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Hurricane Preparation During COVID-19

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St. Petersburg, Fla. – As Florida heads into the 2020 hurricane season June 1, Sunshine State residents are facing a new level of uncertainty: Never in modern history have Floridians had to consider how to plan for the disruption and danger of a hurricane while also juggling concerns about a pandemic.

“We are in uncharted waters,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director. “There are many elements of our usual hurricane-preparation routines that we’re going to have to consider changing. In fact, we’re not even sure what all those elements are yet.”

For example, Johnson said, these topics are important to consider:

Storm preparations. It’s long been standard practice for Floridians to prepare two kits as hurricane season begins – a “Stay Kit” so they are prepared if they choose to ride out a storm at home and a “Go Kit” if they need to evacuate in the face of a major storm.

AARP Florida for years has provided checklists for “Stay” and “Go” kits.

But now there are new additions to the list: Include alcohol-based sanitizing wipes, several cloth masks, a small bottle of bleach and nitrile or latex rubber gloves in both kits.

Evacuation plans. For years, AARP Florida has encouraged Floridians to make a plan for where they’d go if they needed to evacuate their homes ahead of a hurricane. Now it’s important to recognize that hotel facilities in some parts of the state may be closed or operating with reduced staff because of the pandemic. It’s best to make a plan and call ahead to ensure that you will have the ability to find accommodations if needed.

Also, be prepared to protect yourself from coronavirus while you travel. Take several cloth or other masks along, so you can change masks if needed. Disinfect touch surfaces, such as gas pump control screens and gas pump handles, before and after touching them. And wash or sanitize your hands often.

Shelter arrangements. In every major hurricane that’s hit Florida in recent years, thousands of Floridians age 50-plus have found refuge from the storm at community shelters. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s not clear whether shelters are always the best option for people age 65-plus, those who may have underlying health conditions, or both.

But other things haven’t changed, Johnson noted.

“If you need special assistance during hurricanes and other disasters with evacuations and sheltering due to physical or mental disabilities, it is very important to register with your local county emergency management agency to receive assistance during a disaster.”

First responders use the special-needs registry to provide them with valuable information to prepare for hurricanes and other emergencies.

Please go the website Florida Special Needs Registry, select your county of residence and follow the instructions to register. There is also important information and local resources you may want to review as you register.

AARP Florida will be updating our disaster-preparedness website as the hurricane season progress, Johnson noted.

“Forecasters are telling us to prepare for an active hurricane season in 2020,” he said. “The old saying still applies: Prepare for a storm on a sunny day. Now’s the time to make your plan, check your ‘Stay’ and ‘Go’ kit and get ready for whatever this hurricane season brings us.”

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