Why Are Florida Residents Putting Themselves at Risk of Hurricanes?

Most people in Tampa Bay know that our area is pretty good at avoiding close brushes with disaster. It seems like every year since I have arrived, a hurricane will be heading straight towards us and at the last minute, change direction and suddenly die out. While this is good for businesses and homes in this area, it’s also bad for the mentalities of Tampa citizens. What are we supposed to think every time we hear an evacuation order? Just wait this one out, because it hasn’t taken a turn for the worse in a long time?

In a survey conducted in many southern states, researchers found that a whopping one third of Floridians surveyed would not leave in the event of an evacuation. After Katrina, it makes one wonder how soon it is until Tampa’s number is up, and what will happen to those people who will not leave? And why is it these people would not leave?

Is it because we still think we are masters of our domains, that as long as we’re inside, we can keep the hurricane away ourselves? Because we are stuck with the “it could never happen to ME” mentality? They’re too lazy to pack up their belongings and venture out into the mass chaos of traffic that is an evacuation? The only answer I know for sure is that whatever reason it is Floridians wouldn’t evacuated, it’s a dangerous one.

Evacuation has the possibility of saving your life and all of your family. After Katrina, it’s socially irresponsible to be unwilling to move when a hurricane comes knocking at our door. But if one is truly hell-bent against evacuating, there are certain things they can do.

Preparation is the key. Make sure you have enough supplies to last you if you are trapped inside your home for days or even weeks with no power. Be aware of the amount of water each of your family members need in a day … it’s probably more than you think. There is no excuse for Floridians to be unprepared for a hurricane — each day we are reminded on our news channels, and we even have a tax free week for hurricane readiness supplies.

Just because Tampa has been hit by a hurricane in a while doesn’t mean we should ignore our duties to purchase plywood, buy nonperishables, and freak out every time we see a new storm system forming in the Atlantic. Just a few years ago, Charley ripped through the south eastern part of the state, and it could just as easily have been us. It is easy for us to forget about all of the things we need done when a News Channel 8 commercial comes on and tells us to create family plans in case of a hurricane, but we have to do it. It’s a consequence of living in “paradise.”

For now, I’ll leave you with a short list of essentials come our first storm. And please be more conscientious of others and yourself this year … be more willing to get out when it’s time.

  • Water (fill bathtubs before the storm hits to have water to flush the toilet, wash your hands, etc.)
  • Plenty of batteries
  • Flashlights (ones can be purchased that you don’t even need batteries, you just turn a crank on the side)
  • A battery-charged weather radio to keep up-to-date with storm coordinates in case your power/cable/internet goes out
  • Non-perishable food items, like XMRE, canned vegetables, peanut butter, crackers, etc. Be sure it’s things you won’t mind eating cold if the power goes out.
  • The National Hurricane Center suggests having enough food for three to seven days.
  • Candles
  • Blankets
  • A generator
  • An activity box if you have children so they won’t become extremely bored and irritated (and irritating) if you are stuck inside for a while
  • A first aid kit, just in case damage to your home injures someone
  • Plywood and duct tape

A list of things to prepare for your car in case of an evacuation:

  • A full tank of gas (you will not want to wait in the long lines for gas if an evacuation is ordered)
  • A credit card and some cash
  • Phone chargers
  • Proper clothing
  • Water and food

Another few tips:
Gather all important documents and send copies of them to relatives or friends who are out of state. If a hurricane destroys your home, it will destroy all of your necessities financially and legally. For your home, put the documents in a waterproof container or safe.

Make sure to find out if pets are allowed at your local shelter. If not, make plans far in advance on what you can do with Fido in case of a storm. It’s not worth risking your best friend’s life.

Verify, if you are on any medication, that you have access to your prescription drugs and they will last you for the duration of the storm. Also make arrangements for elderly members of the family, and help them out in the instance of an evacuation.

One can never be “too prepared”, and hopefully, this season will stay mild until the end. But even more, hopefully people will not take any storms we get too lightly. As we could see last year, coastal areas, especially in Florida, have a lot to lose when a storm comes knocking.