With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact everyone in Manatee County, it’s a tough time to think about planning for hurricane season, which starts June 1.
But we have no choice: Experts are calling for an active hurricane season, and you don’t want to be figuring things out as a major storm bears down on us.
The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, has worked with Manatee County to create the All-Hazards Disaster Planning Guide and evacuation map, and it’s important that residents use the guide or other resources to prepare now.
Check the map to know your hurricane evacuation level, which is critically important information to have on hand if evacuations are ordered. The Guide and evacuation map also include an updated list of shelters, including which shelters are designated for people with special medical needs and which ones allow pets.
Here are some other important tips to keep in mind for your planning:
Store your important documents in a fireproof safe or box, and also store copies in a secure location away from your home or business. This should pertain to such documents as birth certificates, passports, insurance policies and bank and credit card information.
If you have pets, have a kit for them, too, with items like vaccination paperwork, a carrier, and ample food supply. Also, now is a good time to microchip your pet if you haven’t done so: Nearly 80% of pets displaced by a storm are never reunited with their owners.
Register with both your power company and your local municipality if you depend on electrical medical equipment. This will be important if you need transport to a medical shelter, and will also give you priority if power is being restored after an outage.
Do a careful walk around your home and yard, looking for potential issues. Is there any equipment or appliances (like electrical panels, heat pumps, fuel tanks or electronics) that could be damaged if there’s flooding? And are there any trees that might cause damage to your home in a windstorm? Address any issues now.
Designate someone who lives out of the area to coordinate communications for your family in the event of a disaster. Family members should be ready to call this person to report their location. Also, this person should have copies of your important papers, such as IDs and your insurance policy.
And keep the pandemic in mind as you do your planning. Would you be comfortable in a community shelter if needed? If you are older or have an underlying health condition, you may want to be ready to make other arrangements, given the difficulties in implementing social distancing in such a situation.
Also, consider logistics if you decide to leave the area. Since some hotels are closed, check now to see what hotels would be open along the route you would take to get out of town.
A digital version of the All-Hazards Disaster Planning Guide and a Manatee evacuation map is available at TampaBayPrepares.org, while printed copies are available at many post offices, libraries, and government buildings. For details on where to pick up a guide, visit www.mymanatee.org.
Patrick Roff, a member of the Bradenton City Council, is serving as the 2020 chair of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.
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