Being prepared is the best defense as hurricane season beginsDisaster Preparation Disaster Recovery
One lesson that every Floridian should have learned after Hurricane Ian brought widespread devastation to the state is this: It is better to be overprepared and have nothing happen than to risk devastation by being complacent.
That's the recommendation of Trish Warren, the Disaster Response Coordinator for The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. And as hurricane season officially begins on June 1, it's time for every church and individual in the Conference to review their plans and adjust as needed.
"Churches must have a disaster plan created and communicated to their staff, followed by training the staff," she said. Not having a comprehensive disaster plan can leave churches struggling on what to do next, in the event of a disaster.
The Conference umbrella insurance plan has paid $10,357,016.06 in claims to date, with the likelihood that the amount will increase as repairs from Ian continue to be a slow go in many places.
Warren said approximately 100 Florida Conference churches filed disaster claims after the storm. Some churches suffered the loss of important documents needed for FEMA and insurance claims when their churches were damaged or destroyed. That resulted in delays in processing their claims.
|Hurricane Ian left devastation in its wake.|
"The biggest lesson for us is when the final staff leave a church ahead of a storm, take all important documents with you so they remain secure," she said. "Make sure before evacuating, a video is taken of the interior and exterior of the property, including contents, and right after the disaster you are documenting all the damage. We still have churches who have been unable to complete their repairs due to the lengthy appeals process.”
Clergy can find a new resource to help them be prepared with a disaster recovery section on the Conference church dashboard. Individuals also can find useful preparation resources at ready.gov.
The state of Florida also offers residents a sales tax holiday until June 9. People can buy numerous disaster preparation items tax-free, including batteries, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and pet food.
"Don't forget your pets," Warren said.
Also, don't assume you won't be affected because you're not in the direct path of a storm. While news coverage focused on Fort Myers and Southwest Florida after Ian struck, there were 14 spinoff tornadoes from the storm, including three that struck Palm Beach County across the state from what many consider the hardest hit areas.
An EF2 tornado struck Delray Beach with winds of up to 157 miles per hour.
"Seeing the storm on TV is not the same as experiencing it," Warren said. "There were 156 fatalities from Hurricane Ian. Forty-one people died from the storm surge from Ian. Inland areas are not safe either."
There are other commonsense steps to take now.
Stay informed: Keep track of weather updates and follow local authorities' instructions. Stay tuned to reliable sources of information, such as the National Hurricane Center or local news channels, to stay informed about approaching storms.
Study evacuation routes, meeting points, and contact information for family members. Discuss the plan with your family so everyone knows what to do in an emergency.
Stock up on supplies: ensure you have enough essential supplies for at least a week, including non-perishable food, bottled water, flashlights, a first aid kit, medications, and important documents.
Secure your property: Trim tree branches, especially near power lines, remove loose objects from your yard, and secure outdoor furniture and decorations. Consider installing storm shutters or plywood covers for your windows.
Reinforce your garage door to make it more resistant to high winds.
Review insurance coverage and make necessary adjustments if needed.
Make sure your car has enough fuel and keep your cell phone charged. Keep a backup charger.
And if you live in an evacuation one, evacuation zone, prepare a "go bag" with essential items like clothing, important documents, medications, and supplies in case you need to evacuate quickly.
Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for FLUMC.org
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