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satellite image shows hurricane charley over west-central florida in 2004

Storm Season 2020: Evacuation shelters

One key consideration as you prepare for our tropical storm season is whether or not to evacuate your home, should a storm approach.

Making the decision to shelter in place or evacuate to a shelter—or even travel to another location—can be a difficult one, starting with “How DO you decide?” You might hesitate to leave your home. It’s likely where you keep everything you know and love. It can also be one of the largest assets you own.

So, to help you make this decision, here are some key questions you need to answer:

  • Are you in a mobile home or recreational vehicle? If so, you MUST EVACUATE for any hurricane order issued by Sarasota County officials. Remember: Leaving can save your life!
  • Have you had a wind mitigation inspection completed on your home? Such an inspection checks features like doors, windows, roofs and more to determine how susceptible (or resistant) they might be to storm impacts.
  • Do you have hurricane protection for your windows, doors and garage door?
  • Is your roof secure for high-wind conditions?
  • Was your home built after the 2002 Florida building code upgrades? Enacted after the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, these codes assure a higher level of storm resistance to newer homes and commercial buildings.
  • Is your home located in a flood-prone area?
  • What is your evacuation zone?
satellite image shows hurricane charley over west-central florida in 2004

In this satellite image, Hurricane Charley is shown tracking over west-central Florida in 2004. [CREDIT: NOAA]

If you’ve determined that you have a safe home in a safe area, county and state emergency officials suggest sheltering in place is a practical option, and also recommend that, if possible, you open your home to relatives or friends who might need shelter. Learn more in the county’s “All Hazards Disaster Planning Guide.”

If you’ve determined that evacuating is your safe option, now what?

First and foremost, don’t wait until it’s too late. Determine now where you will evacuate, and then gather the items you will bring with you (making sure they are allowed at your chosen shelter). When evacuating, you have four basic options:

  1. Shelter in a relative or friend’s home that is not located in vulnerable areas or in a mobile home. Sheltering with others also helps reduce some of the anxiety.
  2. Evacuate to a hotel or motel. If this is your plan, call ahead for availability and secure your reservations early. If you have a pet, check to see if the location will accept pets. But again, make sure this location is not in an evacuation zone.
  3. Evacuating the coastal area. Take supplies and important documents with you. It is recommended that you travel inland away from the storm surge and inland flooding and that travel should be tens of miles and not hundreds. But if you are considering traveling up north to family or friends, leave early to avoid congestion on the roadways.
  4. Evacuation centers are facilities such as schools that provide increased protection to the public from high winds and/or storm surge. These locations most likely are not as comfortable as your own home and will have limited provisions. So evacuating to a shelter really should be a last resort.

Officials with the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center have established new protocol per guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Expect screening for individuals, temperature checks, masks, gloves and hand sanitizer at shelters. And, the amount of space provided for each individual will increase to 60 square feet, up from the previous 20-square-foot allotment.

Here are items you should bring to the shelter:

  • Cloth masks for each family member
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Personal medications
  • Food and snacks; special-diet foods
  • Cot,sleeping bag or air mattress, bedding such as pillows and blankets
  • Lawn chair, folding chair or other portable, collapsible chair
  • Hygiene items such as tooth brush and tooth paste, toilet paper, deodorant, etc.
  • Extra clothing and shoes
  • Eyeglasses and hearing aids, with extra batteries
  • Radio and spare batteries
  • Cards, quiet games, books and toys to occupy time
  • Pet food, medications, water, supplies, leash, carrier or crate, photo of your pet and vaccination records
  • Important documents and irreplaceable keepsakes, such as insurance policies, driver’s license, special medical information, property inventories, photographs, etc.

Remember now is the perfect time to prepare you, your family and your home for a weather disaster. Don’t wait until it’s too late. In our next blog, we will cover post-disaster precautions.

RESOURCES

For more information on disaster planning visit the following resources:


Other posts in this series:

  1. Gathering information (Are you ready?)
  2. Creating a plan
  3. Assembling your kit and supplies
  4. Evacuation shelters
  5. Post-disaster precautions
  6. Food safety

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