive weather event comes our way?

  1. Gas, water, and basic food staples are quickly depleted when people get edgy.  Don’t wait until you hear a storm may come our way, rather shop in May for the basics; 1 gallon of water per person and pet per day for 3-5 days if you are evacuating (take it with you), and 10-14 days if you are staying.  Have non-perishable food stuffs on hand for the same amount of time for each scenario.  Make sure you have some cash on hand for use when the power is out.  Never let your car go below half a tank between 1 June and 30 November (Hurricane Season).  Keep your propane tanks full or have enough charcoal on hand for your grill to cook the meat in your freezer, a little at a time, if the power is out for an extended period of time.
     
  2. Have an evacuation plan and communication plan.  You probably saw the long lines of slowly moving traffic in Florida as evacuation orders were obeyed in previous years and then heard gas was hard to find.  I strongly suggest you set your own threshold for when you would want to leave and then don’t wait!!  Where do you intend to go? Have more than one location in mind dependent on storm track. Hotels may be hard to find and rooms may not be clean to your standard in the COVID19 environment. Driving times triple or quadruple when the evacuation order is given due to traffic congestion and accidents along evacuation routes.  Be sure to let someone know when you leave, where you plan to go, and then let them know when you arrive. Don’t forget to ensure your contact information in NFAAS is up to date!
     
  3. Shelters can get crowded in a hurry!  As I watched interviews on television with folks in shelters and read interviews written in the news, one thing was abundantly clear – many people have unrealistic expectations of life in a shelter.  You will live in close proximity to total strangers from a cross section of life who all have different customs, standards of hygiene, eat different food snacks, etc..  You will wait in line to get in the shelter, for food, for a shower, to use the toilet, for a chance to charge a cell phone, (when the power is working), and you will wait for the “All Clear” to go home.  Trust me, this will try your patience, your ability to tolerate others, and your attitude.  Remember, you are all in the same boat, anxious, possibly scared, and emotionally drained, but at least you are safe. If we’re still in a COVID19 environment staying at a shelter could be a life or death decision for some. For others in a COVID19 environment it could mean being sick or feeling like crap for an extended period of time.
     
  4. If you choose to stay in your home be sure you are prepared as you may be on your own for a period of time.  Remember, once the sustained winds get above 45 miles per hour, police, rescue, and fire vehicles will not be dispatched and you are truly on your own.  Ask the folks in Houston, Texas, just because it never flooded here before doesn’t mean it can’t flood here now.  Flood water rushing into your home is not something most people are prepared to experience in person.  Even though your mobile home is attached to a foundation does not mean that wind and water won’t return it to mobile status.  It’s hard to fix a hole in the roof with 50 mile per hour winds, broken windows quickly become a safety hazard, and insects, snakes and critters are all looking for the same safety and dry spot on your high ground.  If you decide to try and leave at the last minute and the roads are flooded, turn around – don’t drown!!  Each year many of the dead from hurricanes or severe tropical storms are people found drowned in vehicles once waters recede and still others are lost wading into moving water.  You may be stranded without help for hours at a minimum, if not days.  Are you truly ready!!!

Don’t think “It won’t happen here or to me.”  In reality the question is not “if,” rather it is “when” will it happen to any one of us?  Be smart, be prepared, and have a plan!