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Planning Ahead

Careful prior planning and preparation might save your life during the next hurricane. Don't fall into the trap of thinking it won't happen here. It can, it is going to happen someday, and the consequences of not preparing for it can be catastrophic. Being ready is the key to getting yourself and your family through the storm with as little pain and discomfort as possible. Here are some tips and things to consider:

Before the storm

Today is critical. Begin planning before a storm threatens because there are many things to consider when planning for the safety of your family and your home. Some final preparations can be made as the hurricane nears shore since there is generally adequate warning, but beware that some hurricanes form or change course quickly. Advance planning helps minimize the things you have to do as the hurricane approaches and brings order into the chaos caused by this disaster.

Know where you live. Be aware of where you live and whether it is likely you will need to evacuate. If you live on a barrier island, near the coast, in a flood zone or in a mobile home within the warning area, there's a good possibility you'll need to leave. If so, figure out in advance where you will go - either to a shelter, the home of a friend or relative, or perhaps a hotel farther inland. Use MyTampaAddress to determine what evacuation zone you are located in.  The Hillsborough County Hurricane Guide can also help you determine if you live in an evacuation zone and can help you identify Red Cross shelters closest to you

Plan an evacuation route. Plan your evacuation route well in advance. This plan should include information on the safest evacuation routes and nearby shelters. Learn safe routes inland. Be ready to drive 20 to 50 miles inland to locate a safe place and remember roads and interstates will be crowded.

Prepare your disaster supplies kit. One of the most important tools for emergency preparedness is your Disaster Supplies Kit. You'll need provisions to carry you through a week or more after the storm. Remember, there may be no electricity or clean water for days. Downed trees and other hurricane related debris blocking the roads will keep you from traveling far. Below are the most important items for your Disaster Supply Kit. Stock up today; store them in a water-resistant container; and replenish as necessary, especially at the beginning of the hurricane season – June1.

Develop an emergency communications plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a disaster (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a hurricane. Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.

Protect your property. Trim back dead or weak branches from trees. City residents can pick up sandbags from three locations around the city if needed to help prevent rising waters from entering homes or businesses.

Protect your windows. Permanent shutters are the best protection. A lower-cost approach is to put up plywood panels. Use 1/2 inch plywood--marine plywood is best--cut to fit each window. Remember to mark which board fits which window. Pre-drill holes every 18 inches for screws. Do this long before the storm. Taping windows doesn't protect glass, but might prevent deadly shards of broken glass from flying through the house.

Check your flood insurance policy to make sure coverage is adequate. You can find out about the National Flood Insurance Program through your local insurance agent or emergency management office. There is normally a 30-day waiting period before a new policy becomes effective. Homeowners polices do not cover damage from the flooding that accompanies a hurricane.

Understand hazards, warnings and advisories. Understand the hazards associated with hazards in the Tampa Bay Region and what you should do when advised.

Protect your pets. Pet owners are responsible for disaster planning for their pet. If you evacuate, plan for your pets as well. Take your Pet Survival Kit if you go to friends, relatives or a hotel. The Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets. So if you plan to go to public shelter, make other provisions for your pet. Limited space is available at "pet shelters" (kennels, veterinarian, etc.) on high ground. After the storm has passed, be careful in allowing your pet outdoors. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet could easily be confused and become lost. Downed power lines, and animals and insects brought in with high water, could present real dangers to your pet. Take care not to allow you pet to consume food or water which may have become contaminated. For more information call the SPCA, Animal Control or Humane Society.