We know it is coming, as it does on June 1 of each year. There likely will be planning and unplanning, with much uncertainty. Yes, we will be anxious while glued to our local news stations and the Weather Channel. We never know when and where the potential threat may make landfall. Of course, I am referring to hurricane season which has now begun and will continue through Nov. 30.
It is one of the few drawbacks — in my opinion — of living in Florida, compared to the myriad of advantages. Hurricane season can be stressful, not just personally, but professionally as the Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) strives to also keep our seniors, the disabled, and disadvantaged families in the Osceola community safe during these dangerous weather episodes.
The Council prepares extensively in advance of expected storms. We have our system-wide hurricane plan in place, which includes staffing assignments, facility preparation, and poststorm support. That also includes Case Management and Nutrition Departments which work to ensure their clients are preparing accordingly.
The Council partners in hosting county-wide initiatives to help those in need of extra support, and specifically those with special needs. Osceola County Emergency Management (EOC), along with the Department of Health and the OCOA, provide “special needs” shelters for individuals with medical care assistance including those on oxygen and electricity dependent. Registration is required for these designated shelters. To apply, go to https://www.osceola.org/agenciesdepartments/emergencymanagement/special-needs-program.stml; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 407-742-9001.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management also hosts a website, FloridaDisaster.org, which lists several simple steps to take in preparation for a disastrous storm:
- Assemble a disaster supply kit including copies of important documents, flashlights, batteries, battery-powered radio, cell phone chargers and first aid kit.
- Have at least seven days of supplies including nonperishable food and water.
- Have a 14-day supply of medication and medical supplies.
- Maintain a list of important contact numbers.
- Hit the ATM for cash in advance of the storm and keep your vehicle full of gas.
- Remember any special need items for infants, small children, elderly and or disabled family members.
- Pet care items (if needed) including food, water, cages, leashes and/ or medication
- Secure all loose items around the home including additional preparation for windows.
According to Florida Disaster.org, the most important precaution you can take to reduce damage to your home is to protect the areas where wind can enter. According to recent wind technology research, it is important to strengthen the exterior of your house so wind and debris cannot tear large openings. Those opening include the roof, windows, both garage and entrance doors.
Finally, it is important to know if you live in an evacuation zone, essentially a low-lying, flood prone area. During a threatening storm with much rain expected, these areas will most likely be evacuated. Knowing flood zones will help better prepare for a potential evacuation. If you find yourself or family member in need of evacuating prior to a storm but are not considered to fall into the special needs category, the EOC, in partnership with Osceola Animal Services, the American Red Cross, and the School District of Osceola County offers pet friendly sheltering. Though, important to note, only certain shelter facilities are designated as pet friendly. As with all shelters, specific locations are announced prior to an event.
We certainly hope Central Florida does not have an eventful hurricane season this year. Nevertheless, preparation is key. So, let’s reduce the annual hurricane season anxiety by taking the time to prepare, follow advice from the experts and organize ‘to-do’ checklists, so we can sit back and relax, knowing we are prepared for anything Hurricane Season 2022 brings our way.
For information for this year’s hurricane season, statewide, go to www.floridadisaster.org/kit or www.ready.gov. Both websites are valuable resources for evacuation plans, checklists, and emergency supply information.