How COVID-19 is Altering Hurricane Prep in Florida

April 30, 2020

By Sarah McCormick

Hurricane season is officially set to kick off on June 1st, but COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the way normal Hurricane preparations go into effect, with experts and State Officials citing safety hazards and health risks due to the virus.

Florida Emergency Management, in conjunction with Governor Ron DeSantis and local health officials pursuant to each individual county, has teamed up to brainstorm ideas on the most effective measures to keep the public safe during the upcoming Hurricane season.

Some of the suggestions are detailing Hurricane Shelter facilities should not be in place this season, but rather, utilizing Hotels paid for by Federal funds, as well as ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber to get these individuals to the designated locations who need to evacuate.

Another option that is being talked about is giving gas cards to families who are in need of evacuating who may have a place to go out of state or elsewhere in-state, who are in need of financial assistance in doing so.

Officials are suggesting extra testing kits be delivered anywhere that is to be used for public shelters, such as hotels – something Abbot Laboratories is responding to, to secure extra test kits. Taking temperatures before individuals and families entering into the facilities is also being recommended.

Statements are being made about evacuation plans perhaps not being deployed at all during Category 1 and 2 storms, but rather a Stay-At-Home order, such as the one in effect for COVID-19 instead. This would apply to anyone living in a home built after 1996 as more enforcement was put into place in occupied buildings and dwellings after this time – known as Hurricane Code.

Individuals living in shelters where their safety may be compromised, such as manufactured homes and trailers, would undoubtedly be given priority in terms of evacuation.

While plans are finalized and kinks are straightened out, Floridians can begin preparing for Hurricane Season by ensuring they have a Hurricane Kit, complete with batteries, flashlights, prescription medications, NOAA weather radio, solar-powered, bottled water, canned food, copies of important documents and anything else you may need to weather a potentially severe storm. Obtaining a copy of insurance cards, driver licenses, and keeping cash on hand in ziplock bags is also a great way to prepare for the worst.

Due to COVID-19, it’s a safer bet to place orders online via services such as Amazon for hurricane kit essentials.

Another important step in Hurricane prep is to ensure you have an evacuation zone and location mapped out while adhering to any local and statewide safety guidelines. Practicing social distancing during this unprecedented time is also of the utmost importance.

Developing a Hurricane and disaster plan and going over it with your family can ensure everyone’s safety and ensure everyone is on the same page. If you need to separate for any reason, have a meeting place or app that you an all check in to, to be sure of everyone’s safety.

While Hurricane season looks different this year, you can always count on the Tampa Free Press to bring you the latest on developments on a local and statewide level as they unfold. Stay tuned for more regarding Hurricane season and the plans for Florida’s safety during this time.

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