As Florida prepares for the potential major impact of Hurricane Irma, wherever it may strike, the National Hurricane Center advises residents to take the following listed steps before, during and after landfall to be prepared and stay safe during and after the storm.
Before a storm:
• Determine safe evacuation routes inland.
• Learn locations of official shelters.
• Check emergency equipment – flashlights, generators and battery-powered devices such as cellphones and your NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards receiver.
• Buy food that will keep and store drinking water.
• Buy plywood or other material to protect your home if you don’t already have it.
• Trim trees and shrubbery so branches don’t fly into your home.
• Clear clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
• Decide where to move your boat.
• Review your insurance policy.
• Find pet-friendly hotels on your evacuation route.
When in a hurricane watch:
• Frequently listen to radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards for official bulletins of the storm’s progress.
• Fuel and service family vehicles.
• Inspect and secure mobile home tie-downs.
• Ensure you have extra cash on hand.
• Prepare to cover all windows and doors with shutters or other shielding materials.
• Check batteries and stock up on canned food, first aid supplies, drinking water and medications.
• Bring in lightweight objects such as garbage cans, garden tools, toys and lawn furniture.
When in a warning:
• Closely monitor radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards for official bulletins.
• Close storm shutters.
• Follow instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered!
• Stay with friends or relatives at a low-rise inland hotel or at a designated public shelter outside the flood zone.
• DO NOT stay in a mobile or manufactured home.
• Notify neighbors and a family member outside of the warned area of your evacuation plans.
• Take pets with you if possible, but remember, most public shelters do not allow pets other than those used by people with disabilities. Identify pet-friendly hotels along your evacuation route.
Plan to leave if you:
• Live in a mobile home. They are unsafe in high winds no matter how well-fastened to the ground.
• Live on the coastline, an offshore island or near a river or a flood plain.
• Live in a high-rise building. Hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
If staying in a home …
• Turn refrigerator to maximum cold and keep it closed.
• Turn off utilities if told to do so by authorities.
• Turn off propane tanks.
• Unplug small appliances.
• Fill bathtub and large containers with water in case clean tap water is unavailable. Use water in bathtubs for cleaning and flushing only. Do NOT drink it.
If winds become strong …
• Stay away from windows and doors, even if they are covered. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway.
• Close all interior doors. Secure and brace external doors.
• If you are in a two-story house, go to an interior first floor room.
• If you are in a multi-story building and away from water, go to the first or second floor and stay in the halls or other interior rooms away from windows.
• Lie on the floor under a table or other sturdy object.
Be alert for …
• Tornadoes — they are often spawned by hurricanes.
• The calm “eye” of the storm — it may seem like the storm is over, but after the eye passes, the winds will change direction and quickly return to hurricane force.
After the storm:
• Keep listening to radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
• Wait until an area is declared safe before entering.
• Watch for closed roads. If you come upon a barricade or a flooded road, Turn Around Don’t Drown!™
• Stay on firm, dry ground. Moving water only 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from power lines.
• Never use a generator indoors.
• Avoid weakened bridges and washed out roads.
• Once home, check gas, water and electrical and appliances for damage.
• Use a flashlight to inspect damage. Never use candles and other open flames indoors.
• Wear proper shoes to prevent cutting feet on sharp debris.
• Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until officials say it is safe.
• Avoid electrocution by not walking in areas with downed power lines.
Local shelter information
The Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management will advise the community through its cellphone apps, website and the local news media when hurricane shelters will be open if Hurricane Irma is predicted to strike or greatly impact the county.
The Glades area’s shelters are Lake Shore Middle School, 425 W. Canal St. North in Belle Glade, and Pahokee Middle School, 850 Larrimore Road in Pahokee.
Residents who have certain medical conditions are eligible to enroll in the division’s Special Needs Program, which provides special-needs shelters with physicians and nurses on staff; however, space is limited, prioritization is based on need, and residents must be registered beforehand in order to evacuate to one of these shelters. For more information or to enroll, go to www.discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Special-Needs.aspx.
If you decide to go to a shelter, the division recommends bringing these items along: prescription and emergency medication; extra clothing; pillows and blankets; personal hygiene supplies; a flashlight with extra batteries; small board games and/or books; specialty snacks and juices for those with dietary restrictions, or basic snacks; baby food or formula and diapers if bringing an infant or small child; a beach chair or camp chair; identification, including a driver’s license and FPL or other utility bill; insurance papers; and other comfort items.