BY OLIVIA CAMERON- It’s that time of year again, when local residents cross their fingers and toes in hopes that tropical winds don’t break the pool screen or knock down the palm trees – or worse. Like many traditions, everyone will gather around windows and sliding glass doors to honor the annual durability check of hurricane season.
From June 1 to November 30, we are far too familiar with the impending risk of a hurricane sweeping our coastlines. After hurricane Charley landed on Southwest Florida at maximum strength in 2004, we know what it’s like to be caught off-guard by a storm emergency.
The official website of Lee County provides an in-depth Hurricane Preparation Guide to inform local residents on how to create a solid plan for this season, including preparations to be made and potential shelter locations to be aware of.
Lee County Emergency Management (LCEM) states that residents should be aware of what storm surge and evacuation zones they live in. Hurricane evacuation zones are now referenced as surge zones A to E rather than listed by storm category. During a storm emergency, these zones are evacuated in phases. Zone A begins at the coastline, with each zone stretching inland. Zone E reaches the land just behind the Southwest Florida International Airport.
In a time of possible evacuation, families may plan to shelter at home if the residence is able to withstand tough winds and flood threats. Homeowners should know the year in which their house was built and if their residency is in a flood zone, in order to ensure their family’s safety. People can also find shelter with a friend or at a hotel. If there is nowhere else to go, public shelters are available across Southwest Florida. These emergency shelters span from Island Coast High School in Cape Coral to the Bonita Springs YMCA, and vacancy depends on the severity of the storm.
LCEM has provided a printable checklist to follow, called the Family Emergency Plan. It involves numerous steps to take to prepare the household for hurricane safety and other crises. When filled out, the document can provide easily accessible information in a time of panic.
Residents may also want to double-check their emergency supply kit for personal items, hygiene products, a first-aid kit, spare contacts, drinking water, extra batteries, a tool kit, animal supplies and even a weather radio. Nonperishable foods in the kit should be consistently rotated.
The emergency management department has also listed links to evacuation routes, pet-friendly lodging and hydrologic monitoring information. For emergency shelter maps, checklists, news updates and other details regarding hurricane safety, visit leegov.com.
Don’t forget about hurricane hang tags: If you don’t have them, you need to get them now.
It’s also time to dig those hang tags out from your glove compartment and give them a look-see! These orange-and-blue hang tags are a necessity for the hurricane season. In the event of a storm emergency, being stranded without a hang tag could result in a lengthy residency or employee verification process.
The Boca Grande Fire Department recommends downloading their app to see information regarding tags, alerts and safety updates. Search “Boca Grande Fire Department” on the Apple iTunes store or Google App store, and make sure to keep the app on your phone.
Hang tag applications can be downloaded from bocagrandefire.com, filled out and mailed or emailed to the station. If you have a tag that was issued in 2012 or later, it’s still usable.
Business owners, now is the time to take inventory of tags for your employees. If you have new people working for your company that would need to get to the island after a hurricane, make sure they are taken care of as well.