PREPARING FOR A POWERFUL PUNCH
By: Captain Pamela Driggers
Wind tears roofs from homes and twists power lines around trees like strings of wet spaghetti.
Rain turns streets into streams, and lightning streaks across the sky.
That’s right. Hurricane season spans from June 1 to November 30, the busiest month for
hurricane activity is September. Are you prepared to face another Frances or Jeanne like in
2004? Could you survive for days without electricity, running water and groceries? If you
haven’t done so already, the time to prepare is now. Don’t wait another day to assemble your
disaster kit, purchase non-perishable foods and figure out where you will go.
The Florida Department of Emergency Management (DEM) recommends a minimum three-day
supply of non-perishable food for each member of your household. But locally, Marion County
Fire Rescue (MCFR) suggests a week-long supply of food, just in case. Depending on the
damage after the storm, it may be impossible for emergency crews to get to you immediately.
And grocery stores may be closed or inaccessible for a long period of time following a storm.
These foods should include canned meats, fruits and vegetables; dried fruits and nuts; and energy
and granola bars. If you have an infant or small child, make sure you have baby food and
Storing fresh water is also essential because water pipes are easily broken and your water can
Again, MCFR recommends having a week-long supply of water (for drinking, cooking, brushing
your teeth and bathing) for each member of your household. This means you should have at least
one gallon of drinking water and one gallon of cooking/hygiene water (two gallons total) per
person per day.
In addition to food and water, MCFR Lt. David Tozzo reminds citizens to stock up on other
critical items. “Most people only remember food and water and forget about other important
supplies, such as medications and oxygen,” Tozzo said. “A three day supply of food will do you
little good if you cannot breathe or your blood pressure is through the roof.”
Basic first aid supplies, such as bandages, pain relievers, antacids, sunscreen, thermometers,
antiseptics and other materials are also important. When hospitals, doctors and emergency
personnel are not able to respond due to dangerous conditions, it is important to be able to handle
minor emergencies yourself.
Make sure you additionally have supplies for your pets, including food, litter boxes, water and
“Prepare for your pets in the same way you’d prepare for other members of your family,” Tozzo
said. “Have a week-long supply of food and water, plus a kennel contact in case it becomes
necessary to evacuate.”
“Always keep extra cash with you,” added MCFR Firefighter/Paramedic Blaine Ehrlich. “Credit
and debit cards are useless during a power outage.”
Other necessary supplies include batteries, flashlights, fire extinguishers and a battery powered
television or radio and even a weather radio.
While matches and candles often appear on emergency supply lists, they are dangerous fire
hazards, and MCFR does not recommend them. The last thing citizens need is to face a house
fire during a hurricane.
“It’s incredibly important that citizens follow evacuation orders,” Ehrlich said. “Start preparing
to leave when a voluntary evacuation order is issued. The roads will become increasingly
congested as more people try to evacuate, and you want to get out fast.”
MCFR firefighters must also follow safety restrictions. During the height of a storm or when
winds reach 45 miles an hour, fire trucks may not be able to safely respond.
“The aftermath of a hurricane can be very dangerous,” said Ehrlich. “Broken glass, downed
power lines, fallen trees and floods are very common. You could easily become seriously
That’s why MCFR firefighters recommended that citizens stay in their homes for about 36 to 48
hours after a storm. During this time, firefighters will help clear debris from roadways, patch
roofs and even distribute food and water.
“If you always expect the worse, then you will always be well prepared,” Ehrlich said. “How
much will you really spend on emergency supplies? You’ll use the supplies eventually.”
By preparing thoroughly and in advance, following evacuation orders and remaining in your
home after a storm, you and your family will stay safer this hurricane season.
Captain Pamela Driggers covers the southwest district for Marion County Fire Rescue. You may
reach her at (352) 291-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.