Take the necessary steps to be prepared for hurricane season before it officially begins on June 1

By Rich Collins 

Rich Collins. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

There are a few definites we know about life — change is constant, and the Atlantic Hurricane Season comes every year.

For our community, hurricane season means taking steps to prepare ourselves in the spring and being vigilant between June 1 through Nov. 30 – the official Atlantic Hurricane Season.

With early forecasts calling for an active season, it’s imperative to remember no matter the forecast, it only takes one storm to drastically impact our community.

Images and news clips every year show communities across the state devastated by hurricanes. In Sarasota County, we saw the power of these storms with Hurricane Ian, from which many residents in South County are still recovering from damage sustained in 2022.

Every storm and every season are a reminder there is no better time than right now to take steps to prepare yourself, your loved ones, and your home. Hazardous weather doesn’t always adhere to a strict schedule June through November schedule. Act now, and have your plans and kits ready.

If you’re not sure where to start, read our disaster planning guide available at local libraries, Sarasota County Government offices and online at scgov.net/beprepared. Our website also offers tips and fact sheets, along with ways to look up your evacuation level and find information to make the necessary preparations for your family, home, neighborhood and business.

Consider taking additional measures to harden your home before hurricane season by taking advantage of Florida’s home-hardening tax exemption program. The program ends June 30, so learn more information now at FloridaRevenue.com/HomeHardening.

Our priority is public safety. Our employees work tirelessly to keep our community safe and help residents and visitors before, during and after a disaster.

We strive to make it clear and simple to understand when to evacuate. Announcing evacuations is a safety measure the county takes very seriously, and it means there is a real threat to that area.

When an evacuation order is given, there will be announcements on our website, social media and local news that include what areas are being evacuated. As these messages come from local officials, it is not a matter of IF you should evacuate but how quickly.

If your neighborhood is in an area that is called for evacuation, don’t wait. Enact your evacuation plan, and leave. Listen to local officials as the storm approaches to know if you are in an area being evacuated. Waiting until the storm conditions deteriorate may prevent you from leaving.

Every storm is different. Don’t base your decision on your experiences in past storms. The next storm can and will likely be different.

Also, after winds reach 45 mph during a storm, first responders will not be able to get to you.

It is vital to have a well-stocked emergency supply kit before the start of hurricane season that prepares you for a potential extended loss of power and includes any supplies you need for at least seven days.

To help you stock your kit, take advantage of tax-free holidays when they are announced and purchase eligible supplies.

Once you make sure you have all the basic supplies, such as water and non-perishable food, add medications and any unique needs your family might have. Do you need supplies for infants, pets or seniors that will be with you in an emergency? Moreover, gather important paperwork and emergency contacts and keep them in a safe place or have electronic copies.

As we approach the start of hurricane season, remember a disaster can strike at any time and the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to be prepared. Act now by having a plan and your emergency preparedness kit and being ready to use it.

Stay safe.

Rich Collins is the director of the Sarasota County Emergency Services Department.