Here in coastal northeast Florida, we face the potentially devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew beginning as early as tomorrow evening. Rushing your personal hurricane preparedness measures to conclusion is extremely important.
During my professional career, I received the Florida Professional Emergency Manager designation and have served as incident commander for response and recovery operations during three hurricanes and unprecedented flooding in eastern Volusia County.
As much as I harp on the foibles of government – emergency management is something our local, county and state officials do extremely well. Please stay tuned to local media outlets for official information regarding potential evacuations and other lifesaving preparedness measures.
Remember – it is never too early to evacuate if you live on the barrier island or in flood prone areas. In fact, leaving before evacuation orders are issued can help you avoid heavy traffic congestion and long delays.
Please remember the Five P’s of Evacuation:
Consider the needs of each member of your family – especially young children and persons with special needs. Pets are family too – make sure your furry friends evacuate safely with you. Many shelters accept pets – please remember shot records, leashes, pet food and bowls.
Prescriptions, with dosages; medicines; medical equipment; batteries or power cords; eyeglasses; and hearing aids.
Important papers and documents (including hard copies and/or electronic copies saved on external hard drives or thumb drives.)
Personal needs – such as clothes, food, water, first-aid kits, cash, phones and electronics chargers – and items for people with disabilities, children, older adults and those with limited English proficiency. Pet food and bowls.
Priceless items, including a few pictures, irreplaceable mementos, and extremely valuable items.
When you return:
Only return home when authorities say that it is safe to do so.
If your home sustained structural damage – do not enter – and avoid entering any structure that is surrounded by flood water.
Never touch downed electrical lines or damaged equipment or appliances until you are certain that utilities have been shut off.
Never use lanterns, torches, open flame or matches to examine damaged buildings – always use flashlights and keep extra batteries available.
Carbon monoxide kills. Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machine ONLY outdoors and away from windows so fumes do not get inside. The same goes for camping stoves. Fumes from charcoal are also deadly; cook with charcoal ONLY outdoors.
Avoid wading in floodwater, which may be contaminated with oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.
Watch for dangerous debris (e.g., broken glass, metal fragments), dead animals, or venomous snakes in floodwaters.
Before walking through debris, check for hidden dangers.
Underground or downed power lines may electrically charge the water.
Care for yourself and each other:
Look for signs of depression or anxiety related to this experience, such as feeling physically and mentally drained; having difficulty making decisions or staying focused; becoming easily frustrated on a more frequent basis; feeling tired, sad, numb, lonely, or worried; or experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns. After the storm, seek help from local mental health providers if you detect these signs in yourself or others.
Most of all, remain calm and help yourself, your family, and your neighbors prepare for this potentially catastrophic weather event.
If you live on the coast – or in an area prone to flooding – consider evacuating now.
Getting to a shelter just a few miles inland can make a big difference.
Remember – we will get through this together.