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May 29, 2020

A New Reality: Hurricane Preparedness During a Pandemic

By Laura Byrne

This is most important hurricane season your family has ever prepared for. Let that sink in for a minute.

Whether you are new to the Tampa Bay area or a native, local emergency managers are reminding all residents it is absolutely vital that every family has a fully stocked disaster kit and hurricane plan due to the added threat of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

What does this mean exactly for your family?

  • First, know your evacuation zone if you don’t already.
  • Make sure your disaster kit is fully stocked, including with new additions due to COVID-19 like hand sanitizer, gloves and face masks. As you have likely experienced over the last few months, this may take a few shopping trips as stores restock these high-demand items.
  • If you live in an evacuation zone, make arrangements now to stay with friends or family who live further inland or on higher ground now so you are ready when evacuation orders come down. Ensure there is room for you all to safely social distance if you must. Make sure your baby has as safe place to sleep like a pack and play crib.
  • If you live in an area outside evacuation zones, reach out to friends and family who may need your help if a storm strikes.
  • When it comes to evacuating, the general rule of thumb is tens of miles not hundreds of miles.

Get Familiar with Your Local Emergency Management Office:

Hillsborough County: HillsboroughCounty.org
Sign up for HCFL Alert emergency alerts: Text StaySafe to 888-777

Pasco County: Pascocountyfl.net
Be sure to sign up for Alert Pasco while visiting the site.

Pinellas County: PinellasCounty.org/emergency
You can sign up for Alert Pinellas on this site too to stay connected during emergencies.

Disaster Kit additions due to COVID-19:

  • 72 hours of food and water (for drinking and sanitization) for each person in your family. You can add a few extra days worth of each if you don’t want to immediately head out to stores after the storm.
  • Gloves
  • Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes
  • Disinfecting wipes for surfaces
  • Cloth face masks
  • Pack and play or safe portable crib to ensure baby has a safe place to sleep.
  • Mess kits: paper cups, plates, utensils (good to have on you if you leave your house)

Find a complete list of what you’ll need in your disaster kit at Ready.gov

Every year, we ask our local meteorologist dads at 10 Tampa Bay to weigh in on the season with advice and how they’re preparing their own families.


GRANT GILMORE, MORNING METEOROLOGIST AT 10 TAMPA BAY

“There’s a lot that’s different about our world now because of the coronavirus. As we’ve learned, there’s a lot that is out of our control, but taking steps to plan and prepare our families for a potential storm is something we can all take charge of.”


BOBBY DESKINS, CHIEF METEOROLOGIST AT 10 TAMPA BAY

Hurricane season is upon us once again, and most signs are pointing to a busier-than-normal season! It’s hard to believe that the season is already here, but then again, we have been living in a time warp thanks to our COVID-19 quarantine. For me, the silver lining in all of this has been the time that I have been able to spend with my family. Turns out time is more precious than toilet paper—but just barely! Homeschooling has been interesting. I’ve spent a lot of time chaperoning recess for my kids, but there has also been a little bit of learning in our household as well.

If you have any homeschooling left in you, now would be a good time to teach your kids the basics about severe weather. You don’t have to go into the details, but it may help your child to have a little knowledge of severe weather to lower any fears they may have. I’ve talked to my kids about hurricanes, tornadoes, what to do during tornado warnings and how we prepare for storms. My kids are 9 and 7 so they are old hats at this since Hurricane Irma, but a refresher course can’t hurt. As they grow, their understanding of the weather changes and so will their questions.

One of the things we talked about was getting prepared and getting our hurricane kit together. With COVID-19 in the mix, your plans may change a bit. For instance, if you need to evacuate during a storm, do you want to go to a crowded shelter? City governments are doing what they can to come up with a plan that utilizes more shelters thus lowering the density in each, but would you rather evacuate to a friend or family member’s house? Make that plan now. It would likely be more comfortable, but if COVID-19 is prevalent, can you shelter with family or friends who are especially sensitive to the virus? Have an idea of where you would go, who will be with you and what their health concerns are. These are things to consider when making your PLAN.

Putting your KIT together will also require a few changes. You guessed it, more Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer! I always suggest Lysol wipes for cleanup, but this year you will want to add another tub or two. Don’t forget about that first-aid kit. Most don’t include a thermometer, but you may want to have one in case someone isn’t feeling well. Last, but not least, throw in a few rolls of toilet paper. Not that you would need more during a hurricane, but because who knew it would be such a hot commodity during COVID-19?


Originally published in Tampa Bay Parenting’s June 2020 Issue.

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