With hurricane season set to kick off, the city of Cape Coral encourages residents to prepare.
Hurricane season is recognized as June 1 through Nov. 30.
"It has been now over 10 years since the last tropical event impacted us in Southwest Florida, so we are overdue," Jesse Spearo, manager of the fire department's Division of Emergency Management, said.
Residents should plan ahead of time whether they will ride out the storm or just leave the area. It is important that they know what evacuation zone they reside in in case an evacuation is ordered.
"We ask that people have a plan for what they're gong to do," he said.
In the event of an evacuation, residents should also know what routes to take to get out of the Cape. Evacuation signs are posted on the major roads; learn the safe routes inland, north, south or east.
If officials order an evacuation, it will be based on a serious threat, like storm surge.
"Have a plan, be informed," Spearo said.
Residents should learn the locations of the emergency public shelters in the Cape, as well as in other parts of Lee. A list can be found in the telephone book and in the Lee County All Hazards Guide.
Putting together a disaster preparedness kit ahead of time is also essential. Have enough food, water and medication for each person for five to seven days. With the Southwest Florida heat, plan on having one gallon of water per person per day. Remember to have food, water and a carrier on hand for pets.
"It's important they have a go kit, or a hurricane kit," he said.
"So you're taking ownership and responsibility for yourself," Spearo added.
Residents who plan to ride out the storm need to be self-sufficient for at least three days.
A list of supplies can be found online through the American Red Cross at: www.redcross.org, the Florida Division of Emergency Management at: www.floridadisaster.org, the Lee County Emergency Management at: www.leeeoc.com or Federal Emergency Management Agency at: www.fema.gov.
"We also ask that people get involved, get involved in your community," he said.
You may have someone in your life who cannot prepare because of a disability or limitation.
"Be a good neighbor and reach out to your family and friends," Spearo said.
Before a storm hits, residents should make sure that they have adequate insurance.
"I also encourage people to get flood insurance for their home," he said.
Access your home and property and take pictures of its contents
"Those will be vital to you if you have to submit a claim," Spearo said.
Similarly, business owners should have a plan for their business.
"How are you going to contact your employees? How are you going to contact your vendors and suppliers?" he asked, adding that they need a plan for re-opening if there is a halt in business.
Owners should also confirm that they have adequate insurance.
While residents start preparing for the upcoming season, the city has doing its part.
"We continue our outreach activities with the community and various community groups," Spearo said, adding that means presentations on hurricane and all hazards safety. "We also go into some schools."
In addition, the city continues to update its emergency plans and procedures and had extended advanced training to city officials. The emphasis has been on training and upgrading technology.
He reported that the system was tested recently when the Cape had a tornado hit.
"We had a very effective and very efficient response," Spearo said.
The city has also been meeting and working with partners on the local, state and national levels.
"It's not just Cape Coral that would be impacted by a tropical event," he said. "It would be all of us."
On June 9, the fire department will host its annual hurricane seminar from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. It is free and open to the public; registration will be not required.
"We're continuing to improve and grow the program," Spearo said.
Fire Chief Donald Cochran will talk about basic emergency preparedness information.
"What to prepare for, what to expect," he said.
Attendees will learn about putting together a hurricane kit.
A representative of the Cape Coral Police Department will discuss basic home security, while a building official will cover permits, contracting and how to watch for predatory contractors.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will educate the public on boat preparedness.
"Some boating tips for the hurricane season," Spearo said.
Finally, WINK News meteorologist Jim Farrell will provide a hurricane season outlook.
"Over 200 people attended," he said of last year's seminar.
The Lee County All Hazards Guide can be found online at: www.leeeoc.com or picked up from the Cape Coral Fire Department/Emergency Operations Center or Cape Coral City Hall. The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral also carries copies of the free guide, as do the public libraries in the Cape.
The Cape Coral City Hall is at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.
The Cape Coral Fire Department/Emergency Operations Center is at 1115 S.E. Ninth Ave.
The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral is at 2051 E. Cape Coral Parkway.
For information, visit online at: www.capecoral.net.