Florida Natural Disaster Preparedness Tips
In Clearwater and other areas of Florida, we are surrounded by lakes, rivers, beaches, and natural beauty. But the fact is, Florida has more than its share of natural disasters and related emergencies, too. Over the last several years, for example, four hurricanes have ripped through our state, including the first Category 5 hurricane in nearly 30 years, Hurricane Michael. So take it from an experienced Florida personal injury attorney on what you can prepare for a disaster so you are not left with catastrophic injuries during a time where supplies and resources could be scarce.
The approach and aftermath of hurricanes can cause disastrous effects for you and your family. Your home may be damaged or destroyed. You may be without electricity, gas, water, or all three. Emergency services and services like utility companies may be hard-pressed to promptly aid people. Food and other necessities, such as medications, may be hard to come by initially, as stores and other suppliers may be suffering from hurricane damage as well.
You may also have to evacuate your home due to weather conditions or state order. learn how to prepare for hurricane season here.
Florida is also subject to floods that can stem from rains and tidal surges related to hurricanes, but also from other causal factors. Florida gets a substantial amount of rain per year, falling upon a porous surface. Rain drains into rivers, oceans, and swamps.
But property development and population growth over the last century have eroded the capability of nature to manage heavy rainfall and runoff. Paved and developed surfaces do not provide the same capacity to absorb water that an undeveloped surface like grass or open land does. Some of Florida’s floods occur when there is simply excess rain in a season. At some point, rivers and other bodies of water receive runoff over their capacity, and they rise rapidly.
Regardless of its cause, a flood alone can cause issues very similar to those caused by a hurricane alone. Your home may be flooded and become uninhabitable or need repair. You may lose power, water, and other essential services. Driving and other forms of transportation can become dangerous and inadvisable. Services and basic necessities may be stretched and hard to come by.
Florida suffers other natural disasters as well. Wildfires, tornados, earthquakes, and strong winds such as tropical depressions and Nor’easters have all occurred in the past, and are likely to arise again.
Even snow, which is not a natural disaster in many areas of the country, can cause hardship for Floridians. Because of our usually mild and sunny climate, Florida households, businesses, and government services (such as utility companies and emergency responders) do not usually encounter snow and are generally not equipped to deal with it. But heavy snow and ice occasionally occur.
Any natural disaster can cause the same sort of problems as hurricanes and floods: significant disruption to your home, services, and supplies, and potential danger to you and your family.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
The net takeaway from the evidence on past hurricanes, floods, and natural disasters is clear: you need to prepare for these events well in advance. We know that hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters will happen: it’s just a question of when. Preparation is the best way to protect your home and your family from danger, and to reduce discomfort or even privation.
Hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and extends through October. Those months also constitute the rainy season. In other words, starting soon, the chances of a hurricane or flood become higher than usual. Natural disasters can occur at any time.
Here’s how best to prepare.
Securing Your Home
Homeowners in Florida should secure their homes against hurricanes. During a hurricane, any area where wind, rain, or flying debris can enter your home is dangerous. Wind and debris can both cause extreme damage to both the exterior and interior of your home. If either of those elements punch a hole in your home, rain can enter as well. Water can damage both your interior furnishings and, more importantly, the structure of your house.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management recommends that you secure, strengthen, and retrofit five key areas of your home to protect against wind and debris.
Those areas are:
- Your roof
- Your windows
- Your doors
- Your garage doors
- Your straps
State emergency authorities also recommend that you contact local building code authorities to find out their requirements for homeowners undertaking any home remodeling, as localities can vary widely in their regulations. Building codes are intended to make structures safe, and it’s prudent to know what they are.
If you live in an area at risk of floods, it’s a good idea to have flood insurance. Check your homeowners’ policy. Most policies, frankly, don’t insure for flood damage.
If yours doesn’t, enrolling in the National Flood Insurance Program is a good idea. The program opens flood insurance backed by the U.S. government to residents. If you qualify, you need to enroll before you have a need, just as you do with any other form of insurance.
Create a Disaster Supply Kit
The state also recommends that households create a disaster supply kit well in advance of any hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster. Disaster supply kits should contain enough food, water, medications, and other basic supplies to get each member of the family through seven days. State authorities stress that seven days is the minimum. Severe events can cause disruptions of more than seven days, and you’ll want to be fully prepared.
Once you have compiled your disaster kit, keep it in a safe and accessible place. Pack it in such a way that everything can be easily and securely carried. The state recommends duffel bags or even large garbage bins or heavy bags. Label each container so you will know which supplies are inside. Remember, you may need these kits quickly to evacuate. Do not assume you’ll have time for last-minute packing.
Below are the state’s recommendations for basic disaster kit supplies:
- Enough water to enable you to drink, cook, and have sanitation. Recommended: 1 gallon every day for each person, for seven days.
- Enough food for each member of your family for seven days. Because you may not have power for refrigeration or cooking, food supplies need to be those you can prepare and eat without power. These foods include:
- Non-perishable packaged or canned food and juices
- Snack foods
- Foods to accommodate special food needs (such as baby food or food for elderly people)
- Your disaster kit for food also needs to include materials necessary to prepare and serve food, such as:
- Manual can openers
- Cooking tools and fuel
- Paper plates and plastic utensils
- Enough cleaning supplies for each member of your family for seven days. Think through supplies you would need, such as garbage bags, sanitizer, moisture wipes, gloves, and more.
- Enough toiletries to last each member of your family for seven days.
- Enough flashlights for your family, and sufficient extra batteries.
- Because portions of your home may be off-limits or you may have to evacuate, take enough pillows, blankets, and/or sleeping bags for your family.
- A complete change of clothes for your climate and season.
- Sturdy walking shoes that will protect feet from debris or any other potentially dangerous objects that might be outside after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster.
- First Aid Kit, including bandages, antibacterial ointment, pain relievers, and other standard first aid supplies.
- Prescription medication
- Any other medicines needed by your family
- A battery operated and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio, to stay in touch with news and weather conditions in case of a power outage.
- Enough cash to last your family for seven days. Remember, you may not access a bank or ATM during or after a disaster (or immediately before, if you get enough warning). ATMs may be rendered nonfunctional or be out of cash even if you can access them.
- Pack all essential documents you may need in waterproof containers. Save them electronically as well, if possible. You may need bank and credit card account numbers, proof of medical insurance, proof of other insurance (such as homeowners, car, or flood), medical records, and Social Security and other identification numbers.
- If you have children, pack toys and games. Pack books for all members of the family.
- If you are handy, pack tools and a toolkit.
- Think through any special items you will need, especially for babies and older people. Do you need baby blankets, for example? Assistive devices for the elderly?
Here’s where you can find a complete disaster kit checklist.
If You Need to Evacuate Your Home
Some people want to stay in their homes during a hurricane, flood, or natural disaster. While that desire is understandable, an event may make it too dangerous to stay. You may need to evacuate for prudence or as a result of an order by state authorities.
Part of a disaster preparedness plan includes planning ahead for what to do if you need to leave your home.
Bear in mind that if you need to evacuate, it’s likely that many other people need to as well. Planning and, if possible, early departure, are key. You don’t want to risk the safety of your family by getting caught in endless traffic jams or if you can’t secure lodging in a safer area.
The state advises the following steps if you need to leave your home.
Planning For Emergency Evacuation
Develop an emergency preparedness plan well before any actual disaster event.
Plan where you would go in case of emergency. If you have family members in safer areas of the state, they may provide the best option. In past disasters, Florida’s hotels and other lodgings have filled up very quickly (or forced to close due to damage or other conditions). Discuss emergency plans with the family member well before any need.
If you must go to a hotel, motel, or other lodgings, plan ahead. Have a list. Make reservations as early as possible (ie, not once the storm is imminent). If you are traveling with children or pets, make sure your intended lodging accepts them. Discuss the number of people with you as well. Be sure reservations are made and accepted before leaving your home.
Chose a safe location as close as possible to your home. The state recommends trying to stay in your home county. Driving long distances takes large amounts of fuel. Gas stations may close (or even run out of gas). The longer you drive, the more likely you are to encounter heavy traffic and delays. These can disrupt safety plans.
Prepare for delays in traffic. Make sure you fill your vehicle with gas and get your oil checked well in advance.
If an official evacuation order looks likely, don’t delay or wait. The earlier you leave, the more likely you are to reach a safe destination. Remember, Florida and its population are large. A statewide evacuation order for a major hurricane means that many people will try to leave at once. The fewer people on the roads and in lodgings when you leave, the better.
If staying with friends, family, or public lodgings aren’t available, go to a state shelter. Florida state disaster authorities urge people to travel to shelters as a last resort. Shelters, too, will become very crowded in the case of a major disaster event. Be sure to take your disaster supply kit, as basic necessities are often limited or unavailable.
Florida maintains a complete list of emergency shelters.
If Your Household Includes Pets and Other Animals
Your disaster preparedness plan should include planning for pets.
First, if you shelter in place after a disaster, your pets and other animals need necessities like food, water, and any medications, just as people do.
Second, many people consider pets part of their family. If your home becomes uninhabitable or you need to evacuate, pets or other animals may not survive if you leave them behind. Even if they do survive, you may never find them afterward.
A disaster kit for your pets and other animals should include:
- Enough water to last seven days
- Enough food to last seven days. Food should be accessible without electric power, in easily opened packages or cans with pull tabs or openable by manual can openers.
- Any medication required.
- Adequate cage or carrier.
- Identification and immunization records.
- Devices required for safety, such as leashes or muzzles
- Pictures of you and your pets—these are helpful in case you and your pet are separated.
- Most shelters will not take pets, although they may make exceptions for service animals, such as seeing-eye dogs.
We want you to stay safe during hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters—and hope the above helps you to prepare and survive should one strike. For more legal information about disaster preparedness contact the skilled legal professionals at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for more information either by calling our Clearwater office at (727) 451-6900 or filling out a contact form online.
Dolman Law Group
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765