Making a Plan
Write down the important points in your plan so it is clear who will handle each task and you won't forget anything in the heat of the moment.
A family plan is a work in progress. It should be reviewed each year and appropriate changes made. Most importantly, you should practice your plan before the beginning of each season. No two hurricane plans are identical. Each family has its own set of unique individuals and that will be reflected in your own personal plan. It is important that everyone knows what will be expected of them and what they can expect of others. Children should be given assignments as well. Keeping children occupied during a storm will make them easier to control and help calm their fears. During a hurricane emergency make sure that at least one parent, relative or very close adult friend will be with the children at all times.
First decide where you will go when a storm threatens. If you live in an evacuation zone, a mobile home, an area prone to severe flooding or a dwelling considered to be unsafe, you must plan on evacuating for even a minimal hurricane If you are unsure whether you five in a flood-prone area, call your county Office of Emergency Management and give them your address to determine if your home is in an evacuation zone. If you live outside an evacuation zone and have a sturdy roof, impact code approved window shutters and door braces, you should probably plan on staying in your home when a storm threatens.
Consider turning off circuit breakers before the power goes off (as it probably will). Power surges and spikes can damage electronic equipment. Also, broken or shorted wires become fire hazards when the power is turned back on. You may want to leave one breaker on that feeds a lamp, so you will know when the power comes back on. When the power goes out, use flashlights (not candles or kerosene lamps) during the storm.
If evacuating, make a decision now about where you will go. If you have friends or relatives outside an evacuation zone who live in a hurricane-safe house, try to make arrangements to stay with them. Obviously you should make those plans now so that they will be expecting you. Those arrangements should include who will be responsible for food, water and all the necessary items you will find listed throughout this Guide. One of the advantages of an arrangement like this is that you can divide up responsibility for some of the tasks. Plan on leaving as early as possible to avoid rapidly deteriorating weather and increased traffic.
Historically, many people have planned on evacuating to an inland hotel. Hotels tend to fill up fast and if they are all sold out you may be forced to make a last-minute decision to find a shelter.
Leaving South Florida
If you intend to attempt to leave South Florida you should plan on leaving as early as possible, at least 72 hours before anticipated landfall. If you try to fly out be prepared for the possibility that the airport may close or all flights may be full or canceled.
Attempting to drive away from an approaching storm could be a big mistake. Many people from our area tried to evacuate to Orlando when Hurricane Erin threatened South Florida in 1995. Eventually, that storm turned north and headed for Central Florida. Fortunately, it was not a very strong storm.
Be Advised: Tropical storms and hurricanes are notorious for changing direction. You may find yourself headed directly into a threatened area. A hurricane can travel faster than a traffic jam and the worst place to be in a hurricane is stuck in your car. A better plan is to stay in a well-constructed, properly-prepared structure.
Red Cross Shelter
A Red Cross shelter should be your last resort if you have nowhere else to go. Shelters will be crowded and uncomfortable with no privacy. Bring pillows, blankets and your own supply of food, water and prescription medicines. If you have young children you'll need a few of their favorite small toys, games and books.
Do not go to a shelter until you hear from officials that the specific shelter has opened. Not all shelters will be opened when a storm approaches. Familiarize yourself with the location of 2 or 3 shelters in your area so that you know exactly where to go when the shelter opens. Pets, alcohol and firearms are not allowed in shelters.
Important! Last-resort refuges are named just that for a very good reason. You should not consider this as an option in your hurricane plan. If you live in an evacuation zone you should plan to evacuate when told. But just in case, it's a good idea to identify a last resort refuge now.