Storms can cause severe damage, so be prepared


Published: Friday, June 1, 2012 at 12:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 1, 2012 at 12:22 p.m.

While North Central Florida might not see as much hurricane damage as the coasts of Florida, it doesn’t mean residents shouldn’t be prepared.

Facts

Things to Consider When Preparing for Hurricane Season

- Have an emergency plan for your family
- Have an emergency kit with water, medication and food
- Make sure to have a place for your pet to stay since most are not allowed in the shelter
- Trim vegetation around your house
- Make sure to know your deductible on insurance and that you are comfortable with it if your house were to be damaged.
Source: Casey Schmelz, emergency services manager for the Red Cross of North Central Florida

Casey Schmelz, emergency services manager for the Red Cross of North Central Florida, said that even though the region does not usually receive direct hits from hurricanes, the area is still prone to flooding during storms.

The 2012 hurricane season starts June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30.

She said now is the time to start trimming back on the vegetation and trees around homes to ensure there will be minimum damage if storm winds were to knock them down.

“Trees love to fall through houses,” she said.

While winds normally aren’t strong enough once they reach North Central Florida to cause significant damage, she said, tropical storm conditions can lead to other natural disasters such as tornadoes.

In 2008, Tropical Storm Fay produced 19 tornadoes in Florida, according to a report released by the National Hurricane Center.

Schmelz advised residents to put away all patio furniture because items can become “flying missiles.”

One thing many homeowners forget related to damage is their insurance, she said.

More often than not, people don’t know what the insurance deductible is for their homes, which sometimes can hurt more than the damage caused by a storm. Some homeowners might have a $5,000 deductible, which really won’t help them with the damage, she said.

Schmelz said one thing many people forget is to make an emergency plan, which would include important information about each family member, places to meet if displaced and other information on how to deal with an emergency situation.

Along with the emergency plan, families should make an emergency kit.

Kits should include three days’ worth of clothing, three days’ worth of water (1 gallon a person is recommended,) medical equipment and comfort food, she said.

“Candy does a lot for people’s stress levels,” she said.

Make sure to have copies of important papers in order to preserve anything that might cause an issue, she said, and bring that information to the shelter if you plan on staying.

Jeff Bielling, assistant director of Alachua County Emergency Management, agreed with Schmelz and said it’s important to have an emergency plan and kit to prepare for any type of disaster.

Bielling said residents should be aware of shelter locations and when they become available to the public if needed. He also said it’s better if residents can find alternatives to shelters and to use shelters as a last resort.

“If you can go somewhere else, that’s (most) desirable,” he said. “Friends, family, hotel. Anywhere away.”

Schmelz agreed and said the shelters might be overcrowded and that everyone might not get a cot and blanket.

But as long as residents know the steps to follow, have an emergency plan and are aware of the weather systems as they head to Florida, she said the preparation should pay off.

“For us, we really (need to) make sure we are prepared,” she said.

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