By B.C. Manion
It’s midway through this year’s hurricane season and so far, Floridians have been lucky.
No major threats have forced wide-scale evacuations or caused people to board their windows, fill up their gas tanks and get out their generators.
But that doesn’t mean that residents should treat potential threats casually.
“We always fear complacency,” said Zoe Boyer, a project manager for the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. “That’s when you get caught off-guard.”
The alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting disaster safety and property loss mitigation, offers a wealth of information aimed at helping homeowners to help themselves. Go to www.flash.org to watch how-to videos and to learn ways to better protect your home and property.
It may be too late this year to make substantial changes to fortify your home, but there are ways to reduce potential damages.
It’s a good idea to inspect your trees to see if any have insect damage, weak branches or need to be trimmed, Boyer said. “Look for anything that is dead, a crack in the trunk, insect infestation,” she advised.
If a hurricane threatens, be sure to move your lawn furniture and pool equipment into a place where it can’t become airborne and pose a danger to people or property, Boyer said.
And, just because you live inland, don’t think you’re safe from the impacts that hurricanes have, Boyer said. She lived in Orlando when Hurricane Charley hit the state and she was out of power off and on for three weeks.
The Hillsborough County Commission has proclaimed September as National Preparedness Month.
Historically, records show that September is the peak month for hurricane activity. Nov. 30 marks the end of hurricane season.
Hillsborough commissioners want to remind residents to take precautionary steps to help them weather the storm, if one should hit here:
Here are some of the county’s recommendations:
Develop a family plan. Know how you will respond should a disaster be declared or an evacuation recommendation given. Time is of the essence, so you should plan ahead so you’ll know what to do.
Assemble an emergency kit. It should include your medications, important papers (such as insurance information and personal identification), items to occupy your time (such as cards or a child’s favorite toy), and some clean clothing.
Know your evacuation zone. There are five designated evacuation levels that are vulnerable to storm surge. Know if you live in one of these zones and have a plan for where you will go, if you need to evacuate. Be aware that everyone living in a mobile home must evacuate at all evacuation levels.
Be aware of your evacuation route. If you need to evacuate, you do not need to travel far. You just need to get outside of the evacuation zone. Make arrangements ahead of time with family members or a friend. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get out of your zone because the roads will be very busy during evacuations.
Plan to have enough food, drink and medicine to last at least three to five days after a disaster hits. The roads may be blocked by debris and water, sewer and power may be knocked out by storm damage.
If you have physical or mental conditions that require special care, be sure to pre-register for a Special Needs (Medical) Shelter, where professional medical care can be provided during the emergency.
Have a plan for your pet. A Fritz Institute Survey found that 44 percent of the people who did not evacuate for Hurricane Katrina stayed, at least in part, because they did not want to leave their pets behind. Call your county’s emergency management office to find out where the pet shelters are in your jurisdiction. There are four pet-friendly shelters in Hillsborough County.
The Institute for Business & Home Safety also offers a number of suggestions for ways that business and homeowners can prepare their property to better withstand natural disasters. For a list of ways to harden your home or business against natural disasters, go to DisasterSafety.org and click on the “Get Prepared” tab.
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