AS A BUSINESS OWNER/MANAGER, head of household, or adult on your own in Central Florida, how confident are you about your preparations for an emergency — such as the one we all very well might face with the powerful hurricane called Irma?
If you’re very confident, great! The best emergency preparations, such as those for a hurricane, begin early and get regular reviews for adequacy and disaster-plan “holes” that might not have been considered previously.
If you’re not so confident about your emergency plan — if you don’t have much of a plan at all — it’s not too late to put yourself in a less-vulnerable position, even in the case of a fast-approaching Irma. You’ll likely find — no, you will find — shortages in things like cases of bottled water and power generators in the local stores, but resourcefulness can compensate. Resourcefulness can include calling on better-prepared family members and friends for backup assistance, if things do go south during and after the storm. People — families — coming together to help one another during emergencies is a wonderful thing to experience and see.
Florida’s leaders, from the office of Gov. Rick Scott on down, and emergency management officials at all levels have told since before the hurricane season began on June to “Get a plan!” for possible disaster situations, like the one Irma could bring to a large part of the state. Several times in the past few days, the governor has tweeted #Getaplan, pointing to flgetaplan.com (www.FloridaDisaster.org) on the Internet. (Gov. Scott’s Twitter site is extremely active and rich with useful storm-prep information. You can follow him at @FLGovScott — or https://twitter.com/FLGovScott.) The “Get a Plan!” website is designed to help anyone create a family, business or special-needs disaster plan.
The American Red Cross website (go here) is another good hurricane-planning and safety resource, as is the site (go here) operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If you need to start an emergency supply kit, download the guide (go here) produced by the Florida State Emergency Response Team (SERT).
As the threat of Hurricane Irma loomed, the Winter Haven Area Chamber of Commerce produced a good hurricane resource e-newsletter. It features links to and information about:
• The Florida State Emergency Response Team.
• Information about Polk County’s emergency shelters and a map showing their location.
• The website for Polk County Emergency Management.
• Polk County sandbag locations. Additionally, the City of Winter Haven has opened sandbagging sites at Winter Haven Fire Station No. 2, 4700 Lucerne Park Road, N.E., and the Chain O’ Lakes Complex, 210 Cypress Gardens Blvd. Sandbags are available 24 hours on a self-serve basis, with a 10-bag limit. Limited shovels are available.
• City of Winter Haven emergency information and resources.
• A business storm-preparations checklist from the Winter Haven Police Department.
• The Florida Emergency Information 24-hour Hotline. Call 800-342-3557.
• Alert Florida notifications by text. Text “FLPrepares” to 888777.
• Polk County-specific emergency alerts. Register here.
While Hurricane Irma is still mostly over water, do what you can now to fill any of those emergency plan “holes” we mentioned earlier. When the threat of Irma has passed and recovery is complete, get prepared — get stocked up — right away for the next time, the next emergency. We’re in Florida; we can always be sure of a “next time.”