Hurricane Season: Are you prepared?
Hurricane season spans from June 1 to Nov. 30.
If Hurricane Irma taught us anything, it’s that living in a county nestled in the heart of Florida shouldn’t give us a sense of security.
Don’t wait until the winds start blowing to prepare for hurricanes. The American Red Cross notes preparation as your best protection against hurricanes and having adequate emergency supplies is vital.
However, there is more to gathering your emergency materials than rummaging through the junk drawer to find your old flashlight and filling up the bathtub with water.
Here are examples of things to include in your hurricane emergency kit list:
- Baby supplies
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- Camera (for photos of damage around your property or home following the storm)
- Cell phone/device chargers
- Extra batteries
- Extra cash (credit card machines and ATMs will not work without electricity)
- First-aid kit
- Full tank of gas for your vehicle
- Insect repellent and sunscreen
- Medications (seven-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses)
- Multi-purpose tool and other tools/supplies to secure your home
- Non-perishable food and drinking water (seven-day supply)
- Pet supplies (collar, leash, identification, food, carrier and bowl)
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Once you have the proper supplies, it’s important that you have a plan of action in place for you and your family, which includes your pets! Like your high school coach probably said back in the day: The way you practice, is the way you’ll play. Rushed decisions made during an emergency are often incomplete, so it’s important to plan ahead:
- Check insurance policies for adequate coverage and maintain an inventory of possessions.
- Identify evacuation routes and local shelters.
- Keep important documents and contact information safe and handy (insurance, health, birth certificates, deeds, titles).
- Make a list of emergency contacts.
- Register individuals with special needs with Marion County Emergency Management by calling 352-369-8136.
If you need it, chances are they need it too. This means, you should run through your checklists with your pets in mind. Make sure you have a safe and comfortable place for them indoors and have a plan ready in case you have to evacuate. Should there be an evacuation, authorities may announce a county shelter that accepts pets. Be sure you can comply with shelter parameters:
- Proof of rabies vaccinations and county licenses is required.
- Birds must be in secure cages.
- Owners must stay at Vanguard, pets will be housed in a separate building.
- Not accepted: exotic or aggressive animals or those heavier than 80 pounds.
Remain vigilantIf you are monitoring your local television or radio stations, be sure to heed the words hurricane watch and hurricane warning; they will determine how long you have to finish last minute preparations before severe weather impacts your area:
- A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds in an area. Review your hurricane plans, stay informed and remain ready to act if a warning is issued.
- A hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds. Complete your storm preparations and leave the area if directed to do so by authorities.
Local authorities will announce shelters, their addresses, and whether the shelter provides for the general population, special needs populations, or pets. Be aware of mandatory evacuations and do not take any unnecessary risks.
Place hurricane debris on the side of the road, in the right of way. After a harsh storm, the city of Ocala, Marion County and its contractors typically pick up debris on roads within the city limits and unincorporated areas of the county; with the exception of forestry roads.
Ensure that your debris:
- Is placed in the right-of-way and NOT in the road, near utility poles, signs, or other structures, which could impede pickup.
- Is stacked at least five feet away from fire hydrants, utility poles, light poles and communication pedestals, low hanging power lines, water/gas meters, electrical transformers, mailboxes, signage, vehicles, storm culverts, and fences.
- Is kept separate from all other items, such as household trash or appliances. Dispose of these as you would normally (bring to a recycling center or use a private franchise hauler).
- Is not bagged or placed in containers.
- Is not combined with hurricane-related construction debris (carpet, roof shingles) on the roadside.
In the event of another major storm this year, the city of Ocala and Marion County will announce specific debris collection information to residents. For the latest updates, follow the city of Ocala and Marion County on social media.
For more information about hurricane debris disposal, Marion County residents should contact Marion County Solid Waste at 352-671-8465; and Ocala residents should contact the city of Ocala at 352-629-2489.
Reporting an outage
Severe weather may lead to power outages in your area. Contact your utility provider in the event that your home loses electricity.
- Please do not report an outage more than once.
- If your power is restored while crews are still working in your area, leave a porch light or externally visible light on; crews can see you have power.
Local electric providers:
- Clay Electric Cooperative: 352-685-2111, www.clayelectric.com
- Duke Energy: 800-700-8744, www.duke-energy.com
- Ocala Electric Utility: 352-351-6666, www.ocalaelectric.org
- Sumter Electric Cooperative: 352-237-4107, www.secoenergy.com
After a hurricane passes, it leaves behind the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Make no mistake, mosquitoes are small but can pose health risks because they can spread illnesses quickly.
- Purchase mosquito dunks at home or farm supply stores and place in retention ponds or other standing water. These act on the larval stage of the insect, reducing future
- Drain standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying. Empty old tires, birdbaths, pots, etc. that could accumulate water in your yard.
- Avoid the outdoors at dawn, dusk and after dark (the most active time for mosquitoes).
- When outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label and note that some repellents are not suitable for children.
- Keep grass and weeds mowed around retention areas; long grass and weeds provide protection for mosquitoes.
In the event of a hurricane or severe weather incident this season, residents can apply for assistance by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov or calling 800-621-3362 (TTY: 1-800-462-7585, VRS: 800-621-3362).
The best time to help others is always NOW. Check with family, friends and neighbors to see if they need help preparing, in advance of severe weather. Some residents need assistance purchasing supplies, carrying provisions and planning. You, the community member, are their greatest asset before a hurricane makes landfall.
After a hurricane, be sure to monitor announcements regarding donation sites and services. Supplies and items are often welcome. However, cash is the most useful and effective means of assistance after an emergency. Money can be used immediately during a crisis response, and allows disaster relief organizations to purchase exactly what is needed, when it’s needed. Residents hoping to optimize their donations should consider financial contributions to trusted organizations of their choice.