As you know, Orange County’s weather can be very temperamental at times. Kids on summer vacation and golfers alike can attest to the quick transition any given afternoon from a hot, sun-soaked day to a blinding grey rainstorm. Long-time residents no doubt remember many of the more serious weather events that have affected our community and just last month, Tropical Storm Colin brought heavy winds and rain to the community. Storm season has already begun. The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1 runs until Nov. 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center is predicting the formation of 10 to 16 named storms, four to eight hurricanes, and one to four major hurricanes this season. This month, I would like to talk about hurricane preparedness and share some tips you and your family can use to stay safe should a storm strike.
Have a plan in place should a storm affect our community. Cell phone networks, computers, and other forms of electronic communication may be disrupted by a storm. Create a family emergency communication plan including paper copies of important information such as identification documents, important family contacts, doctors, schools, or service providers. Make sure everyone carries a copy with them in their backpack, purse, or wallet. Prepare a disaster supply kit. The kit should include one gallon of water per person per day for three days, three days’ worth of food per person, a weather radio, flashlight, first aid kit, and batteries. Your emergency planning should also address the care of pets, aiding family members with access and functional needs, and safely shutting off utilities. Be sure to remember prescription medications, glasses, infant formula and diapers, and pet food, if applicable. Protect your home by removing damaged trees and tree limbs from your property before the storm reaches your home. In addition, secure loose rain gutters and clear any clogs. Be sure to secure your roof, windows, doors, and garages, as appropriate and invest in a portable generator to provide power during outages. You may also prepare an emergency plans at work, daycare, and school should none already exist. Once you’ve collected this important information, gather your family members and discuss the information included in your plan.
Orange County will have resources available for residents before, during, and after a storm. Orange County will put out information through social media, the county website (www.ocfl.net), and through its mobile apps. In addition, we will work with local media outlets to ensure you have all pertinent information. Should heavy flooding be expected, our Public Works staff will make sandbags available to the public. Each resident may request up to 300 sandbags by calling 311, Orange County’s information line. Once a storm has passed, Orange County crews will assess and report locations for emergency debris cleanup. Debris will first be removed from public right-of-way to allow safe passage of emergency vehicles. County emergency crews will prioritize cleanup to focus on those areas causing any threat to citizen lives, public health and safety. Citizens are encouraged to stay home until the news media reports otherwise. Announcements concerning debris cleanup will be made on television, the newspaper, this website, local radio, and county Facebook and Twitter pages. In addition, please report any flooding during or after a storm to 311.
Citizens who require transportation assistance or have no alternate means to evacuate their home and those who have a health or medical condition that requires attention by skilled medical professionals in a shelter environment should register their needs through Orange County’s Special Needs Program. Orange County has three designated special-needs shelter sites during an emergency. During an emergency, these shelter locations will be broadcast via radio and television as well as an automated phone message. Residents are asked to call 311 if they require special-needs sheltering or transportation. To find more information or register for this program, please visit our website or call 407-836-9319.
Following a storm, citizens are encouraged to stay home until the news media reports otherwise. County workers are skilled in managing debris following a major emergency situation. Our storm history provides us with considerable experience in planning, logistics, and debris clean-up operations. We are prepared for any emergency. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff, Edgar Robinson and Liz Roby, if you have any questions regarding emergency preparedness or any other county issue. We can be reached at 407-836-7350 or by email and [email protected]