More so than people in some other parts of the country, Floridians live with the risk of natural disaster – specifically, hurricanes.
It’s a risk you can never take for granted. Even if you’ve lived through a dozen hurricanes and never sustained serious damage, the next storm could be another Hurricane Michael – a monster Category 5 that devastated a 12-county region in North Florida in October 2018, smashing scores of thousands of homes, businesses and institutions as far inland as 80 miles from the Gulf.
“Floridians should know by now how important it is to be prepared,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director. “And it’s especially important for older Floridians to be prepared for a natural disaster.”
One of the best ways to get prepared is to visit the federal government’s preparedness website, www.ready.gov . The site offers comprehensive information and suggestions on getting ready for any natural disaster, not just hurricanes.
For Floridians preparing for hurricanes, one fundamental question is whether you will evacuate or attempt to ride the storm out. But you should recognize that if you don’t prepare in advance to evacuate, you may delay making a decision until it’s too late to flee the storm.
AARP Florida recommends that you start your preparation by preparing three disaster-readiness kits well in advance – the Stay Kit, the Vital Documents Packet and the Go Kit.
The Stay Kit, also known as the emergency supply kit, includes the basic supplies you would need if you choose to ride out a storm at home. The Go Kit includes what you need to take with you if you choose to evacuate or if you’re ordered out of your home area in advance of a storm.
The Stay Kit Checklist
Be prepared for an emergency or disaster by gathering basic supplies you’ll need to endure a crisis that leaves you without utilities, telephone or Internet and will provide nourishment for several days.
A good rule of thumb is to have enough supplies to last each person at least three days. Make sure to include any items for those with special needs, including babies or pets.
Rotate food and water to ensure nothing has expired and check or replace batteries as needed to keep your kit up-to-date. For a complete list of supply-kit items and more information on creating a kit, visit www.ready.gov.
The right container will vary in a number of ways, depending on size, weight and the storage space available. Ideally, the container you use should be portable, durable and waterproof.
You should considering adding to this list with your own ideas.
- Water (5 gallons per day per person)
- Food (canned and dry goods, high-calorie food bars)
- Personal first-aid kit
- Battery-powered flashlight (with extra batteries)
- Battery-powered radio (with extra batteries)
- Personal Medication Record
- Hygienic items (toothbrush/hand sanitizer/etc.)
- Extra clothing
- Rain poncho
- 12-hour light sticks
- Whistle (to alert rescue parties)
- Face mask (to avoid dangerous bacteria)
- Bicycle or other sports helmet, to use in case you are unable to evacuate from a very powerful storm.
Vital Documents checklist
Part of your hurricane preparedness kit should include your Vital Documents Packet.
An emergency or disaster can erase the vital documents and records of our lives instantly if we haven’t prepared in advance. Using the Vital Document Checklist, collect all the important papers that apply to you. Make copies and store them in a weatherproof tote — even a large, plastic zip-top bag works. Keep your packet of documents someplace easily accessible so that you can get to it quickly in the event you need to evacuate in a hurry.
- Personal identification like passport, driver's license and voter ID card
- Personal Medication Record and medical and immunization records
- Social Security card
- Health insurance cards
- Financial records like recent tax returns, bank statements, retirement accounts, credit card numbers and records of any stocks and/or bonds
- Insurance policies
- Deed(s) to your house or other properties
- Family records like wills, birth, marriage, divorce, adoption, child custody, and death certificates.
- Legal titles (home, auto) and/or lease agreements.
- Important phone numbers of family members, friends, doctors, insurers — anyone who needs to know where you are
- Records of passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs)
- Video and photo inventory documenting your valuables and the interior and exterior of your home
- Cash and/or traveler’s checks
- “Basic Tips for Emergency Planning” handout
The Go Kit
Consider building this kit to cover two possibilities. One is that a major storm, Category 3 or stronger, is forecast to make landfall in your area within a few days.
Because hurricanes are unpredictable, you should realize that a Category 3 hurricane can strengthen to a Category 5 storm very quickly. In the case of Hurricane Michael in 2018, the storm strengthened from a Category 2 to a Category 5 storm – the strongest ever to strike the Panhandle of Florida in recorded history – in less than 48 hours.
Many residents of the Panhandle who chose to ride out the storm now say they would choose to evacuate if they had the choice to make again.
If you choose to evacuate with days to prepare, you should plan to take your Stay Kit, your Vital Documents packet and these additional items:
- Maps: The official evacuation route, alternate routes and a list of shelters. You can find a list of open shelters at http://www.redcross.org/find-help/shelter
- Car keys and keys to the place you are going (if applicable). If you have duplicate sets of car and home keys, give a set to as many people in your party as possible.
If you have only moments before evacuating and haven’t prepared a Vital Document Packet or any emergency supplies, grab these items quickly and go!
(Note: Use travel routes specified by local authorities. Shortcuts could be impassable or dangerous.)
- Driver’s license or personal identification
- Basic supplies: Water, food, first-aid kit, hygiene items
- Prescription medications, glasses or contact lenses
- Maps: The official evacuation route, alternate routes and a list of shelters
- Car keys and keys to the place you are going (if applicable)
- Cash and traveler’s checks