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Another Year, Another Hurricane Season: Here’s How to Stay Safe

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Author name: Lee Health

Hurricane readiness graphicSince when is being rated “well above average” not such a good thing? When it comes to Florida’s hurricane season, which kicked off this month.

Expert meteorologists from Colorado State University predict a "well above average" number of tropical storms this year. Of the 17 named storms predicted, eight could become hurricanes, meaning Category 3 or higher. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its wind speed reaches 74 mph. The U.S. Weather Service defines Category 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes as bringing winds of 111 mph or higher.

In fact, there’s a 69 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall, CSU forecasters say. Hurricane preparation remains the key to ensuring everyone’s safety, notes Lee Health President & CEO Larry Antonucci, M.D., MBA.

“While we hope to have a quiet hurricane season, we cannot predict what this year’s season will bring,” Dr. Antonucci says. “As always, safety for our patients and our community members is our main concern in any year, but especially during the pandemic. We must continue to be prepared to care for our community before, during, and after any storm.”

The Lee Health COVID-19 Hurricane Response Task Force offers these hurricane preparedness guidelines to ensure the health and safety of Lee Health patients, staff, and community members.

Like last year, Lee Health has updated the plans and logistics of its typical hurricane response plan to reflect the added challenges of COVID-19, including following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, as well as Lee County Public Safety's Emergency Management Program.

Create a plan

  1. Develop a checklist and evacuation plan. Visit Lee County Public Safety's Emergency Management Program hurricane site to obtain these documents, print and fill out. Keep them in an easily accessible place.
  2. Get your hurricane kit together. Essentials of a hurricane supply kit:
  • Check your first-aid kit and restock if necessary.
  • Include in your hurricane supplies enough disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers and be ready to social distance at least 6 feet apart if you are not with immediate family members.
  • Include sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • Be sure you have refills of your prescriptions. Florida law allows pharmacies to fill prescriptions in advance during hurricane warnings.
  • Think ahead about preserving refrigerated drugs, like insulin, in case the power goes out. In an emergency, you can reach out to the Red Cross or poison control for assistance in determining the safety of a drug.
  • 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 kit, which should include 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. Your records remain safe and private while still being available to medical staff.
  1. Stay informed. Stay current on the latest storm news and alert services for your area with the Lee County Prepares app. LeePrepares encourages situational awareness when a disaster impacts Lee County. You can find information on: Find My Evacuation Zone and Active Evacuations, shelter information, register for alerts, preparedness tools (including ASL videos), local Weather, and social media feeds.
    1. Apple device users, click here.
    2. Android device users, click here.
  2. Register with AlertLee to receive time-sensitive informational alerts via cell phone by voice or text, email addresses, home phone, business phone and more.

Evacuations and Flood Zones

Sandra Tapfumaneyi, Lee County’s director of public safety and emergency management, recommends that if you live in a well-built home that is located inland and away from any flood zones, to shelter in place depending on the severity of the storm.

“A large part of our county includes evacuation zones, and our recommendation is that you find a friend or family member that lives outside of the evacuation zone, so you don’t necessarily have to go hundreds of miles away — you can go across the county and still be safe,” Tapfumaneyi told C.J. Haddad of the Pine Island Eagle. “We encourage people to have a plan in place that’s a much more comfortable option (other than a shelter) for them.”

Determining whether you or your loved ones need access to a special-needs shelter is one of the most important things to do to prepare for hurricane season. Lee Health hospitals and facilities are not hurricane shelters.

If you or your loved one requires assistance that exceeds services provided at a general population shelter, you must preregister with Lee County Emergency Management.

Visit www.leegov.com/publicsafety/emergencymanagement for more information on special needs shelters, as well as the locations of public shelters.

Meanwhile, emergency management officials with Lee, Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, and Hendry counties continue to refine hurricane emergency plans that include social distancing measures to protect residents while preventing the spread of the coronavirus in crowded evacuation shelters.