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Early Preparation Proving Essential in Readying for 2020 Hurricane Season Complicated by COVID-19

Unprecedented Planning Requires an Innovative

Shelter Strategy

An exclusive four-part series, look for the next article in just a few days on preparing for the 2020 Florida hurricane season amid COVID-19.

With the 2020 hurricane season now only weeks away, Florida residents are urged to begin preparing immediately for this year’s projected above-average storm activity. And with the need for social distancing adding yet another layer in an already multi-faceted hurricane planning process, Florida U.S. Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio sent a letter to FEMA Director Peter Gaynor requesting additional guidance given current protocols. An excerpt of the letter states,

“To ensure our communities are properly prepared, we urge FEMA to issue guidance to state and local governments, tribes and territories regarding hurricane preparedness and response that addresses Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and procedures in the wake of the Coronavirus. In addition, we ask that you take into account how to properly evacuate and shelter those who either have, or are suspected to have, the Coronavirus in the event of a storm. Consistent and sound guidance will be crucial to saving lives during a natural disaster.”

A recent Miami-Herald article stated that Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said, “one of the key discussions ongoing with local governments is how to open school shelters should coronavirus continue to be a problem into the summer.”

Frank Rollason, the director of emergency management for Miami-Dade County was stated in the same article as saying, “the normal maximum occupancy is set to give everyone 20 square feet of space and that the county now wants to make sure everyone at a public shelter gets 36 square feet of space in case social distancing is still the rule.”

Putting Your Personal Plan of Action in Place Now

While state officials are looking for additional guidance from FEMA in light of the complexities caused by COVID-19, there are a number of resources available right now to help Floridians craft a safety plan.

FloridaDisaster.org is a comprehensive source for both families and businesses. Under the Plan and Prepare heading, site visitors can access information that will help in creating a family plan, a plan for those with special needs and a business plan featuring before, during and after strategies.

Also available is a downloadable hurricane supply checklist that recommends Florida residents have at least a week’s supply of food, water, medicine, and batteries. Although grocery stores are already straining to keep up with the increased demand caused by COVID-19, residents are encouraged to concentrate on stocking their pantries with non-perishable foods. And now is a good time to ensure all medications are current in case a trip to the pharmacy is not an option for a prolonged period of time. At least two weeks’ supply of medications is the current recommendation.

Other hurricane supply kit essentials include:

  • Medical records and primary care physician contact information

  • First aid kit

  • NOAA weather radio

  • Non-electric can opener

  • Bank numbers

  • Insurance cards

It’s also a good idea to have a couple of ready-to-use portable cell phone chargers in case of a power outage.

And along with people and business plans, pet plans are an important part of a comprehensive safety blueprint as well. Key components of a sound portable pet disaster supply kit include:

  • Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.

  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals cannot escape.

  • Photo of you and your pet(s) – in the event you are separated from your pet, having an updated photo with your pet will help validate pet ownership.

  • Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.

  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.

  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

Ready.gov is another go-to resource for disaster planning. This website features a hurricane seasonal preparedness digital toolkit with links to several videos along with 2020 Hurricane Preparedness Week Daily Themes such as:

May 7-Strengthen Your Home

  • Make sure your home is in good repair and meets local hurricane building codes.

  • Declutter drains and gutters, trim trees, secure loose outdoor items and secure doors.

  • Know a safe location to move your car during a hurricane.

May 8-Help Your Neighbors

  • Get to know your neighbors before an emergency strikes.

  • Make sure they have a plan before and after a hurricane.

  • Exchange contact information.

While FEMA is reportedly cross-training staff to work in hurricane situations amid the COVID-19 epidemic, government agencies such as FEMA and The American Red Cross are stretched thin under the effects of the virus making neighbors helping neighbors especially critical during the 2020 hurricane season.

Ready.gov also provides detailed preparation tips when a storm is approaching beginning with steps to take at specific hourly intervals such as when it’s 36 hours away, 36-18 hours away, 18-6 hours away, how to survive during the storm and how to be safe after.

Unlike years past, health officials are currently discouraging interstate travel as a means of managing a hurricane event.

Our staff of seasoned attorneys are prepared to answer any questions you may have regarding hurricane preparedness, insurance claims and more.

Please contact us today at HL Law Group at (855) 713-1212 or email us at info@hllawgroup.com.

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