Guest Commentary — Hurricane preparedness taken seriously
Memorial Day weekend is often thought of as the unofficial start of summer and vacation is coming for many of us, but now is also the time of year when we must start thinking about and preparing for Hurricane Season. As Floridians, it’s a stressful topic but a necessary one that needs our attention. Like Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” While last year’s season left us fairly unscathed — outside of our brush with Hurricane Elsa’s heavy rains which caused flooding in some areas — it still produced 21 named storms and was the third busiest on record.
The Board of County Commissioners takes hurricane preparedness very seriously which is why our Public Safety’s Emergency Management Program has a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center that is the command post for official emergency information when a hurricane becomes an imminent threat. Commissioners also just approved an updated Joint Unified Local Mitigation Strategy which helps Lee County and its municipalities identify our natural hazards, assess them, and identify actions to be taken to reduce or eliminate their impact based on the latest scientific based risk assessment techniques.
You can use this type of strategy at home, too. Identifying your risk to different types of emergencies is an important step to keep your family safe. In the case of hurricanes, knowing your evacuation zone is vital. Lee County is divided into five different zones, A, B, C, D, and E. During a storm these letters are how we communicate to the public which areas of the county need to evacuate due to storm surge and wind. This is done in a phased manner and our Emergency Operations Center may order the evacuation of Zone A before you see any effects of the storm. You can find your zone and our entire hurricane preparation guide by visiting our website www.leegov.com/hurricane.
Another key factor in preparing for hurricane season is understanding what a hurricane shelter is like. In your evacuation plan, a shelter should be your last resort. Think of a hurricane shelter as a life boat, not a cruise ship. Should you need to stay at a shelter you will need to bring essentials with you like medications, important documents, some food and water, pillows, blankets, etc. These facilities are not like home. Not at all. For citizens who are oxygen or electric dependent — meaning they have certain medical equipment that needs a reliable power source to operate – the county does have special needs shelters. We require pre-registration for these shelters to ensure we have adequate resources for everyone’s needs. People can register by calling (239) 533-0640 or visiting www.leeeoc.com, transportation is also available for those who need it.
We live in a tropical paradise, and with that comes some risk from strong storms. However, if we have a plan in place, the stress and unpleasantness is a lot easier to handle when the weather turns bad. I encourage everyone to visit www.leegov.com/hurricane to learn more about how to get prepared. You can also download our All Hazards Guide which has everything you’ll need to know to put together a family emergency plan.
I am honored to serve as one of your County Commissioners, and if I can ever be of service please do not hesitate to contact me at (239) 533-2226.
— Brian Hamman represents District 4 on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners.