Hurricane Activity Reminds Us To Be Prepared

Letters

BY EDWARD MCCRANE JR. SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY AUG 31, 2019

While we were implementing changes and improvements from the Hurricane Irma After Action Report last year, we watched Hurricane Michael pass  dangerously close to our coast and devastated several counties in the Florida panhandle. In less than 72 hours, Michael grew from a weak tropical depression to a 155-mph, Category 4 hurricane, pushing as much as 15-feet of storm surge into vulnerable coastal counties.

We do not know what the 2019 Atlantic hurricanes have in store for our coast, but everyone should have a plan and prepare now. Since we’ve updated our procedures, we have been working with media partners to ensure all residents are informed and better prepared for the next hurricane. Key changes include implementation of a transportation dependent plan providing transportation to hurricane evacuation centers, hurricane evacuation centers opening at the same time and all evacuation centers being pet-friendly.

Your first step for storm preparation and storm information should be to visit Sarasota County’s website: scgov.net/beprepared. This updated hurricane preparedness page will provide you links to information about preparations for your family, home, neighborhood and business, public service announcement videos and a digital version of the disaster planning guide. People who are medically dependent and need assistance during a storm are encouraged to apply to the medical needs program. The easiest and quickest way to apply is online at scgov.net/beprepared. The instructions on the medical needs program page will provide a link to the medically dependent person online application. All registered medically dependent persons must make every effort to bring a caregiver to the designated medically-dependent evacuation center. Medically dependent persons are permitted to bring a spouse/significant other and dependents with you in addition to your caregiver.

Whether to stay or evacuate for a hurricane depends on which evacuation level you live in and the type of home you reside in. As the hurricane approaches, Sarasota County Emergency Management will issue evacuation orders by level and geographical area depending on the intensity of the storm and the expected height of storm tide and surge.

You can also visit the county’s website to check if you home is in an evacuation level. Even if you don’t live in an evacuation level, you must evacuate if you live in a mobile home, recreational vehicle or boat located anywhere in the county. Your home may not be safe during a major hurricane if it wasn’t constructed to meet the Florida building codes.  If you haven’t done a wind inspection on your house, or if you don’t have storm shutters, it may not be safe to stay.

If you do have to evacuate you should first try to stay with friends or family who live in a safe, prepared home outside of the evacuation area. For those who cannot leave the area, emergency management will be coordinating with the Sarasota County School District for the opening of hurricane evacuation centers. Evacuation centers will be located within schools and will be announced through the media and the county’s website.

Evacuation centers are considered a last resort and evacuees are expected to bring all their disaster supplies, bedding and comfort items with them. Pets will be allowed at all evacuation centers; however, owners are responsible to ensure that they have the appropriate crate, leash and supplies. Pets must also be current on all vaccinations.

If you don’t feel comfortable driving to an evacuation center, or if you do not own a vehicle, you can take advantage of the new transportation dependent plan managed by Sarasota Count Area Transit (SCAT).

If you will need this service, please register in advance because registrations will cease when landfall is expected within 60 hours. It is also important to be registered for the Sarasota County Code Red telephone notification system.

The CodeRED system allows you to receive calls, email alerts or text messages in the event of an emergency that could impact your neighborhood or your business.  Alerts include water or sewer interruptions, missing person alerts and major traffic detours, among others. Weather warning service will automatically notify those registered of tornado, flash flood and severe thunderstorms just minutes after an alert is issued by the National Weather Service. Code Red Weather Warning is an opt-in only service and is available for free.

Sarasota County Emergency Management will keep residents informed as storms approach and residents can count on us for help after a storm passes. But residents need to be prepared and self-sufficient until we can respond.

Being prepared is the best way to make sure your family is ready for any disaster. Remember, “The First 72 are on you!”

Edward McCrane Jr. is the Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief. For more information on hurricane preparedness, visit the county’s website at scgov.net/beprepared or call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

National Hurricane Center projections for Hurricane Dorian, as of 2 p.m. Friday.

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