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Hurricane Help
The following is a collection of suggestions from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the National Hurricane Center, and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes on being prepared for and surviving the impacts from a hurricane or severe weather.

Know Your Zone

Not everyone has to evacuate!

The first step to understanding your risk is to know if you live in an evacuation zone. The button below will take you to a map that identifies your location and your evacuation zone.

How will I know whether to evacuate?

Monitor local news and pay attention to alerts from authorities. Evacuation zones are designated from A to F. Generally, Zone A is most vulnerable and most likely to be evacuated first, and Zone F is most likely to be evacuated last. Take the time now to find out which zone you are in and remember to pay attention to local authorities during a storm to find out if an evacuation is ordered.

Do I have to stay in a public shelter?

If you need to evacuate, your safest and easiest option may be to stay with friends or family who live outside the evacuation zone or in a stronger house. Check with nearby friends and family now and have a plan in place for what to do if you are ordered to evacuate.

Will I be exposed to COVID-19 in a shelter?

The state has been working with CDC, FEMA, and the American Red Cross to develop guidance for counties ahead of the 2020 Hurricane Season. This includes non-congregate sheltering plans, maintaining 6 feet social distancing between families, taking temperatures and screening individuals prior to entry, routine cleaning and disinfecting, and designated isolation areas in case an individual in the shelter becomes ill.

What should I bring with me when I evacuate?

In addition to the supplies that you would normally bring, make sure that you have hand sanitizer, masks and other materials to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Florida's Division of Emergency Management has also published evacuation maps for each county that are based upon the most up-to-date regional evacuation studies. These are intended for general reference, and any questions should be directed to your local emergency manager.

Know Your Home

What's a building code?

Modern building codes ensure your home is built using the latest practices and standards. Use this tool to determine codes used in your community, and how to contact your local government if they don't.

Is my home strong enough?

If you are in an evacuation zone that is ordered to evacuate by local authorities or in a flood zone, you should evacuate no matter what. If you are not in any of these areas, then it may be safer for you to stay in your home. While it is the responsibility of the homeowner to know if their home is strong enough to withstand a hurricane, generally homes built after 2002 include features that make them more resilient to hurricanes. There are also improvements you can make to your home to strengthen it against future storms.

Should I evacuate this year?

The greatest threat to life from a hurricane is storm surge flooding, so if you are in an ordered evacuation zone, low-lying flood area or in a mobile home, the life-safety risk of a hurricane will be greater than the risk of COVID-19 exposure. On the other hand, if you are not in an ordered evacuation zone, low-lying flood prone area, mobile home or unsafe structure, then it may be safer to stay in your home. Always heed the advice and orders of local officials during a storm.

How can I make my home stronger?

The most important precaution you can take to reduce damage to your home and property is to protect the areas where wind can enter. According to recent wind technology research, it's important to strengthen the exterior of your house so wind and debris do not tear large openings in it.

Will shelters be different this year?

Non-congregate sheltering will be used when possible. Overall, the CDC is encouraging every county to use smaller shelters of less than 50 people when possible. Regardless of the number of people in a shelter, the CDC and American Red Cross recommend a minimum of 60 square feet per person. The state is recommending that counties screen all clients before entering. If rapid testing is available, it should be used. The state also sent out a statewide survey to hotels to gauge how many businesses would be interested in providing non-congregate sheltering is a hurricane were to threaten a community. It's important to note, the 200 hotels who responded to the survey are not actively sheltering individuals. They expressed interest in providing sheltering during the upcoming hurricane season. All decisions regarding sheltering during a storm will be decided by local county emergency management. To view the list of hotels that expressed interest, please click here

Few people survive storm surge.

But Tom lived to tell you why...

When a Storm Surge Watch is issued for your area, you should finish preparations to your home and listen to local authorities for an evacuation order.

When a Storm Surge Warning is issued and you've been told to evacuate, it's time to GO!

Storm surge inundation forecasts are extremely complex. We all want to wish the water away. If you have ANY doubt, GET OUT.

What are evacuation zones?

Frequently Asked Questions

How will I know whether to evacuate?

Monitor local news and pay attention to alerts from authorities. Evacuation zones are designated from A to F. Generally, Zone A is most vulnerable and most likely to be evacuated first, and Zone F is most likely to be evacuated last. Take the time now to find out which zone you are in and remember to pay attention to local authorities during a storm to find out if an evacuation is ordered.

Do I have to stay in a public shelter?

If you need to evacuate, your safest and easiest option may be to stay with friends or family who live outside the evacuation zone or in a stronger house. Check with nearby friends and family now and have a plan in place for what to do if you are ordered to evacuate.

Will I be exposed to COVID-19 in a shelter?

The state has been working with CDC, FEMA, and the American Red Cross to develop guidance for counties ahead of the 2020 Hurricane Season. This includes non-congregate sheltering plans, maintaining 6 feet social distancing between families, taking temperatures and screening individuals prior to entry, routine cleaning and disinfecting, and designated isolation areas in case an individual in the shelter becomes ill.

What should I bring with me when I evacuate?

In addition to the supplies that you would normally bring, make sure that you have hand sanitizer, masks and other materials to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Florida's Division of Emergency Management has also published evacuation maps for each county that are based upon the most up-to-date regional evacuation studies. These are intended for general reference, and any questions should be directed to your local emergency manager.

What's your plan?

You'll have to trust us on this one. Learning this lesson the hard way could threaten your entire family's life.

Without looking at your phone, do you...

  • Know your spouse or children's phone number?
  • Have paper copies of all important documents?
  • Know where to go if you become separated?
  • How to operate your generator?

These are just a few of the things you'll be stressed about if you don't make a plan.

Next time you're at the store...

It doesn’t take thousands of dollars or multiple days to do it.  In fact, in one day, you can gather the items necessary to ride a storm and the impact it can leave for many days after.  If finances become a challenge, consider purchasing only a few of these items at a time during the off-season months.

  • 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day)
  • 3-day supply of non-perishable food
  • At least one change of clothes
  • First-aid kit
  • Battery-powered portable radio
  • Flashlight, with extra batteries
  • Extra battery packs for mobile devices
  • Credit card AND cash
  • Prescription and non-prescription medication
  • Sleeping bag, blanket and/or pillow
  • Emergency contact list (on paper)
  • Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members

FEMA has created a printable list, or you can use this story to come up with your own.

Give your home a makeover.

If you’re on a budget or short on time, FLASH says damage prevention is easy as learning your “ABC’s”.

Before the season begins, these tasks could mitigate damage to your home and keep your insurance agent happy.

  • Trimming trees and shrubs can lower the chances that your home will be impacted by wind damage or a power outage.
  • Clearing clogged rain gutters or downspouts can lessen the impact of flooding or prevent a leak in your roof during a storm.
  • Purchasing and installing a generator can keep your essential items powered for several days in the event of a major power outage.
  • Purchasing and installing a generator can keep your essential items powered for several days in the event of a major power outage.

And finally, make plans ahead of time on where to store your recreational vehicles, such as your boat or motorcycle. A public space such as a parking garage may be a much sturdier solution than your driveway or carport.

Extreme wind can also occur inland.

Hurricane-force winds can travel dozens of miles inland after a hurricane makes landfall, causing considerable structural damage and power outages that can last days, maybe even weeks.

Supply kit checklists, such as this printable one from FEMA, are a great resource to have in hand when building up your supply kit for a prolonged power outage.

The highest wind speeds are typically found in the eye wall of the hurricane and generally in the area to right of the eye, known as the right-front quadrant. This powerful quadrant can sustain its strength over land for some time before the tropical cyclone begins to weaken.

Power outages by county during Hurricane Irma.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Power outages from Hurricane Irma in 2017 were reported in every Florida county except five. In fact, some of the most widespread outages occurred more than 200 miles from where it made landfall in portions of northeast Florida. Wind speeds in these areas only reached tropical storm force (39 to 73 mph), but that was still strong enough to knock down trees and bring down power lines.

In 2018, Category 5 Hurricane Michael came ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida. The storm maintained its major hurricane strength as it pushed into Georgia, more than 60 miles from where it came ashore, continuing to flatten homes and topple trees. The strong winds from Michael also caused extensive power outages as far north as Virginia, more than 24 hours after landfall.

If you live in Florida, it can flood.

Tropical storms and hurricanes can threaten all Floridians with flooding. Even after the strong winds have diminished, the flooding potential of these storms can remain for several days.

A common misperception is that homeowner's insurance covers a loss from flooding. It is also widely believed that the federal government can pay for your damages after a flood. While some agencies do provide assistance after a major event, the amount typically comes up far short of what it actually costs to fully restore your property or livelihood. When preparing for the season ahead, consider purchasing flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as soon as possible.

Flooding in Live Oak from Tropical Storm Debby (2012). Source: Suwannee County Democrat
Flooding in Live Oak from Tropical Storm Debby (2012). Source: Suwannee County Democrat

Since 1970, nearly 60% of the 600 deaths due to floods associated with tropical cyclones occurred inland from the storm’s landfall. Of that 60%, almost a fourth (23%) of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths occur to people who drown in, or attempting to abandon, their cars.

It is a common misconception to think that the stronger the storm is, the greater the potential for flooding. This is not always the case. In fact, large and slow moving tropical cyclones, regardless of strength, are the ones that usually produce the most flooding. This was evident with Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 which devastated portions of Southeast Texas with severe flooding, despite only having maximum winds of 60 mph.

Sixteen years later it would happen again, in the same area. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey came ashore as a major Category 4 hurricane before quickly weakening over southeast Texas. Although Harvey quickly weakened to a Tropical Storm, the system became almost stationary over the region for days. Southeast Texas saw the worst of the flooding as heavy rains delivered more than 40 inches of rain to some areas in less than 48 hours.

Don't forget about Fido!

In the event of a hurricane, you'll need to care not only for the human members of your family, but your furry friends too. Review the tips and guidelines below to ensure the safety of your pet when the next storm strikes.

Evacuation

If you evacuate your home, do not leave your animals behind! Instead, consider one of the following options:

  • Bring them with you: By law, service animals are permitted at an emergency shelter. However, not all shelters permit family pets. If you are staying at an emergency shelter, you'll need to check to see if they allow pets.
  • Leave them with loved ones: Consider asking friends or loved ones (outside of the affected area) to watch your pet until you can do so.
  • Animal shelters/Veterinary Offices: Animal shelters and veterinarians may offer pet boarding during emergencies/natural disasters. Again, you'll have to do your research ahead of time to find facilities near you.

Pet Emergency Kit

Not only do you need to have a disaster supply kit for yourself, but so does Fido! Regardless of your decision to shelter in place or evacuate, there are essential items to keep in your pet's kit:

  • Non-perishable food (dry or canned- don't forget a can opener)
  • Several gallons of water
  • Food and water bowls
  • Necessary medications
  • Pet medical documentation/Vaccination records/licenses
  • Leash/harness/collar/carrier
  • Photo of yourself & your pet/proof of ownership
  • Small toys or treats

With little warning...

Tropical cyclones often produce tornadoes, which can contribute to the overall destructive power of a storm. Similar to storm surge and extreme wind, tornadoes are more likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of the hurricane relative to its motion. However, they can also be found throughout the storm.

A tornado spawned by a tropical storm or hurricane usually develops quickly, sometimes with little warning. It is critical to have multiple ways of receiving alerts during a hurricane, such as tornado warnings, should there be a loss of power. We encourage the use of a battery-powered NOAA weather radio or a mobile app, like Florida Storms, with push notifications turned on.

Tornadoes associated with tropical cyclones are usually less intense than those that occur in Tornado Alley and Dixie Alley. However, they can occur for days after landfall, and produce substantial damage in neighborhoods that might have not been in the storm's direct path.

If you have a disability...

Emergency situations are stressful for everyone, and can be even more stressful for those with disabilities or special needs. To ensure that you or your loved one's unique needs are met during the next disaster, consider the following steps:

1. Form a Personal Support Network

These are the people you should involve in your emergency planning and can help you in an emergency situation. They include your nearby family, friends, caregivers, neighbors and co-workers. Be sure to give at least one trusted member of your support network a key to your house or apartment. Also, let members of your support group know where you store your emergency kit. Most importantly, you should not rely on just one person, but have at least three or more people you can call on for help.

2. Complete a Personal Assessment

Make a list of your personal needs and your resources for meeting them in a disaster environment. You need to take into account what you will be able to do for yourself and what assistance you may need before, during and after a disaster such as a hurricane. This should include daily living needs (personal care/personal care equipment, adaptive feeding devices and electricity-dependent equipment), your ability to get around before, during and after a disaster (cleaning up disaster debris, transportation and blocked roads) and evacuating if necessary.

3. Get Informed

Learn about community disaster plans and community warning systems and find out more about special assistance programs. Florida citizens with disabilities and special needs should register with their local emergency management office. 

4. Write It Down

Keep a copy of important phone numbers and other contact information for loved ones, medical providers and emergency services as part of your emergency communications plan.

5. Your Emergency Kit

In addition to the items found here, your emergency kit should have supplies specific to your special needs (medications, personal products, etc.) .

Partners of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network include: Florida's Division of Emergency Management, WDNA (Miami), WFIT (Melbourne), WMFE (Orlando), WFSU (Tallahassee), WGCU (Fort Myers), WJCT (Jacksonville), WKGC (Panama City), WLRN (Miami), WMNF (Tampa-Sarasota), WQCS (Fort Pierce), WUFT (Gainesville-Ocala), WUSF (Tampa), WUWF (Pensacola) and Florida Public Media.

1885 Stadium Road

PO Box 118400

Gainesville, FL 32611

(352) 392-5551

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