2017-09-07 / Top News



AS HURRICANE IRMA RUMBLES THROUGH THE Caribbean and sets its sights on a weekend landfall in South Florida, it’s time to load up on food and water, pack the boat off to a safe location, ensure your pets have everything they need, bring in all the potential flying debris and keep an eye on this nasty storm at www.nhc.noaa.gov. ¦

Storm action timeline

Always be prepared

¦ Develop your storm plan. ¦ Stock your hurricane supply kit. ¦ Create a checklist of items you will want to take with you if you have to leave. ¦ Take “before” pictures of your home for insurance purposes. ¦ Find out the elevation of your home. ¦ Make sure your street address is clearly marked on your home.

Hurricane watch is announced

Hurricane conditions are possible within the next 48 hours. ¦ Clear your yard of potential flying debris, including lawn furniture, toys, etc. ¦ Lower the water level in the swimming pool by one foot. ¦ Board up windows. ¦ Gas up the car. Check your oil and tire pressure. ¦ Get cash. ATMs and banks may not be open after a storm. ¦ Turn the refrigerator to the coldest setting. ¦ Store plenty of water.

Hurricane warning is issued

Hurricane conditions are possible within the next 36 hours. ¦ Gather important documents. ¦ Finish shuttering doors and windows. ¦ Evacuate if you are ordered to do so. ¦ If you’re staying home, designate a safe room. Interior bathrooms or closets on the lowest level with no windows work best. ¦ Charge cell phones and other devices.

During the storm

¦ Stay indoors. ¦ Stay away from windows even if they’re shuttered. ¦ Listen to media reports for the latest information. ¦ Stay inside even if it appears calm. Do not go out until the all-clear is given.

After the storm

¦ The longest part of the process, recovery can take weeks. ¦ Move slowly and cautiously as you survey and clean up. Most injuries take place after the storm. ¦ Do not use public water until you are notified that it is safe. ¦ Avoid travel if possible. ¦ Do not connect generators to house wiring. ¦ Beware of downed power lines, wild animals and even domestic animals that may be frightened or lost. ¦ Take pictures of damage and contact your insurance agent.

Make sure your storm plan includes family pets

When formulating a hurricane plan, make sure it includes all members of the family, including pets.

After so many animals were abandoned following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Hurricane Charley in Southwest Florida, disaster preparedness officials have stepped up measures to help pets and to encourage owners to plan ahead in case a hurricane strikes.

Charlotte, Collier, Lee and Palm Beach counties all have emergency shelters for people and their pets, although space — and therefore, access — is largely restricted to those in spots where evacuation is mandatory.

Most counties offer just one shelter to take in pets, so it’s important that pet owners check early and get on a reservation list if that is required.

If people find they need to go to a county-run pet shelter, they will be required to stay as well and will need to care for their pets throughout the stay. Animals must be current on immunizations and have sufficient food, water and an approved crate.

The best option is for people to leave the area and take their pets with them. Don’t expect local veterinarians or boarding kennels to accept animals. They will fall under the same guidelines and conditions as residents. And, should a hurricane strike, they are likely to be without power as well.

To prepare their pets for hurricane season, owners should attend to the following:

Vaccinations: Make sure pets are current on these now. It takes a couple of weeks for most immunizations to become protective so it’s too late once a storm approaches.

Identification: Put pets’ county licensing tags on their collars, as well as an ID tag with your phone number. Make sure your address and phone number is current on ID tags. A microchip ID (available through most veterinarians as well as Animal Services), is highly recommended because collars can be lost during storms but the chip will remain implanted and owners can update the company as to their whereabouts.

Hurricane kit: Gather up pet supplies. (See accompanying segment)

Medications: Make sure you keep a few weeks’ worth on hand so you won’t have to rush to refill them at the last minute.

Destination: Secure a place to stay.

Pet hurricane kit

Leash and secure collar

Pet food (in waterproof containers), enough for at least one week

Water for one week

Manual can opener

Bowls for food and water

Impact-resistant crate of sufficient size (no soft-sided or homemade models and one for each pet)

Bedding (blanket or towels)

Litter, litter box and scoop for cats

Pet’s regular medications

Toys, chewies and other stress relievers

County license and other identification (microchip IDs are encouraged)

Proof of vaccinations

Photo of pet

Pet first-aid kit

Grooming items


Leelostpets.com: The Lee County Domestic Animal Services site has a section dedicated to storm preparedness for pets.

Colliergov.net/pets: For Collier County information.

Charlottecountyfl.com/ emergency/hurricane: For Charlotte County information.

Pbcgov.com/publicsafety/ animalcare: For Palm Beach County information.

Hsus.org: The Humane Society of the United States also has a downloadable pamphlet on disaster preparedness.

Petswelcome.com: A listing of hotels and motels that accept pets. ¦

Agencies and organizations offer emergency help

Hindsight is always a dishonest voice for the present. Storms on the west coast have been few since Hurricane Wilma during the 2005 season — the last major hurricane to affect Lee and Collier counties. But no one wants to walk down the street and see fallen trees and power lines scattered along the road, and wonder what to do next. Yet, this scenario is a reality we should prepare for during every hurricane season.

Floridians know from experience that neighbors, churches and local businesses come together in unprecedented ways to help with recovery efforts. Nevertheless, we’ve compiled some of the contact information for the “big” organizations that can serve as a starting place for either volunteerism or for your own recovery once the weather system has passed.

From reporting downed power lines to who to call about clean water, canned food and local shelters, these accredited contacts will help with your questions and needs. ¦

Important phone numbers

Lee County Emergency

Collier County Emergency
collierem.org or colliergov.net

Lee County Sheriff’s Office

Collier County Sheriff’s Office

Collier County Domestic Animal


Lee County Domestic Animal

Disaster assistance
(800) 621-3362

Florida Power & Light
(800) 468-8243

American Red Cross

Storm debris cleanup

Hurricanes can leave Southwest Florida with millions of tons of debris, including normal household garbage, household chemical waste, appliances, construction/ demolition and yard debris. Segregating debris is critical in assisting in the recovery .

To help ensure that debris is collected in the most efficient, safe and timely manner, we recommend that you follow these simple guidelines when clearing debris from your residential property after the storm. Businesses are required to make separate arrangements for debris clean-up.

Normal household garbage

These are the materials and perishable items that would be placed out for collection in your weekly trash container. Normal household recyclables are defined as materials which are capable of being recycled, including newspapers, cardboard, plastic containers labeled Nos. 1 through 7 and containers made of glass, steel and aluminum.

The following are not considered normal household garbage:

Yard debris or trash – Vegetative matter including shrubs, palm fronds, tree trimmings, grass clippings, bushes, leaves, twigs or cut up tree branches.

Construction/demolition debris – Materials directly relating to construction or demolition of buildings, such as cement, glass, drywall, insulation, concrete block, etc.

White goods – Large discarded appliances, including refrigerators, ranges, washing machines, clothes dryers, water heaters, freezers, microwave ovens, and air conditioners. All items must be empty of all contents.

Do not mix the types of debris – There will be separate collections for each and they will be picked up according to priority in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

First priority – Normal Household Garbage. Place in your regular collection cart container or in heavy duty plastic bags, and place where you would normally locate it for your regular weekly collection.

Second priority – Yard debris. Small quantities should be prepared as for weekly collection; in containers, bags or bundles of less than 50 pounds. Large quantities of storm related yard debris should be placed alongside the curb, with trees and branches prepared into easily manageable lengths. Do not place near low-hanging objects or around mailboxes, water meters or fire hydrants. Large quantities of storm-related yard debris may be collected using a mechanical grab that will require room to operate. Collection crews will not enter private property to collect debris.

Only yard debris directly generated from the storm event will be collected. Land clearing and landscape improvements are not eligible for collection. Debris from these activities will require removal and disposal to be arranged by the property owner at their expense.

There will be no collection of large quantities of yard debris on private roads or in gated communities unless properties in these locations are included in a FEMA declaration or where an immediate threat to health and safety exists.

Third priority – Construction debris, recyclables, white goods, bulk items, electronic equipment, tires and lead acid batteries. You will be notified through media when collection of these items will take place. Disposal rules for small quantities of C&D materials vary by location so look for media notices for specific guidance as to how best to dispose of these materials in your respective areas. In many areas, small quantities of C&D materials (less than 2 cubic yards) may be placed at the curb alongside of normal household garbage. These materials would generally be in containers and/or bundled, weighing less than 50 pounds each and not exceeding six feet in length. These materials may be collected with the normal household garbage provided that the materials are compliant with your local collection policies and ordinances.

Refrigerators, freezers and other appliances must be emptied of all contents prior to collection. Refrigerators and or freezers containing food waste or other rotting wastes will not be collected.

Storm debris

As the storm approaches and in the immediate aftermath, look for notices in the local newspapers, special bulletins on your local government website, local radio and television channels and other media. During the first 72 hours after the storm has passed, FEMA, Solid Waste Management and the Sheriff’s Office will be assessing the damage and road conditions to determine when collections can resume. ¦

Prepare an all-hazards supply kit

Having a basic survival kit ready to sustain yourself and your family after an emergency is an essential part of preparation.

Think first about basic survival needs: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth. Emergency responders may not be able to get to you immediately after a disaster. Being prepared means choosing to be a hurricane survivor.

Start by reviewing the lists below.

Food needs

Drinking water: 1 gallon per person per day; 3- to 7-day supply

Non-perishable food that meets your dietary requirements: 3- to 7-day supply

Manual can opener or pop-top cans/containers and eating utensils

Juice/soft drinks/instant coffee or tea

Plastic wrap/zip-top bags/garbage bags

Paper plates, cups, aluminum foil

Cooler for food storage and ice

Lighter/matches, pots/pans

Camp stove or grill

Personal items

Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets

Lawn chairs, folding chairs, cots

Personal hygiene items

Prescriptions and over the counter medications

Spare glasses, contacts

Extra hearing aid batteries

Baby/infant needs, such as diapers, formula, extra clothes and more

Rain gear

Closed-toe work shoes, no sandals

Pets and service animals

Water - 1 gallon per day for each animal; 7-day supply

Cage or carrier for each animal

Food and treats

Toys and comfort items

Cleaning supplies

Immunization records, photos

Basic safety equipment

Battery or hand-crank radio

Chargers, batteries, etc., for smart phones and tablets


Extra batteries

Light sticks to replace candles

Miscellaneous items

Spare keys

Important papers

ID, including driver’s license, insurance cards, etc.

Cash, credit cards, coins, checks

Medical equipment

Medical equipment and assistive devices

First aid kit

Medical alert tags or bracelets to identify your disability-related need. ¦

Recovery after the storm

After major storms, lives can change drastically and disasters affect everyone to some extent. Relief supplies and other aid will be arriving as quickly as possible, but it may take several days. Try to remain calm, patient and understanding. Your attitude affects you and everyone around you. Remember that the longest and hardest part of dealing with a hurricane is the recovery.

There may be residual flooding and roads may be blocked for days or weeks, making damaged areas inaccessible. This may mean that you will not be allowed back to your home for days or weeks.

Emergency workers want your return home to be as safe as possible and need time to clear safe access and secure hazards. Listen to local media for reentry information and do not go into unsafe areas. Drive only if absolutely necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges. Do not go sightseeing.

If you evacuated out of the area, consider staying away for a few extra days. Before you decide to return, consider the following:

Power will be out for an undetermined period of time. This means no air conditioning, no lights, no refrigeration, no water pump and in many cases no stove.

Telephone service will be out or limited. This includes 911 calling. Lack of power and damaged facilities will affect both landline telephones and cellular telephone service. Even if your phone works, use it only for emergencies.

Municipal water supplies may be unsafe to drink without boiling or chemical treatment. Treat all water as unsafe until you are notified that it is safe. ¦

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