With August 1 coming up quickly, that means that the peak of hurricane season is as well. While we are lucky so far in 2022, that doesn’t mean we are out of the woods. In fact, most hurricanes occur from mid-August to late October. While many residents and small business owners are already prepared, there are larger businesses with numerous employees who need to take an inventory of which employees have hangtags and the employees who need them. Determining who will deploy in the first wave after a major storm hits is important, whether referring to first responders or landscapers who can clear paths of travel around the island.
“The community of Boca Grande has implemented one of the most progressive and user-friendly disaster plans, to be used as direction for evacuation of our community,” said Chief C.W. Blosser of the Boca Grande Fire Department. “This plan has been utilized successfully in other communities; however, there has always been one part of the plan which has been a concern. That part is how we handle the re-entry process at the Gasparilla Island Bridge Association after an evacuation. Part of this concern is the necessity of checking identification of all who return to the Island, and because this is a very slow process, those waiting in line become very impatient.
In order to facilitate the re-entry to the Island after a major storm event, we have administered a program using hurricane hangtags. Each tag is color coded according to a designated Official, Commercial and Residential use, and district zone.
As a barrier Island with an average elevation of four to six feet above sea level, on occasion, it may be necessary to evacuate the Island to protect public safety. After an evacuation, it is our goal to return residents to their homes, and business owners to their property as soon as possible. Hurricane Hangtags maximize security measures while providing authorized persons access to their property. The following identification systems shall be recognized:
Hangtags: Hangtags will be utilized by officials, residents, business and property owners to gain access to the Island. Each hangtag, which should be displayed on the rearview mirror, will be color-coded for official, residential or commercial use. These hangtags also have valuable information for both hurricane preparedness and Island re-entry printed on the reverse side. The Hurricane Hangtag Program includes a four-zone system. Your zone will be printed on your Hurricane Hangtag to better track where one should be and to allow for phased re-entry, if warranted.
A computerized database is used to track the hangtags, and to whom they were issued. The tags are issued to officials, property owners, residents, and business owners only, and it shall be up to these individuals as to how they will distribute their tags. It is recommended that people keep these in their vehicle glove box for easy access.
Drivers’ License: A valid drivers’ license with a Boca Grande address does not verify a persons’ address, only their identity. A drivers’ license alone will cause a delay. For the most expedient return, Boca Grande residents, property owners and those with commercial interests are advised to obtain a Hurricane Hangtag.
Hurricane Hangtags are available at the Boca Grande Fire Department, 360 East Railroad Ave. between the hours of 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 pm. Monday through Friday. The fire department administrative offices will be closed three business days prior to projected landfall storm.
If you are not on the island, cannot find your previously issued hangtag, or need more you can download an application from bocagrandefire.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Return your completed application with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Boca Grande Fire Department, POB 532, Boca Grande, Florida, 33921. Include a copy of your drivers’ license, proof of residency or ownership, i.e. copy of tax bill, deed, rental agreement, utility bill, business license, etc. The tags will be mailed to you.
Staying on the Island:
If you elect to remain on the Island after an Evacuation Advisory has been issued, which is not recommended, it is requested that you contact the Boca Grande Fire Department at 964-2908 and leave the name of the property owner and address where you are staying, number of members in your party and a contact number for next of kin not living in the area This will aid the fire department to expedite search and rescue proceedings as well as body recovery efforts. Those electing not to contact the Boca Grande Fire Department will be assisted on a first come, first served basis. The Boca Grande Fire Department is not a shelter or safe haven and it will not be used as such. Make arrangements for evacuations.
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions:
What do the zones mean?
The Hurricane Hangtag Program includes a system of four zones. These zones will be marked on your rear-view mirror hangtags to better track where people should be and to allow for phased re-entry, if warranted. If you are in a zone other than what you are designated or do not have a hangtags visible, you may be subject to being stopped by emergency service personnel.
What do I need to obtain a Hurricane Hangtag?
You need a proof of residency or ownership. A valid drivers’ license with your name and your Boca Grande address on a tax bill, deed, rental agreement, or Boca Grande utility bill, etc. A document of this type will suffice.
Do I need an application form for each person in my household?
No, one Residential Hurricane Hangtag Application Form per family will suffice. We are asking Commercial Entities to request hangtags for essential personnel only. Remember, you are accountable for each hangtag that you request and are issued.
Why the Hangtags?
The hangtags are to make re-entry easier after an event. It is in all of our best interest to keep the number of vehicles on the Island to a minimum after a storm event.
I have both residential and commercial properties, what should I do?
You can fill out applications for residential and business separately, and receive both residential and commercial hangtags.
Zone 1: Swing Bridge to 18th St
Zone 2: Isles
Zone 3: 17th St to 1st St
Zone 4: Boca Bay – south end of Island
• Own property on the island
• Provide a copy of the lease for island property, listing the name of the person requesting the tag as a tenant /or have the landlord request the tags
• Provide proof such as utility bill, property tax bill, etc. indicating island address
• Show valid drivers’ license
• Must own/manage a business with a physical address on the island
• Provide business license with island address
• Owner/manager must show valid drivers’ license
• Tags will be issued to businesses and/or employers for their key employees. A list of employees should be submitted to BGFD and tags will be issued to the employer.
• The business owner/property owner is accountable for the tag and the person to whom it is issued
• Tags should be issued only in the event of a storm, and returned to the employer after the storm.
Lost Tags and tag renewal
• Only homeowners or business owners can request replacements for lost tags.
• Necessity for Hangtag renewal will be determined on a yearly basis. Watch the local newspapers, or check with the fire department for information.
• DO NOT throw your tags away.
• Tag renewal can only be done by the homeowner or business owner.
Remember, public shelters do not accept pets. Make reservations early and know which hotels will accept pets. Make pet supplies part of your disaster supply kit. Refill your prescriptions and maintain at least a two-week supply during hurricane season.
Clear your yard of potential flying debris such as lawn furniture, potted plants, bicycles and trash cans. Also find safe storage for grills and propane tanks.
Empty your refrigerator. Be sure to empty your refrigerator and freezer of all perishable items before evacuation.
• Fill your vehicle fuel tank: Check oil, water and tires. Fuel pumps don’t operate without electricity.
• Secure your boat early: Draw bridges will be closed to boat traffic after an evacuation order is issued.
• Get cash: Banks and ATM’s will not be in operation without electricity and few stores will be able to accept credit cards or personal checks.
• Be patient: Access to affected areas will be controlled. Stay tuned and listen to your local TV and radio stations. Tune in for updates or call the Florida Emergency Information Line at 1-800-342-3557. (Only activated during disaster.)
• Have current valid I.D.’s or Hurricane Hangtags: Drivers’ license with Boca Grande address does not verify address. Security operations will include checkpoints.
• Avoid Driving: Roads will have debris which can puncture tires. Don’t add to the congestion of relief workers, supply trucks, law enforcement, etc.
• Observe curfew hours: Don’t sightsee, especially at night.
Store your hangtags in your glove department so they don’t become sun faded or brittle. The tags will remain the property of the Boca Grande Fire Department.