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DeSantis: Be prepared

Governor delivers message to Lee County, still in recovery from Hurricane Ian

By CJ HADDAD - | Jun 4, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks on hurricane preparedness Tuesday at a press conference held at the Home Depot on Three Oaks Marketplace Drive in Fort Myers. The governor also urged residents to take advantage of the sales tax holiday for qualifying storm supplies. The tax holiday runs until June 14.

With the Atlantic Hurricane season having kicked off June 1, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Fort Myers Tuesday morning to preach preparedness.

“We prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” DeSantis said. “It doesn’t matter what the forecast is. A lot of them aren’t right. People said that we’re not going to have one, we would not just not do our job. We would be ready to go.”

DeSantis said a lot of focus has been put into recovery and response in the state, touting the response after Hurricane Ian, a near-category 5 hurricane that devastated Lee County’s island communities in September 2022 and left billions of dollars in damage throughout.

“We’ll be ready to do that,” DeSantis said.

The governor said Floridians, as individuals, have a role to play in being prepared, and reminded residents to have a plan, to make sure to understand the needs of children, the elderly, and pets.

A big part of being prepared is having a preparedness kit that includes water, canned food/non-perishable items, batteries, flashlights, pet items, portable power banks, and other items.

“We’re not just saying ‘do this,’ we’re actually helping people make this happen,” DeSantis said. “We are now in the midst — and this goes until June 14 — of our Disaster Tax Preparedness Holiday for sales tax.”

Consumers can purchase qualifying disaster preparedness supplies exempt from tax during the 2024 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday. The tax holiday was passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by DeSantis. A second exemption period will begin Aug. 24 and extend through Sept. 6.

Items exempt include various essential needs during a storm, such as reusable ice, pet foods and supplies, batteries, tarps, toiletries, portable power banks, portable generators ($3,000 or less), fire extinguishers, and more.

“Take advantage of that, and make sure you’re doing what you can,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also preached that in the case of an evacuation order, those told to leave do not have to go far or a state away, there are many places to go such as out-side the zone hotels, many of which are now pet-friendly, to find reprieve from harsh conditions.

Also important is generator safety, and making sure the devices are operating properly and not omitting carbon monoxide into a home. DeSantis pointed out that carbon monoxide detectors are part of the tax-free holiday.

DeSantis also shared tips on how to best get information in the event of an impending storm, and to listen to local officials.

“Listen to instructions from your local officials…they’re the ones that are really charged with making the decisions about how people move around the counties, or out of the counties — when bridges are open or closed — that’s almost always done at the local level. So please heed what is happening in that regard. Hurricane response is almost always a bottom-up thing.”

DeSantis said the “newly revamped” Florida State Guard will be on stand-by.

“We’ve beefed it up,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of folks in the state guard that we can deploy. That’s different than the National Guard. It’s our own baby. Federal government has nothing to do with the Florida State Guard, and we will use that to be able to help Floridians.”

DeSantis said the state has made “historic” investments in hardening infrastructure.

“We’ve provided massive amounts of money for grants in the My Safe Florida Home program, so people have been able to fortify their own homes, which is something that’s important.”

DeSantis said via the Job Growth Grant Fund, he has dispersed almost $25 million to hurricane-impacted communities.

He announced Tuesday he is awarding $7.5 million to Lee County to help rebuild and enhance the shrimp dock at San Carlos Maritime Park.

“This dual-purpose facility will serve as an emergency operations site to launch barges, and provide a place for shrimp vessels to dock and transfer products to distribution trucks. Obviously it’s an important part of the economy, if it’s needed, for disaster response.”

Executive Director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management Kevin Guthrie said he’s spent the last month visiting county emergency managers to discuss any unmet needs that may arise or challenges that may come, mostly discussing sheltering and supply needs.

“We have a stockpile in three different warehouses, (perhaps) soon to become one, thanks to the legislature and the governor,” Guthrie said. “We have plenty of water, plenty of food, plenty of tarps and other commodities and equipment that are on-hand ready to go.

“While we have these resources ready, we want to remind everyone the importance of your personal preparedness. We cannot be successful inside of your home. You have to take accountability for being successful and being ready inside your home.”

Guthrie shared five steps to be successful:

1. Make a plan

2. Build a disaster supply kit to include at least seven days of supplies

3. Know your evacuation zone and your home (and difference between flood and evacuation zone)

4. Keep your gas tanks at least halfway full

5. Go tens of miles, not hundreds of miles

For a full list of tax-free items, visit www.floridarevenue.com/disasterprep. For the recommended disaster supply kit, visit www.floridadisaster.org/kit.