It’s June 1 and we are marching our way each day closer to Hurricane season. This double disaster scenario has Emergency Management Director Andrew Fossa on edge. Floridians have filed more than 2 million unemployment claims in May and he is concerned that many won’t have the resources to prepare shelter and recover is a major storm hits landfall.
Emergency officials say that they are doing all they can they mitigate the spread of Coronavirus, but the priority will be protecting people from the storm, if it comes to it.
The challenges ahead seem daunting but Floridians can prepare. Here are seven things you need to know for a hurricane season like no other.
1) Plan Plan Plan
Plan to hunker down as shelter space may be limited.
2) No Place Like Home
Going to a shelter could also increase the chances that your family may be exposed to COVID-19 — and if you’re an asymptomatic carrier, then you’re putting the other evacuees at risk. If your family has already been isolating at home, in a non-evacuation zone, why leave?
3) Safety in Numbers
If you are able to ride out the storm at home, if your family is isolating and in good health, if you have extra room, consider extending your good fortune:
Let other family members or a group of friends hunker down with you.
That would spare them the risks associated with shelters, and make it easier for others to use those shelters.
4) Everyone needs a mask
From now on, every hurricane kit should be stocked with pandemic necessities: hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and at least two cloth masks per person. So don’t stop trying to buy that stuff over the summer and fall.
5) Sheltering during the Pandemic
During the pandemic, everyone who enters the Pasco County Emergency Operations Center is screened for the virus. Their temperature is taken and they’re asked a series of questions.
Evacuees may have to go through a similar process before they’re allowed into shelters. If they show symptoms, they may be sent to another shelter — or, if it’s too late for that, each shelter may have to set aside space to isolate symptomatic evacuees.
6) New ways, New Shelters
Opening more shelters helps keep people further apart. Officials are looking at all kinds of structures: motels, vacant dorms, community colleges, ice rinks, multi-purpose facilities. But governments will need more people to staff those shelters, and more resources to maintain them.
7) Recovery will be Harder
Floridians who lost their jobs will have less money to get back on their feet. A family that lost one income to the pandemic could lose the other to a hurricane. Municipalities that lost sales tax revenue will also struggle. Everyone will be more reliant on help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government resources.
Those are the long-term problems. In the short term, where will those who lose their homes to a major storm go? The more time they have to spend in shelters, the greater the health risk.