By Ed McCrane
As we enter hurricane season, Sarasota County Emergency Management encourages everyone — from life-long residents to our newest neighbors — to prepare now before a possible storm impacts our community.
Every year, it is important to plan and be storm-ready well before a system is approaching. We do not know what the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season will be like, but being prepared is key.
If you’re not sure what you need to do to get ready for hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, visit Sarasota County’s hurricane preparedness webpage: scgov.net/beprepared. There is information on preparations for yourself, families, homes, neighborhoods and businesses, along with a digital version of the Disaster Planning Guide.
The county’s Emergency Management team will keep the community informed as storms approach, using outlets such as emergency alerts, social media, and our website, and by partnering with the local news media.
Ensuring you know where to go for up-to-date information before, during and after an emergency is another key component of preparedness. Follow Sarasota County Emergency Services on Facebook (@SRQEmergencyServices) or Twitter (@scgovEOC) and sign up for the emergency newsletter on at scgov.net/beprepared. Sign up, too, for emergency alerts at AlertSarasotaCounty.com, and have a portable battery to charge electronic devices. Also consider a battery-operated weather radio.
Any evacuation center openings will be announced through the local media, county website, county social media platforms and emergency alerts.
Emergency Management coordinates with the Sarasota County School District for the opening of hurricane evacuation centers. If needed, hurricane evacuation centers will be located within schools.
With funding assistance from the State of Florida, hurricane-hardening improvements were made to Taylor Ranch Elementary School. It is being added as a hurricane evacuation center for 2022. Taylor Ranch Elementary School provides mid-county residents a location closer to home in the event of an evacuation.
Although all hurricane evacuation centers are at schools, not all schools are hurricane evacuation centers. Knowing where you will go should you need to evacuate is crucial to your preparedness plans. A list of Sarasota County hurricane evacuation centers can be found in the hurricane guide on scgov.net.
For those who are medically dependent or are not comfortable driving to a hurricane evacuation center, information on the Transportation Dependent Plan and applying to the Medical Needs Program is available on scgov.net or by calling 311 in Sarasota County. Register now. Don’t wait for a storm to approach to sign up.
Take steps to protect yourself and your home. Know the evacuation level your home is in and where you will go should you need to leave. Sarasota County hurricane evacuation centers should be a final resort, so, if possible, plan to stay with family or friends who live outside the evacuation level.
Homeowners should evaluate whether they can safely stay in their own homes even if they are outside of evacuation levels. Residents may be able to shelter at home if the home was built after 2002, is outside of the evacuation level being evacuated, and has appropriate window and door coverings.
Should you need to leave your home and cannot stay with family or friends, a hurricane evacuation center can be a safe place — but, again, it should be considered a final resort.
Being prepared also means having a well-stocked emergency supply kit before the start of hurricane season. Ensure you are prepared for a potential extended loss of power, and include any supplies you need for at least seven days. Once you have all the basic supplies, such as water and non-perishable food, consider medications and any unique needs your family might have. These may be supplies for infants, pets or seniors.
Evacuees are expected to bring all their disaster supplies to an evacuation center, including bedding and comfort items. Pets are allowed at all hurricane evacuation centers but must be current on all vaccinations. Pet owners are responsible for caring for their pets while in the evacuation center and bringing the appropriate crate, leash, and supplies to last several days. It may be helpful to crate train your pet prior to hurricane season.
In addition to supplies, gather important paperwork and emergency contact information and keep them in a safe place or have electronic copies. Take videos and photos of your property before and after a storm to expedite any necessary insurance claims if damage occurs.
Once the storm has passed and roads are passable, residents can count on us for help. But residents need to be prepared and self-sufficient until we can respond. Having a plan and being prepared with supplies for one week is the best way to ensure your family is ready for any disaster.
If you have neighbors who are new to the area, and you are prepared and your family is safe, consider checking on your neighbor. Sarasota County is a great community to be a part of, and it’s because of how we as a community care for each other.
Ed McCrane is the Sarasota County Emergency Management chief.