Hurricane season begins this year on June 1st and ends November 30th. As Floridians, we face the possibility of hurricanes each year. This simply goes with the territory. During these months, it’s important to plan for the threat of a hurricane, and at the same time, hope it never happens.

First and foremost, you may be asked to leave your home in emergency conditions. Emergency management officials would not ask you to do so without a valid reason. Please do not second guess this request. Leave your home immediately. Requests of this magnitude will normally come through radio broadcasts and area TV stations.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to have your own, up to date plan for a possible evacuation. The University of Florida has developed, “The Disaster Handbook” to help citizens plan for safety. The handbook includes a chapter dedicated to hurricane planning. The chapter can be downloaded in pdf at http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/chap7fr.htm.

Utilizing the 15 principles below will assist you in your evacuation planning efforts:

1. Know the route & directions: keep a paper state map in your vehicle. Be prepared to use the routes designated by the emergency management officials.

2. Local authorities will guide the public: Stay in communication with local your local emergency management officials. By following their instructions, you are far safer.

3. Keep a full gas tank in your vehicle: During a hurricane threat, gas can become sparse. Be sure you fill your tank in advance of the storm.

4. One vehicle per household: If evacuation is necessary, take one vehicle. Families that carpool will reduce congestion on evacuation routes.

5. Powerlines: Do not go near powerlines, especially if broken or down.

6. Clothing: Wear clothing that protects as much area as possible, but suitable for walking in the elements.

7. Disaster Kit: Create a kit complete with a battery powered NOAA weather radio, extra batteries, food, water, clothing and first aid kit. The kit should have enough supplies for at least three days.

8. Phone: Bring your cell phone & charger.

9. Prepare your home before leaving: Lock all windows & doors. Turn off water. You may want to turn off your electricity. If you have a home freezer, you may wish not too. Leave your natural gas on, unless instructed to turn it off. You may need gas for heating or cooking and only a professional can turn it on once it has been turned off.

10. Family Communications: Contact family and friends before leaving town, if possible. Have an out of town contact as well, to check in with regarding the storm and safety options.

11. Emergency shelters: Know where the emergency shelters are located in your vicinity.

12. Shelter in place: This measure is in place for the event that emergency management officials request that you remain in your home or office. Close and lock all window and exterior doors. Turn off all fans and the HVAC system. Close the fireplace damper. Open your disaster kit and make sure the NOAA weather radio is on. Go to an interior room without windows that is ground level. Keep listening to your radio or TV for updates.

13. Predetermined meeting place: Have a spot designated for a family meeting before the imminent evacuation. This will help minimize anxiety and confusion and will save time.

14. Children at school: Have a plan for picking up children from school and how they will be taken care of and by whom.

15. Animals and pets: Have a plan for caring for animals and shelter options in the event of an evacuation. For livestock evacuation, contact Ray Bodrey at Gulf County Extension.

Following these steps will help you stay safe and give you a piece of mind during hurricane season. Contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200 for more information.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “Hurricane Preparation: Evacuating Your Home”, by Elizabeth Bolton & Muthusami Kumaran: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY74700.pdf

UF/IFAS is An Equal Opportunity Institution.