Hurricane season begins June 1 and experts are predicting another above normal season of hurricane activity this year. While spring and summer bring the ever-present threat of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, Captiva Island took a pro-active approach by hosting a pre-season hurricane education seminar for its residents.
"I enjoy seeing people doing something," said Gerald Campbell, chief planner for Lee County Emergency Operations Center and one of the guest speakers. "The more you prepare in the beginning, all you're left with the unexpected. It's easier to fix the unexpected things."
Campbell, along with his colleague Amy Hoyt and Lee County Sheriff's Lt. Joe Poppalardo and Captiva Fire Chief Rich Dickerson, spoke to a handful of islanders at South Seas Island Resort about the importance of being prepared in the event of a severe storm or hurricane.
A basic survival kit is an essential part of preparation. Think first about basic survival needs: fresh water, food and medical supplies. Then think about the house. Keeping up on home maintenance is important to protect it during a severe storm.
"It doesn't take a named storm to be scary and cause damage," warned Campbell.
All it does take is wind and water to cause damage. The threat of a storm surge, a big ball of water, should concern both islanders and inland residents since water will find its way into a home. Wind damage can also be dangerous, Campbell said. He also stressed the importance of evacuation.
"It's the only safe plan," Campbell said. "You buy insurance to protect your things, not by staying here."
If an evacuation occurs, islands should have a plan to stay with friends, family, in a hotel or one of 32 designated public shelters as a last option. Those who require basic medical assistance with daily living for reasons such as oxygen dependence or special medical equipment can apply in advance for a special care shelter. The special needs application can be found at www.leeeoc.com or by calling 239-533-3640.
"Watch your local forecaster," said Campbell. "Look to local news for the best information during a storm event."
In addition, Hoyt introduced the EOC's new "app," which shows evacuation zones, pinpoints your location and gives shelter information. It is free to download to your iPhone, iPad, Android or tablet and available through iTunes or Google Play Application Store. It will also send automatic notifications to your phone in case of an evacuation.
Seminar attendees also learned about Captiva's Structural Safety Inspection team, a group of volunteers responsible for conducting damage analyses on Captiva in the event of a severe tropical storm.
"Our goal is to get everyone out," said Lt. Poppalardo. "It's important to plan properly for an evacuation."