Hurricane Preparedness Transcript

 

Introduction:

 

Behind me is the beautiful and historic University of Florida campus.  It’s placement among the tall live oaks, high pines and rolling terrain common in North Central Florida make it easy to put aside our hurricane threat. 

 

However, looks can be deceiving as they say.  The campus is situated approximately only 70 miles from either coast.  Little distance when compared the scope and breadth of many hurricanes. 

 

Two storms from the recent past that dramatically illustrate this point are Hurricanes Charley and Katrina.  Both produced significant damage well inland.  Charley brought 75 mph sustained winds and gust of 100mph near Orlando and Kissimmee, over 100 miles inland from where the storm made landfall.

 

We don’t have to look outside our own back yard for examples.  Most people will remember the 2004 hurricane season and its one-two punch of Frances and Jeanne.  The duo left the community with fallen trees, power outages, hundreds of homes damaged, flooding, debris piles, and unfortunately, even a few fatalities.  However, as dramatic as the two storms were it is important to note that the area did not receive sustained winds of hurricane force. 

 

Before 2004, there was almost an urban legend that this area doesn’t have hurricanes.  It is true that North Central Florida had gone several years without an impact, but history certainly illustrates our vulnerability.

 

This image depicts the center line tracks of all hurricanes traveling within 65 miles of the UF campus.  In comparison, this image tracks all Tropical Storms that have come within 65 miles of campus.  As you can see, there has been no shortage of storms in the area.

 

Some of the more memorable storms from the past include the 1944 and1949 hurricanes and Hurricane Dora in 1964.  Dora produced historic flooding in the area as it moved inland from Jacksonville.

 

The storm of record for the area occurred before UF began operating at its current location.  In 1896, a hurricane made landfall at Ceder Key causing catastrophic damage throughout much of North Central Florida.  Although impossible to verify, and perhaps overstated, the Florida Times Union estimated the wind speeds in nearby Lake City to be 150 mph.

 

These examples are not intended to take away from the beauty of campus or to cause fear.  Instead they are used to stress the need for us as individuals and the University as a whole to prepare for hurricanes.  Before we talk about the specifics of preparing for a storm, let’s review some basic facts about hurricanes.

 

Hurricanes season lasts from June 1 through November 30.  It is important to be ready throughout the season, but as you can see the season reaches its statistical peek in September with high activity in the months immediately before and after.

 

In order to convey the potential structural damage of hurricanes, the Saffir-Simpson Scale was created in the early 1970’s.  The scale uses a 1-5 ranking based on the storm’s current intensity.

 

A category 1 can produce damage to unanchored mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, shrubbery and trees.  (Irene, 1999)

 

A Category 2 can cause damage to building roofs, doors and windows along with considerable damage to mobile homes. (Frances, 2004)

 

A Category 3 can lead to structural damage of small residences and utility buildings.  Mobile homes and poorly built signs are destroyed. (Wilma, 2005)

 

A Category 4 brings extensive failure of some curtain walls, some complete roof structure failures on small residents and extensive damage to doors and windows.  There is complete destruction of mobile homes. (Charley, 2004)

 

A Category 5 can cause complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings.  Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away.  (Andrew, 1992)

 

Fortunately Category 5 storms are rare.  Only three have made landfall on the US since records began – 1935 Labor Day hurricane, Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  However, 2 of those 3 storms were in Florida.

 

Now that we have a better understanding of hurricanes and their history in our area, let’s talk about how to prepare.

 

Pre-Storm:

 

Clarify your work responsibilities, if any, during a hurricane.  Every person should know whether or not they are classified as an ‘essential employee.’  While everyone is an important part of the UF organization.  Some employees have responsibilities that might require them to work during University closures.  They are referred to as essential employees.  For more information, refer to UF’s Human Resource Services website.

 

                                                                                                                      

If you fall into this category, make certain you know your roles and responsibilities during a storm.  Also, make certain your family is aware of your role and make any necessary preparations for them.  In fact, we will discuss specific family preparations later.

 

When a hurricane threatens our area, it may be necessary for the University to close.  You will probably learn about the closure from several sources, but the official source will be the UF home page.  It will provide the latest information from the Administration on closure times and other relevant information about the storm for faculty, staff and students

 

University closings are made in coordination with other local officials.  Attempts are made to have similar schedules and avoid conflicts such as child care issues that would result from the Alachua County Public Schools closing while UF remained open.

 

For off-site facilities outside of Alachua County, your supervisor will provide information on possible closures.  In general, off-site facilities will follow the closures of local governments in the county where the facility is located.

 

Once notified of the closure, begin completing the appropriate University of Florida Hurricane Closure Checklist.  The checklist covers how to prepare your office, lab or work unit for a storm.  The checklist is not intended to supersede your unit’s emergency plan, but provides a quick reference guide.  The checklist can be downloaded from the University’s Risk Management website.

 

It is a good idea to review the checklist before hurricane season and to have several printed copies available.

 

When the University has closed, whether it is a normal time at the end of a work day or earlier, return home safely and calmly to finish preparation actions for your home and family.

 

Home and Family:

 

Once at home, prepare your residence for a storm.

 

Outside, remove or secure items that could be blown around or become projectiles such as patio furniture, lawn decorations, BBQ grills and potted plants.

 

Inside, gather all the supplies that you will need for a minimum of 72 hours.  This includes the basics such as non-perishable food, water, battery powered radio and flashlights.

 

In addition to those supplies, make sure to include any special needs items you or your family requires.  These items may include extra medications such as insulin, baby formula, diapers, oxygen or any number of things.  The key is to determine what supplies your family must have to make it through a minimum of 3 days.

 

Also, it always a good idea to have extra cash on hand.  Power outages caused by a storm could put ATMs temporarily out of service and make some stores unable to except credit or debit cards.

 

Don’t forget your animals either.  Pets and livestock must be prepared for the storm as well.  They will also need at least 72 hours of food and water on hand.  Livestock animals may need special arrangements.  Be sure to plan now how you will care for horses and other large animals during a storm.  UF’s IFAS offers tips on hurricane preparation for animals.

 

Make a decision before the storm about where you will shelter for the hurricane.  This might be your house, a family member’s or friend’s house or at a public shelter.  Among other factors, the decision should be based upon the location and construction of your home.  Those in low-lying, flood-prone areas or in manufactured housing should seek safer shelter during the storm.

 

Normally, the University will open shelters on campus for students, staff, faculty and their families.  If going to a public shelter, be sure to bring your own bedding, a change of clothes and toiletry items such as a toothbrush.  When taking children also bring some entertainment for them like small toys and games.

 

Now is a good time to check your insurance and determine the flood zone for your residence.  It is important to make sure your home is properly insured against hurricanes.  Also, unless you have specific flood insurance you are not covered against flooding in most cases.  All property is in a specific category related to its potential to flood.  To determine your property’s flood zone, contact the municipal or county public works department for the area in which you live.  Included with this video are resources to help you do that.

 

Over the long term of several years, you should consider ways to mitigate your home against the threat of hurricanes.  This includes simple things like keeping your trees trimmed and healthy to more expensive purchases such as hurricane resistant garage doors and code approved, hurricane shutters. 

 

All hurricane preparations should be completed well in advance of the storm.  You should have everything done before winds in the area reach a sustained 40mph.  With a large storm, this could occur hours before the center of the storm reaches our area. 

 

Also, once your home is secure, plan to be at your place of shelter, wherever that may be, for the duration of the storm.  It is important not to travel around during the storm.

 

Post-Storm:

 

Once the storm is over, it is still vital to protect your safety.

 

Use extreme care and follow manufacture’s instructions if operating items such as generators and chainsaws.  They are often the cause of post-storm accidents.

 

Stay out of flooded areas that may be contaminated and heed any instructions from local officials such as boil-water notices and curfews.

 

Also, remember that it is your responsibility to monitor when UF will re-open.  If you have electricity and the internet available, the University’s home page will post the information.  If you are without power, then you will need to listen to local news on a battery powered radio to obtain UF’s status.

 

When UF does open, use caution when returning to work since the area may have been damaged.  Give yourself extra travel time and watch for flooded streets, debris, fallen trees, downed power lines and non-functioning traffic signals. 

 

Even campus may be damaged, so please use care when traveling around and avoid any hazards.

 

Before entering your building and work area, visually inspect them to ensure they are safe to enter.

 

Document any storm damage to your workplace and report it to the appropriate work center.

 

It is also a good idea for each work unit or to account for all employees once UF has returned to normal operations.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

Finally, hurricanes are a part of living in Florida.  We do not know when we might be impacted, but based on history we can guarantee that we will be impacted.

 

It is important that we prepare for them each year both at home and at work.

 

By taking simple steps to be ready before hurricanes arrive, you can dramatically improve both the University’s and your ability to recovery quickly from the storm.

 

Thanks for taking the time to watch this video.  I hope you found it useful, and please take advantage of the resources connected with this production.