The price of paradise

By Times Staff
Published May 29, 2005

In the Tampa Bay region, we have the best of all worlds - white sand beaches and bay views, magnificent sunsets, warm weather tempered with a gentle Gulf breeze as well as the vibrant economy and cultural opportunities of a metropolitan area - most of the time.

But with the coastline and population, there is also a vulnerability to tropical storms and hurricanes. Experts have warned that we are leaving an era of relatively little tropical storm activity and returning to a more active period. As with any other natural hazard - snowstorms, flooding or earthquakes - it is your responsibility to prepare your family and your business to weather a storm. Read this guide. Use it. It could save your life.


1. Make your family disaster plan. It's not hard. Read through this guide and make your plan. Talk with your family. If you need help, go online to www.tampabayprepares.org or http://www.myflorida.com/myflorida/family_prepare_guide.html or call your local emergency management agency or local chapter of the American Red Cross. Phone numbers are listed on the inside map page of the guide.

2. Refer to the hurricane evacuation map inside this guide. Locate where you live and your evacuation level. Determine if and when you would have to evacuate. Remember: All mobile home residents must evacuate, regardless of location. If you need help determining your zone, go online or call your local emergency management office citizen information center before the storm threatens.

3. Decide now where you would go if ordered to evacuate (a friend or relative, a hotel or motel, or at last resort, a public shelter or out of the region). Remember, if you are going to leave the area or go to a hotel, you must leave very early. Determine your route and plan to travel as little as necessary.

4. Check your disaster supplies kit and obtain any items you need.

5. Make plans and purchase materials to protect your home before the storm (shutters or other window protection; plastic sheeting, nails, etc.).

6. Keep home in good repair. Tack down loose roofing; trim trees, keep gutters clean, etc.

7. Purchase a battery-powered weather alert radio and a non-electric land line phone.

8. Inventory (and video record) your property and possessions. Store with insurance and title papers in a safe place and send a copy to a relative out of the area.

9. Make sure your house number is clearly visible on your home.

10. Whether you rent or own your home, review your insurance policies with your agent now.


Listen for weather updates on local stations and on NOAA Weather Radio. Don't trust rumors, and stay tuned to the latest information.

Remember: Hurricanes can be very unpredictable. There is always potential "error" in the forecast track from the National Hurricane Center. At the 24-hour forecast, the average error is approximately 90 to 100 miles away from the forecast point. Don't focus on the exact point or forecast track; instead, listen to local officials. For more information, go to www.noaa.gov or www.weather.gov click on Tampa Bay area.

Check your disaster supplies kit. Obtain any needed items.

Refill prescriptions. Maintain at least a two-week supply during hurricane season.

Clear yard, e.g. lawn furniture, potted plants, bicycles and trash cans.

Protect your windows and glass doors. Brace double entry and garage doors at the top and bottom.

If there is a chance flooding could threaten your home, move important items off the floor (i.e. computers and stereo equipment, bedding, antiques, etc.).

Fill your car's gas tank and check oil, water and tires. Gas pumps don't operate without electricity.

Secure your boat early. Drawbridges will be closed to boat traffic after an evacuation order is issued.

Leave the swimming pool filled and super-chlorinated. Cover the filtration system.

Get cash. Banks and ATMs won't be in operation without electricity and few stores will be able to accept credit cards or personal checks.


If you live in a sound structure outside the evacuation area and do not live in a mobile home, stay home and take these precautions:

Make sure your windows are protected and home is secured.

Clean containers for drinking water and your bath tub for storing clean water. Plan on three gallons per person, per day for all uses.

Offer your home as shelter to friends or relatives who live in vulnerable areas or mobile homes.

Check your disaster supplies kit. Make sure you have at least a two-week supply of non-perishable foods. Don't forget a non-electric can opener.

During the storm, stay inside and away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Find a safe room in your home (an interior, reinforced room, closet or bathroom on the lower floor).

Wait for official word that the danger is over. Don't be fooled by the storm's calm "eye."

If flooding threatens your home, turn off electricity at the main breaker.

If you lose power, turn off major appliances, such as the air conditioner and water heater, to reduce damage from surge when power is restored.

Monitor your battery-operated radio, NOAA weather radio or TV for the latest advisories and other emergency information.


Stay tuned to your local radio and television station for emergency broadcasts. If ordered to evacuate, you must do so immediately.

Take your disaster supplies kit with you.

Take important papers with you, including your driver's license, special medical information, insurance policies (company and agent's name and number) and property inventories. Also take irreplaceable items (photos or keepsakes).

Let friends and relatives know where you are going. Make sure your neighbors have a safe ride.

Turn off electricity, water and gas.

Lock windows and doors.

If you've made plans to stay with a relative or friend, make sure your destination is not within a zone that has been ordered to evacuate. Take enough supplies for your family.

If you are leaving a coastal area, remember to take supplies with you. Move inland away from the storm surge and inland flooding, but it is not recommended that residents try to leave the region. Roads will be heavily congested and you run the risk of being caught on the highway without a safe refuge or running into the storm if it takes a different track.

If you plan to go to a hotel or motel, you will need to check for availability and make your reservation well in advance. Some hotels/motels have "standing reservation hurricane programs" and some relax their pet restrictions in an emergency. If you intend on going to a local hotel or motel, call them and ask if they have special hurricane policies in place. Again, make sure your destination is not in an evacuation zone.


Store at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your family.

Store at least 1 gallon of drinking water per person per day. A normally active person needs to drink at least 2 quarts of water each day. Heat can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need more. You will need additional water for food and hygiene.

Never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.

Store water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Plastic containers like soda bottles are best.

Seal your water containers tightly, label them and store them in a cool, dark place.

Have at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food on hand. Focus on high-nutrition foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. Your foodstuffs might include:

- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables

- Canned juices, milk, soup

- Staples, including sugar, salt, pepper

- High energy foods, including peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix

- Vitamins

- Foods for infants, the elderly or people on special diets

- Comfort/stress foods, including cookies, hard candy, instant coffee, tea

Optimally, a two-week supply of nonperishable food is recommended. Though it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supply for that long, such a stockpile can relieve a great deal of inconvenience and uncertainty until services are restored.

Have a supply of cooking and eating implements that can be used in the absence of running water or electricity, including:

- Plastic utensils, paper cups and plates

- Manual can opener

- Bottle opener

- A heating source, such as a camp stove or canned heat stove, and extra fuel

- Cooking pans and utensils

- Grill

If your water supply is limited, avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and don't snack on salty foods, since they will make you thirsty. Try to eat salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.


First use perishable food and foods from the refrigerator, then use foods from the freezer.

To minimize the number of times you open the freezer door, post a list of freezer contents on it. In a well-filled, well-insulated freezer, foods will usually still have ice crystals in their centers (meaning the foods are safe to eat) for at least three days. However, do not refreeze defrosted foods once power is restored.

Use nonperishable foods and staples last.

For emergency cooking, you can use a charcoal grill or camp stove outdoors only. You also can heat food with candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots. Canned food can be eaten right out of the can. If you heat it in the can, be sure to open the can and remove the label first.


Take action early - don't wait until a hurricane warning is declared. The storm's fringe activity will make preparations difficult.

If your boat will remain in berth, before hurricane season check the strength of primary cleats, winches and chocks. They should have substantial back plates and adequate stainless steel bolts.

Double all lines, with rig crossing spring lines fore and aft. Attach lines high on piling to allow for tidal fall and rise or surge. Mooring line sizes: for boats up to 20 feet, 3/8-inch in diameter; 20-34 feet, 1/2-inch or larger; 35-55 feet, 5/8-inch or larger; 56 feet and longer, 3/4-inch or larger. Protect lines from chafing by covering rub spots with leather or old garden hose.

Charge batteries for automatic bilge pumps.

Seal all openings with duct tape to make the boat as watertight as possible.

Reduce dock or piling crash damage by securing old tires along the sides of the boat.

Remove loose gear from the deck. Store it securely inside or at home.

For a boat stored on a trailer, lash the boat and trailer down in a protected area. Let the air out of tires before tying the trailer down. Place blocks between the frame members and the axle inside each wheel. Secure with heavy lines to fixed objects from four directions if possible.

If you prefer, remove the boat from the trailer and lash down each separately.

Remove the outboard motor, battery and electronics, and store them.

Small boats can be filled with water to give them added weight after lashing down.

If you like your boat more than you like your car, put the boat in the garage.


Floridians are particularly vulnerable to severe weather like hurricanes, and elderly people are especially susceptible to the effects of that weather. Those who live alone or are without the support of family or friends must take special precautions in the event of an emergency situation. People who are frail or disabled (either mentally or physically) may need special assistance from family members, friends or social service agencies. Older adults who are also caregivers may require outside assistance. Excessive stress and anxiety can contribute to increased episodes of illness, particularly for persons with heart disease and other illnesses. If an older adult lives in a nursing home, assisted living facility or boarding home, the administrator should be contacted to learn about the disaster plan for that facility.


Tell your health agency where you will be during a hurricane. Ask them about their plans to provide care.

If you are homebound and under the care of a physician, but not a home health agency, contact your physician.

If you require respirators or other electric-dependent medical equipment, you should make prior medical arrangements with your physician. You should also register with your local power company.

If you require oxygen, check with your supplier about emergency plans.

If you evacuate, remember to take medications, written instructions regarding your care, special equipment and bedding with you.

If you will need assistance in an evacuation or need to go to a special needs shelter, please register now with your county emergency management agency.

Special needs shelters do not provide hands-on medical care, only medical monitoring. Bring a caregiver with you.

If you would require hospitalization, you must make prior arrangements through your physician.

Please remember that hospitals are NOT shelters. During disaster such as hurricanes, hospitals have a limited number of resources that must be rationed to care for the sick and injured.


Here are the most important items for your disaster supplies kit. Stock up today and store in a water-resistant container. Replenish as necessary.

- Two weeks supply of prescription medicines.

- Two weeks supply of non-perishable/special dietary foods.

- Drinking water/containers - 1 gallon/per person/per day (minimum 3 days).

- Flashlights and seven sets of batteries for each member of the family.

- Portable radio and seven sets of batteries.

- First aid book and kit including bandages, antiseptic, tape, compresses, aspirin and aspirin pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, antacid, Syrup of Ipecac (used to promote vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center).

- Mosquito repellent and citronella candles.

- Fire extinguisher (small canister, ABC type).

- Instant tire sealer.

- Whistle and/or distress flag.

- Two coolers (one to keep food; one to go get ice).

- Plastic tarp, screening, tools and nails, etc.

- Water purification kit (tablets, chlorine (plain) and iodine).

- Infant necessities (medicine, sterile water, diapers, ready formula, bottles)/

- Clean-up supplies (mop, buckets, towels, disinfectant).

- Camera and film.

- Non-electric can opener.

- Extra batteries for camera, flashlights, radio, portable TV & lamps, etc.

- Garbage can or bucket with tight-fitting lid (for emergency toilet).

- Plastic trash bags.

- Toilet paper, paper towels and premoistened towelettes.

If you evacuate you also should take:

- Pillows, blankets, sleeping bags or air mattresses.

- Extra clothing, shoes, eyeglasses, etc.

- Folding chairs, lawn chairs or cots.

- Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.).

- Quiet games, books, playing cards and favorite toys for children.

- Important papers and irreplaceable keepsakes (driver's license, special medical information, insurance policies and property inventories).

Precious commodities before and after a storm

- Cash (with no power, banks may be closed; checks and credit cards unaccepted, and ATMs may not be operational).

- Charcoal, wooden matches and grill.

- Ice.

- A land line phone that does not require electricity.

Pet owners are responsible for hurricane planning for their pet. If you plan to evacuate, plan for your pet as well. Take your Pet Survival Kit if you go to friends, relatives or a hotel. Unless there are "pet-friendly" shelters in your county, shelters cannot accept pets. For more information, call your local SPCA, Animal Control or Humane Society. If you plan to go to a hotel or motel, go online to www.petswelcome.com


Proper ID collar and rabies tag/license (Make sure your pets have had all their shots within the past 12 months. Pet-friendly shelters and boarding facilities will require proof of vaccinations.)

Vaccination paperwork

Carrier or cage (large enough for your pet to move around)


Ample food supply (at least two weeks)


Water/food bowls

Any necessary medication(s)

Specific care instruction

Newspapers, cat litter, scoop, plastic trash bags for handling waste

Proper ID on all belongings

Photo of you and your pet

A comfort item such as a favorite toy or blanket

Non-electric can opener