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THE ISSUE: Storm season is right around the corner.
OUR OPINION: Prepare now — emergencies could happen at any time, anywhere.
The Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30; May 25 through 31 is designated National Hurricane Preparedness Week.
But from a practical standpoint, there’s nothing magical about the June and November dates, and there are plenty of hazards having nothing to do with hurricane-force winds that could disrupt our lives.
Think about this: The big weather events in Citrus County in 2004/2005 — which some erroneously label “hurricanes” — were tropical storms, at best, in this area. The local effects of those storms offered just a hint of what could happen with an actual hurricane.
We’ve had localized flooding and wind-damaged trees in the absence of tropical cyclones, too. And don’t forget that tornadoes have visited Citrus and other nearby counties. There are planned, controlled burns in the state forest routinely, and although we’ve not experienced runaway fire it could happen.
The point is that it doesn’t have to be a hurricane to present an emergency. It could be flooding, fire, sinkholes, industrial accidents, horrendous vehicle accidents or other disasters.
The follow-up point is that we all need to stay informed about threats and have emergency plans and emergency supply kits.
There are many ways to stay informed.
+ Low-cost weather radios with varied alert functions are widely available. Pick one up, and keep extra batteries for it.
+ Sign up for CodeRED with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, and choose the alerts on which you want to be notified — include landline phones and cellphones. Remember that phones tied to cable service will not function if cable service is disrupted, and cellphones won’t work if towers are down.
+ For weather threats, we now have access online to radar images via phone, tablet or computer, as well as through our favorite TV weather broadcasts.
+ Investigate the online sites that provide updates, including local emergency operations, national and regional weather sites and others.
In preparing for potential emergencies, here’s one thing most folks forget: arrange with an out-of-town friend or relative to be an emergency contact (choose someone far enough away not to be affected by the same emergency). Make sure all family members have the information with them always. Be sure to tell the contact your plans and whereabouts. Also, let others know to contact them if you get lost or something bad happens.
If you or a family member has special medical needs, be sure to complete the Special Needs Registration Form available through the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Operations Center.
You and your family should have an emergency plan that includes how to reach each other and a meeting point if your home is not available. Write it down. Practice it.
Your emergency supplies kit should contain everything you and your family will need to be self-sufficient for at least three days. That includes food, water (figure a gallon per person per day), appropriate clothing, medications (don’t forget pets!), personal assistance devices, hygiene and first-aid supplies, electronic device chargers, flashlights, radios and extra batteries, tools and repair supplies, kitchen utensils, a way to heat food if needed and a way to purify water.
Also, consider what to take if you have to evacuate, and make a “go-bag” to grab quickly. Ensure that important papers are secure and available.
Getting your personal house in order includes outside as well as inside. If severe weather is on the way, your yard should be free of anything that the wind could turn into a missile to break windows or injure people. (Remember, large trailer-trucks have been flung through the air in storms; patio furniture won’t stand a chance). Make sure the foliage is trimmed, too.
Businesspeople need to make emergency plans, also. Especially in Citrus County, home to many small businesses, well-crafted disaster planning will contribute to business continuity.
We owe it to ourselves, our families and our neighbors to prepare for the unexpected. Planning ahead gives us some control and defuses anxiety in the face of an emergency.
Citrus County Sheriff’s Office
Evacuation map: www.sheriffcitrus.org/EM/EvacuationZones.pdf
Special needs registration: www.sheriffcitrus.org/EM/eoc_SpecialNeeds.pdf
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Excellent resource for planning guidance & tools
National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center
Tropical weather outlook & discussion
Weather Underground, Dr. Jeff Masters
Hurricanes & Tropical Cyclones page
American Red Cross
Emergency Email & Wireless Network
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