By: County Commissioner Robert Weinroth Dist. 4 Special to the Boca Newspaper
We are now a month into the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a “near-normal” season with 2 to 4 major hurricanes expected.
Last year was the third consecutive year in which Florida was pummeled by a massive hurricane after a decade long respite. Northwest Florida in and around Mexico Beach continues its recovery from the devastation exacted by Michael.
Our residents need to avoid complacency now or when the cyclones begin to do their annual east to west migration from the African continent.
Hopefully, you availed yourself of the sales tax holiday in early June where, thanks to our governor and legislature, selected hurricane supplies were exempt from our 7 percent sales tax. If you were a procrastinator, it’s time to ensure you have the necessary supplies BEFORE the next named storm comes barreling down on us.
Whether you are new to our region or a seasoned veteran, it is important to take these storms seriously and be prepared to evacuate, if necessary.
Don’t be “that guy/gal” who stubbornly refuses to leave, later begging for help as the storm makes it clear the decision to stay was foolhardy. Your decision may potentially put your life in harms way and, more importantly, put the lives of first responders working to rescue you from your bad decision, in harms way!
Our county and municipal employees (including our police, fire and municipal services employees) have a plan to respond to nature’s fury, which they have demonstrated in the past, and they are capable of executing flawlessly.
Emergency Operations at the county and municipal levels of government will make it a priority to provide our residents with factual information and where necessary, emergency assistance.
Hurricanes are a fact of life for us just as tornados impact the Midwest and wildfires, mudslides and an occasional earthquake are an ever-present danger in the West.
After Wilma, as a result of an inability to obtain fuel, service stations were required to install backup generators. After the deaths of a dozen residents at a Hollywood nursing home, new statewide regulations were enacted to ensure our vulnerable seniors are not subjected to sweltering conditions when the next extended loss of power occurs.
It is everybody’s responsibility to be prepared for the next storm. Government alone cannot begin to handle all of the potential adverse impacts. It is also important to have a family evacuation plan in place and to make sure your residence is secure.
Emergency officials warn that residents should be prepared to survive on their own for at least 72 hours.
Supplies sell out fast once a storm has been forecast, so it is important to be prepared.
Some questions to consider:
Do you depend on electric medical devices or oxygen to stay well? You must preregister for a special needs shelter. http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Special-Needs.aspx
Do you have enough canned goods and bottled water stocked? See checklist on all recommended supplies and other tips at http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/publications/hurricane_supply_checklist.pdf
Do you know the location of your closest shelter, gas station and/or grocery store with a backup generator? Go to: http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Emergency.aspx
Do you have a plan for your pet? The county operates a pet shelter, but you are required to register in advance. Go to: http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/animalcare/Pages/Hurricane.aspx
Do you live in a mandatory evacuation zone? Check to see at: http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Preparedness.aspx#Q8
Sign up for alert system: AlertPBC is the county’s Emergency Alert & Notification System used to notify users of imminent threats to health and safety via text messages, email or telephone calls.
Users will be alerted to various weather hazards such as tornadoes, floods, tropical storms or
severe weather alerts. In addition, alerts are also issued concerning public safety issues such as
law enforcement activity, missing persons, and significant road closures. To sign up for these up-
to-date emergency notifications, please visit www.AlertPBC.com.
Emergency officials will be communicating with county residents using social media. My office will also be posting on my Facebook page.
There is also a free emergency app, PBC DARTcal: ali, which will provide vital information such as storm surge evacuation areas, flood zones, shelter locations, grocery and building supply stores and gas stations with emergency generators.
PBC Dart also lets individuals and businesses send damage reports to the Emergency Operations Center, which will enable emergency workers to access and respond to areas needing attention during and after a storm.
While the new technology is terrific, there are still some basic pre-storm tips:
Get cash early. This will be extremely helpful when the ATM screens are dark and swiping a credit card doesn’t work during an outage.
Get gas for the car. Fill up as far in advance as possible.
Create an offsite or online data backup for important records, family photos, and other irreplaceable files that are stored on your laptop, desktop, or mobile device.
Use solar-powered USB chargers. No electricity or battery needed – just a little sunshine!
A hurricane evacuation shelter is a refuge of last resort; a place to go if you can’t stay at home or with a relative, friend, or co-worker or nearby hotel.
While shelters are set up in schools, the timing of openings and locations can change due to circumstances of the storm. Monitor local and social media for shelter openings and locations. Remember, pets can only be accommodated at certain shelters and only with a reservation.
Palm Beach County and the school district manage public shelters. Shelters provide simple meals, beverages and basic first aid only. Each person is assigned 20 square feet of space and must bring supplies such as bedding, blankets, inflatable mattresses, water, medicine, baby food, water, and toiletries.
For more information on shelter supplies, visit http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Shelters.aspx.