Hurricane Hype: How to Be Prepared This YearHealth Hub
A new hurricane season has arrived. Deep breath, everyone—we’re all in this together.
National forecasters are predicting a “near-normal” hurricane season this year. That’s welcome news, to be sure. But as we prepare for hurricane season, it’s important to remember that even a below-average season can deliver a dangerous and life-threatening storm.
Larry Antonucci, M.D., MBA and President & CEO of Lee Health, reminds us that preparation remains key when it comes to our health and medical needs.
“It is hard to believe that the 2023 hurricane season is upon us, especially as many in our community and from our Lee Health team are still recovering from Hurricane Ian’s impact and destruction,” Dr. Antonucci says. “We all learned a lot from Hurricane Ian, and I’m sure many of us are going into this next hurricane season more prepared, but I want to remind you to prepare for your health and medical needs.”
One of the most important things to do to prepare for hurricane season is to determine if you or your loved ones need access to a special care shelter, Dr. Antonucci notes.
“Lee Health hospitals and facilities are not hurricane shelters. If you or a loved one requires assistance that exceeds services provided at a general population shelter, you must preregister with Lee County Emergency Management.”
To do so, visit the Lee County Special Needs Program. The Special Needs Program is available to all Lee County residents at no cost. It provides shelter for those who live in a home and/or area that is not safe from storm surges or wind and has no other safe place to go. It also provides transportation to a shelter for those residents who do not have a way to get there.
Dr. Antonucci adds, “If a storm is approaching, be sure you have refills of your prescription medications and other essential medical supplies, like oxygen. Florida law allows pharmacies to fill prescriptions in advance during hurricane warnings. Think ahead, too, about preserving refrigerated drugs, like insulin, in case the power goes out – be sure you have enough ice to keep them cool for several days. If you have questions about your drug’s safety following a storm and power outage, you can contact poison control for assistance.”
If you choose to stay home and use a generator, be sure you know how to use it properly – generators are one of the leading causes of injury and death following a storm, Dr. Antonucci says.
To learn more about how to prepare for an emergency disaster, read on.
‘Near-normal” hurricane forecast a welcome prediction
For this year’s hurricane forecast, federal forecasters are predicting 12 to 17 named tropical storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those, five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher).
The Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting a less-active hurricane season than we’ve had in the past four years.
If predictions hold true, we can thank the return of El Niño. NOAA scientists say there’s a 62 percent chance El Niño will develop between May and July and an 80 percent to 90 percent chance it will form by fall.
That’s good news for our area because El Niño tends to contribute to weaker tropical storms that form in the Atlantic basin. Here’s NOAA’s prediction for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season:
- Chance of a below-average season: 30 percent
- Chance of a near-normal season: 40 percent
- Chance of an above-normal season: 30 percent
El Niño’s presence from August to October—the busiest period of activity in the Atlantic basin—may keep the Atlantic waters quiet. But as the old saying goes: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
“As we saw with Hurricane Ian, it only takes one hurricane to cause widespread devastation and upend lives,” says Deanne Criswell, an administrator with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “So regardless of the number of storms predicted this season, it is critical that everyone understand their risk and heed the warnings of state and local officials.”
Hurricane Preparedness Starts Here
The Lee Health Hurricane Response Task Force offers these hurricane preparedness guidelines to ensure the health and safety of Lee Health patients, staff, and community members. In addition to Dr. Antonucci’s remarks, you should also:
- Develop a checklist and evacuation plan. Visit Lee County Public Safety's Emergency Management Program hurricane site to obtain these documents, print and fill them out. Keep them in an easily accessible place.
- Know the details of your medical equipment, including the size, manufacturer, and company and account numbers.
- Stock up on batteries, especially if you require batteries that need to be special ordered.
- Consider medical supplies, including catheters and dressings, as well as dietary restrictions, and be sure you have appropriate supplies and options available.
- Build or restock your disaster supplies kit, including food, water, flashlights, batteries, chargers, cash and first aid supplies.
- Scan important documents, such as medication logs, insurance papers, etc., and store them on a flash drive in a safety deposit box. Lee Health uses Epic, so our patients have one seamless electronic health record across the health system.
Save money: sales tax holiday on disaster preparedness supplies
The state has established Aug. 26-Sept. 8 as a sales tax holiday for disaster preparedness supplies. During the 14-day period, there will be no sales tax added when purchasing certain items.
The tax holiday also includes items related to the safe evacuation of household pets as well as items that may be used for disaster cleanup.
Some examples of tax-free items include:
- Flashlights and lanterns costing $40 or less
- Reusable ice costing $20 or less
- Radios costing $50 or less
- Tarps and ground anchors or tie-down kits costing $100 or less
- Coolers and portable power banks costing $60 or less
- Batteries and fuel tanks costing $50 or less
- Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors costing $70 or less
- Generators costing $3,000 or less
Learn more at Lee Health’s new Emergency Management Hub. Your go-to-resource will have information and checklists on what to do before, during, and after a natural disaster or public health emergency.