The storm is coming, now what?

PINELLAS COUNTY — The time to put your survival plan into action is when forecasters predict a hurricane is headed toward Pinellas County. Forecasters use a “cone of certainty” to show areas likely to be impacted by a storm.

Do not wait until the last minute! You need to start getting ready as soon as the storm is predicted to hit near our county.

Select a safe room

If you don’t have to evacuate and plan to weather a hurricane at home, set up a safe room for you and your family in case your home is damaged. This is also a good place to store emergency supplies, important papers and battery-powered radios.

Make sure the room has a solid-core door with heavy duty hinges for greater protection. Use long screws to ensure the hinges are anchored securely. Installing a deadbolt lock, like those found on entry doors, will further help protect you and your family.

Where your safe room should be located depends upon how many levels are in your home or building.

  • In a one-story house, the ideal safe room is in the center of your home with few or no windows.
  • In a two-story house, seek out an interior first-floor room such as a bathroom, closet or space under the stairs.
  • In a multiple-story building, go to the first or second floors and take refuge in halls or other interior rooms away from windows. Interior stairwells and areas around elevators shafts are generally the strongest parts of a building.

As a storm approaches

If you are planning to leave the area, go early.

Other tips:

  • Refill your prescriptions. Make sure you have at least a one-week supply. (see prepare your medications)
  • Fill your car’s gas tank. Have the oil, water and tires checked. Gas pumps cannot operate during power outages. Place emergency items inside like booster cables, tire repair kit and spare tire and flashlight with extra batteries.
  • If your home may flood, stack valuable items and cover them with plastic.
  • Get cash. Credit cards may not work. ATM’s may not be operable.
  • Secure your boat and make arrangements for your pets
    When a Hurricane Watch is issued, a storm may affect our area within 36 hours. This is the time to review your Family Plan and Emergency Survival Kit checklist.
  • Contact family members to coordinate efforts and exchange plan information.
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings.
  • Freeze drinking water in plastic jugs.
  • Stock up on an emergency water supply. Sterilize bathtub, jugs, bottles, utensils and containers.
  • Set up 5-gallon buckets with tight-fitting lids for use as emergency toilets. Line each bucket with a heavy-duty plastic trash bag.
  • Install shutters or precut plywood over windows.
  • Drop the water level in your pool by 1 or 2 feet. Shock the pool with extra chlorine to compensate for heavy rains.
  • Turn off the pool pump. Put outdoor furniture and pool equipment into the pool, but remove after the storm passes to prevent rusting.
  • Listen for weather updates and information on local TV or radio. The NOAA Weather Radio is a reliable source. Turn to PCC-TV, Your County Connection, to receive the latest official Pinellas-specific information. Don’t rely on rumors and speculation.

If you must evacuate

When an evacuation order is given you should:

  • Secure all windows and doors tightly.
  • Put your Disaster Survival Kit in your car.
  • Turn off electric, water and gas.
  • Wear protective clothing like long pants, long sleeve shirts and sturdy shoes.
  • Lock your home.
  • Evacuate quickly but safely. The sooner you leave, the less time you spend in a traffic rush.
  • Only evacuate as far as necessary. Traffic gridlock could leave you stranded. When the storm passes, you may not be able to get back in. Officials suggest going to someone else’s home in a non-evacuation area.
  • Let friends and family know your plans.

When a hurricane warning is issued

Hurricane conditions are less than 36 hours away and violent weather may come quickly. If you are not ordered to evacuate, complete your preparations and head to your home’s safe room.

  • Move your supplies and emergency survival kit to your safe room.
  • Close all interior doors. Secure and brace external doors, particularly double inward-opening doors and garage doors.
  • Most importantly, stay inside and do not leave your shelter.

When the storm’s impact is felt

While the approach of a hurricane can be an anxious time, living through the storm can be terrifying.

If you live in an ordered evacuation zone, you should already be at your safe place (host home, hotel or shelter). If you are not evacuating, it’s time to brave the storm.

Here are some important tips to remember:

  • Stay tuned to local news or PCC-TV for updates.
  • Close interior doors. Secure and brace external doors.
  • If power goes out, use your weather radio for alerts. For light, use flashlights, lanterns or chemical light sticks. Avoid burning candles and do not run a generator inside.
  • Stay indoors and most importantly, stay calm.
  • Parents should extend greater patience and understanding to children having difficulty coping with the situation. Be honest about the danger and reassure them that you are focused on their safety. Do your best to keep them entertained or occupied.
  • Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm and winds may pick up again.

If your home is breached

Even though you have taken the necessary precautions to protect your home, the exterior can be breached. Debris can break through windows, and trees can crash through your roof.

When this happens, take these immediate actions:

  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level of your home. Remember, the center of your house is the safest.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or other sturdy object if you cannot make it to a safe room.
  • Consider leaving your home ONLY if remaining poses an imminent threat to your life.
  • Wait until the storm has passed to tend to any damage.

For more information, visit pinellascounty.org/emergency/itscoming.htm.

Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center Department of Emergency Management – 727-464-3800

During an emergency activation, call the Citizen Information Center at (727) 464-4333.

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