“Bring any prescription drugs you are taking” and eyeglasses if you wear them, said Bryan Koon, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and president of the National Emergency Management Association. Home, content and personal insurance documents along with state-issued IDs and cash are also suggested. When the power is out, credit card machines do not work.
“A dry change of clothes, drinking water and snacks” that are high in protein like nuts or power bars are staples to have in a vehicle, he said.
But how much for an evacuation? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests packing enough for three days. An adult needs about one gallon of water per day for drinking, hygiene and food preparation but more if it’s hot.
Gulfport Police Operations Commander Mary Farrand, who is in charge of the city’s hurricane preparedness efforts, agrees and adds that “an AM/FM radio with a weather band” helps to keep people informed about changing weather conditions and news.
Eton makes the award-winning FRX3 – American Red Cross model that receives AM/FM radio signals, the NOAA weather bands and it can be powered with batteries, a wall plug, solar power or a hand crank. It comes with a built-in LED flashlight and can serve as a USB smart phone charger. Some first responders suggest a battery-powered radio that is equipped with short-wave bands in case local transmission towers go down or run out of power so people can still get news and weather information.
“You can’t beat [short wave],” said Farrand. The county’s free Alert Pinellas Emergency Notification Service or Code Red system for mobile phones is also useful, she said. “Throughout [Tropical Storm Colin], I was getting text messages [from Code Red] indicating there was a new update for the storm, please check your email.”
To sign up for the service, visit public.coderedweb.com/cne/en-US/455136DCE8F8.
“Anybody should have a way to get out of their vehicle should they get trapped in a high-water situation like a window punch and a way to cut their seatbelt,” said Dean Adamides, City of St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Division Chief in charge of emergency management. “You also do not want to carry extra gasoline in the car because that can be dangerous.”
Having a viable spare tire and knowing how to change it is essential, said Adamides. “That’s exactly what I taught my 17-year-old daughter. You have to know how to do [this] if you are physically able. If you can’t do it because you don’t know how, that’s kind of a shame.”
He also emphasized the need for a hand tire pump and a first-aid kit.
Part of safely operating a vehicle during a storm is staying out of water.
“Turn around, don’t drown,” was the mantra of Gulfport Fire Chief James Marenkovic referring to the June 6 flooding of Shore Boulevard S. where he had blocked access to the area with his official vehicle. In addition to personal safety concerns, “the storm surge that comes through here will take out your car and you’ll have a nice mechanic’s bill afterwards.”
One of the biggest things for preparing a vehicle for a storm is to “get a full tank of gas,” said Gulfport Community Policing Officer Zack Mills. “If we don’t have power for days, you’re not going to be able to get gas.”
For more information from the federal level, visit FEMA, at ready.gov/car and ready.gov/hurricanes.