With the recent scare of Hurricane Isaias, most Floridians are at least semi-prepared for Florida’s hurricane season. As we are now in the height of the 2020 hurricane phase, concluding Nov. 30, it is the perfect time to make those final arrangements to prepare for any and all of Mother Nature’s threats.

Accordingly, September is National Preparedness Awareness Month, so the ideal time to prepare for any tropical storms nearing our region.

To summarize, National Preparedness Month (NPM) is part of a governmental effort to strengthen the United States’ preparedness capabilities. Recognized each September, the initiative promotes prevention, protection and recovery efforts for both family and community disaster planning. According to Ready.gov, NPM, is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security; National Preparedness Month encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities. Throughout the month of September, FEMA works to raise awareness through public education outreach campaigns and dissemination of information to support communities across the U.S., to better prepare for and respond to emergencies, including natural disasters. In preparation for those potential weather threats in our own community, the Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) hosts a home rehabilitation program offering repair, maintenance and weatherization to improve the safety of housing owned and occupied by our Veteran, elderly, disabled or lowincome families of Osceola County.

The home rehabilitation program, together with our Chore support program works to improve accessibility and safety to both the interior and exterior of homes. Additionally, projects include yardwork, simple household maintenance, and the installation of safety devices and ramps for our disabled clients. Likewise, the OCOA’s weatherization program works to help lowincome seniors and families in Osceola and Orange County permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes become more energy efficient. Incidental projects include performing energy efficient checks, repairing and or replacing insulation, doors, windows, water heaters, air conditioners, heating units, and any other energy draining sources, as allowed by federal guidelines.

Taking steps to maintain, repair and improve our community’s residences is an important aspect of hurricane preparedness. Chore services such as yardwork, junk removal and exterior home repair also serve as safety measures that help mitigate the potential damage associated with severe weather. The same applies to weatherization services, which improves or replaces permeable doors and windows so they will better withstand wind and water damage.

The council’s home rehabilitation program also assists all Osceola County homeowners who need hurricane preparedness information with checklists and articles supplied through our website and our monthly Generations newsletter. In past times of emergency, the council’s home rehabilitation team has distributed sandbags, roof tarps, batteries and mounted plywood shutters in anticipation of severe weather. This same team also aids our clients whose homes suffered damage in the aftermath of flooding and high winds.

Furthermore, the OCOA views giving back to our veterans as an honor. Our Helping Homebound Heroes, through a partnership with The Home Depot Foundation and Meals on Wheels America, offers home repairs, safety and weatherization improvements to veterans and their spouses, at no cost. From changing door locks to new flooring, the program strives to improve the safety, accessibility, and livability of the homes of veterans. Program requirements for veterans and or their widowed spouses, owning a home with a residence in Osceola and Orange County, and having been honorably discharged from service.

Also, important to note, as with most social service programs, additional requirements and criteria must be met to qualify for both our chore and weatherization programs. Preliminary requirements include being a homeowner and resident of Osceola County; and household income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. Chore services are typically focused on frail, elderly and disabled individuals who need assistance in completing routine household maintenance and safety tasks. Additionally, our weatherization program is available to low-income Osceola and Orange County residents of any age who would benefit from lowering their monthly energy expenses.

For more information on our home rehabilitation, chore, weatherization programs, or Helping Homebound Heroes initiative, call 407-933-9523, or go to https://osceolagenerations.org/ or email info@osceola-coa.com.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to https://osceolagenerations.org/councils-corner/
Published Tuesday, September 1, 2020