Episode 103: Hurricane Preparedness: Are You Ready?

Hurricane Preparedness

Show Panelist Dr. Laureen Husband and Dr. Cheryl Holder


With hurricane season on Jacksonville’s horizon, here are real-world ways to get ready

Steve Patterson

Florida Times-Union



The June 1 start of hurricane season is a yearly routine and a reminder of the potential for devastation at the same time. The Times-Union talked to Todd Smith, chief of the Jacksonville fire department’s Emergency Preparedness Division, about preparing properly for the season.

Q: What are three steps I should take right now to get ready for hurricane season?

A: Have an emergency supply kit; make a plan that you practice; and learn your evacuation zone now. In real life, that means:

1). Your kit should include unrefrigerated food, water and medicine for seven days for each family member and pet in your household, as well as batteries and other supplies you’re likely to need. You should keep a gallon of water per day for each person and each pet in your household. You should also keep critical documents like insurance policies, deeds and essential medical and financial records, stored securely together in a container that will withstand the elements.

2). Your plan should include evacuation routes and ways to communicate and a place to meet up if people are separated. Make evacuation plans measured in tens of miles, not hundreds, so think about relatives or friends whose homes can become places to meet or to leave word for your family if you become separated. Practice the plan with your family so everybody knows what to do. Share the information with people you trust.

3). Learn your evacuation zone by downloading the JaxReady app or going to JaxReady.com. Knowing your zone lets you know when an evacuation has been ordered in your area, and downloading the app lets you receive weather alerts and information on shelter openings and availability. The shelters being opened, and which ones will have room, will depend on circumstances in a particular storm. Having the app lets you get up-to-date information.

Todd Smith from Jacksonville's Emergency Preparedness Division offers a box of MREs to the West 18th Street resident Orison Butle in this 2016 photo from the aftermath  of Hurricane Matthew.

Q: I put hurricane supplies in place last year. What should I think about replacing in my kit?

A: Canned food, bottled water and pet food all have expiration dates. Check them when hurricane season is approaching and put items that are close to expiring in your rotation of food for normal use, then buy replacements for your kit. Make sure any medicines in your kit are current, too, and that batteries are still good. Keep some money — you decide the amount — in your kit as well, in case there are problems with ATMs or banks aren’t open.

Q: What should I prioritize to get my home ready for severe storms?

A: Make a checklist to keep from forgetting things you need to keep track of. Secure items that are lying loose outside, so they can’t be picked up by wind and hurled like projectiles against your windows or other vulnerable parts of your home. Trim trees and undergrowth before a storm arrives so trees won’t bet knocked into homes or fall on people during the cleanup afterward. Clean storm drains and gutters ahead of time so water can run freely and not be backed up by debris and flood your home. Decide what kind of window protection you want, whether it’s plywood or storm shutters or something else, and keep it handy. Make sure everyone in the family knows where the home water and gas shut-off valves are and how to use them. Identify a place to keep your emergency plan and supplies so the whole family can get to them.

Q: What should my family do to be sure our evacuation plan is still appropriate for us?

A: Parts of your plan could change as details of your life change, even if the most things stay the same. Check to be sure circumstances you’ve planned on are still what you expected. For example, if you plan to take a pet to a kennel, make sure that kennel still has room available and is expecting your pet. If you’ve added someone to your household snice last year, make sure they’re accounted for in the plan.

Q: If someone in my family has special needs, are there steps I can take to know whether they’ll be able to find shelter space?

A: Register that family member with Jacksonville’s special medical needs registry, a listing of people who are medically dependent on electricity or oxygen supplies or require basic assistance from medical professionals because of impairments or sensory disabilities. You can get information about registering and find a form to fill out online at https://www.jaxready.com/Preparedness/Special-Medical-Needs-Registration.aspx or you can call the city’s Emergency Preparedness office at (904) 255-3172. People have to register again every year. The list is updated through the year if someone needs to be added. Just like other critical records should be kept together for emergencies, any disability service documentation should be copied and kept ready in case it’s needed during an emergency.

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