State wants you to get ready for hurricanes


Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 2:32 a.m.
State officials began laying plans for persuading those people who still ignore warnings to prepare and stay ready for hurricanes as another record-setting season headed for overtime Wednesday.
The 2005 hurricane season that brought a record 26 named storms to the Atlantic basin may have officially ended as the calendar flipped from November to December, but it remained active at sea. Tropical Storm Epsilon - No. 26 on your scorecard - continued to swirl far out in the Atlantic Ocean, but it was not expected to threaten any land.
Florida was still reeling from a record four hurricanes in 2004 when Dennis, Katrina and Wilma struck the state this year, and Rita passed south of the Florida Keys. Yet many people still weren't ready, said Florida Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate.
''I'd like to thank the Florida residents who did have a plan, did prepare and had supplies, that heeded the evacuation orders,'' Fugate said. ''For the rest of you, I've got some harsh words.''
He cited recent Florida International University surveys that showed about 40 percent of the state's residents failed to prepare. ''It is not only you who you put at risk,'' Fugate said. ''It is often times rescuers who are having to go into very dangerous conditions to search for you as you frantically call 911.''
Dennis, Katrina and Wilma killed 64 people in Florida. They also caused an estimated $14 billion in damage to insured property and more than $1.6 billion to roads, bridges and other public infrastructure.
Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings closed an end-of-season news conference by dropping two small red and black hurricane flags to the floor of the state's emergency headquarters. She also had raised the preparedness issue.
''The key to our success is creating a culture of preparedness,'' Jennings said. ''We can only move forward by making our citizens take some personal responsibility.''
Fugate wants to begin that process by commissioning some behavioral analyses and polls to find out why some people prepared for past storms and others did not. Then he wants to mount a campaign similar to the effort that persuaded people to buckle up their seat belts when they get into their cars.
He conceded that it will take more than a year, possibly many years.
''This will not be a sound bite that changes everything,'' Fugate said. ''We want it to become the habit of Floridians to prepare, not something they only do if they feel threatened.''
Fugate said the state cannot provide food, water and other help for all 17 million Floridians in the hours and days immediately after a storm. If those who have the means to prepare, evacuate and stock up on supplies will do so, government can focus on people who cannot fend for themselves due to such factors as poverty, disability or a language barrier, he said.
Gov. Jeb Bush was in Carlsbad, Calif., for the annual conference of the Republican Governors Association. But before leaving Tuesday, he also cited the need for personal preparedness. He said there also is other work that should be done before the next hurricane season begins June 1, 2006.
''It's important for the state and local governments to invest in hardening existing housing stock, dealing with the issues of special needs shelters and shelter space in general, figuring out a way to make sure we get power up quicker,'' Bush said.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top