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Community Voices: Hurricane preparedness – the season starts now.

Brandi Gabbard

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Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

Hurricane season started June 1, and experts are predicting this to be an active year for storms.
So now is the time to get prepared.

Certainly, residents of Pinellas County have more to think about than people in inland areas of
the state. After all, we are surrounded by water on three sides, and many area homes are in
low-lying areas that can be susceptible to flooding. 

For those of us who’ve lived through hurricane seasons before, we know that a tropical storm
or hurricane can change directions quickly. So if a storm starts heading our way, we will all need
to move quickly to make preparations.

I serve on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, where we work with local cities and
counties to help residents be aware of the dangers associated with storms, and we encourage
residents to get ready before storms begin to approach.

With this in mind, here are some tips to keep in mind for your planning:

  • Make sure your key documents don’t get lost in a flood or high winds. Put them in a safe
    or fireproof box, and also keep copies of documents like passports and insurance
    policies in a second location away from your business or your home.
  • A disaster kit for your household is invaluable if you have to shelter in place or travel to
    a community shelter or out of town. The kit should include nonperishable foods, a
    flashlight (with extra batteries), a NOAA weather radio or a battery-powered
    commercial radio, local maps, and three days’ supply of water (one gallon of water per
    person per day).
  • When is the last time you reviewed your home insurance policy? Does the policy reflect
    the value of your home and all of its contents? Do you need flood coverage? Talk to
    your insurance agent to do a review.
  • Have extra cash on hand, and make sure your vehicle’s fuel tank is full. ATMs and gas
    pumps might not work if electricity goes out.
  • If you depend on electrical medical equipment, make sure you register with your power
    company and your local municipality.
  • Check your yard and home for spots that could be problematic in a storm. If tree branches are too close to your home, have them trimmed. And if you have equipment or appliances in spots that might get flooded, get them raised now.
  • One of the biggest issues in a storm can occur when cell phone service goes down. Guard against that by having a designated person who your family can check in with. This will ensure that everyone in the family knows that others are safe.
  • Nearly 80% of pets displaced by a storm are never reunited with their owners. So it’s a good idea to microchip your pet if you haven’t already done so.
  • Make sure you have an evacuation plan in place. And of course, consider the impact ofthe COVID-19 pandemic. If you decide that a community shelter isn’t the best option for you, get your strategy ready so you’ll know where you would evacuate to.

Certainly, it can be a challenge to find time to do all this planning as we all deal with our current
challenges. But planning now will make a huge difference later. Don’t wait until a storm is
approaching to get ready.

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