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Preparing on Fort Myers Beach: ‘planning, planning, planning’

May 15, 2017
By JESSICA SALMOND ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Unlike other areas of Lee County, a storm event doesn't have to be huge to have a huge impact.

Because Fort Myers Beach is on a barrier island, residents and businesses have to think about the rain, wind and also the tidal storm surge which can result from a hurricane.

When sustained winds reach more than 35 mph, emergency services will no longer respond to calls as their staff are now seeking shelter too, said Ron Martin, Division Chief at the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District.

So before crisis strikes, "planning, planning, planning" is key to make sure you, your family or your business is ready, said Division Chief Randy Kraus.

"If you don't have a plan, you're going to forget something and regret that you did," he said.

For residents, gathering a hurricane kit is essential. This is a supply box of everything you might need to survive if you are caught in a storm, evacuating or returning to your home with limited or no utilities. This kit includes water and food for several days, clothes, first aid kit and prescription drugs, etc. The Florida Division of Emergency Management has a full kit list at

Fact Box

Fort Myers Beach 2017 Re-entry Pass and CodeRed notification

The Town of Fort Myers Beach is requesting that all Fort Myers Beach residents and business owners who are not registered for hurricane re-entry passes submit a new 2016-2017 application. All Residents with a PURPLE pass are VALID for the 2017 Hurricane Season. Residents will be allowed to receive up to two re-entry passes; business owners, three passes; and property managers one pass per five properties with a maximum of five. All businesses will have a YELLOW pass when they register for the 2016-2017 pass.

" If it's red you're out of date," said Pat Harper of the Beach Water Division, who helps with the passes.

The new re-entry passes will be valid for the 2017 Hurricane Season. The Town will be accepting applications at Town Hall Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. To 4:30 p.m. or submit your application online and email to with a copy of supporting documents. Re-entry applications can be obtained at Town Hall, 2525 Estero Boulevard or on the Town web site

Applicant must complete application and supply supporting documents to receive a re-entry pass. To expedite the process photo I.D. and proof of residency is required. The owner, tenant and business should have two of the following: Driver's License, Vehicle Registration, Voter Registration, Utility Bill, Business Tax Bill, Company Letter, Occupational License or Lease.

The Town is encouraging all Town residents and business owners to update their CodeRed Notification Registration. The Town uses The CodeRed Notification system to notify those registered of important information during an emergency and precautionary boil water notification. It is necessary to update registration when any information has changed such as a phone number, email address or home address. Registration for CodeRed is on the Home Page of the Town's website at, it is identified as a "button" towards the left hand side of the page. CodeRed also has an app for smartphone users which can be downloaded for free.

Source: Town of Fort Myers Beach

Kraus suggests pulling out your kit and checking everything to make sure it works, especially a weather radio, and if you have a generator, making sure it is ready for use.

"You're going to have limited resources," Martin said. "You need to prepare for 72 to 96 hours after an event."

Families should plan for what shelter to evacuate to and also what to do with pets. Not every shelter will allow pets, so it's important to know where to go, Kraus said.

After the kit, and in preparation for a storm, homeowners and businesses should be sure that any objects with the potential to become airborne should be tied down: propane tanks, outdoor furniture, etc.

The time to tie everything down and secure your home or business is when Lee County is within the "cone of uncertainty," a phrase used by meteorologists when tracking a hurricane, said Martin. This "cone" can be a range of several counties, but it means that the storm has the potential to hit Lee County or impact it. This is a several day, advanced warning which should give residents and businesses ample time to get things done, like get cash in case ATMs are out after the storm and refill prescription medications, Martin said.

"You have to have a plan for your independence when you return," said Bill Genevrino, another Fire Prevention Specialist. "You can't rely on someone to bring you things and wait for FEMA rations."

It's also important to watch the news and pay attention to updates. When it's time to get out, you should evacuate.

"If you are told to evacuate, you need to leave," Kraus said.

Businesses need to have a plan, too. Bill Hemstreet is the COO of SunPalace Vacations and manages more than 80 vacation rental properties. He is also a member of the Beach's CERT - Certified Emergency Response Team, a group of mostly island residents who have been certified through training to assist local emergency response services during a disaster.

With so many properties to prepare, Hemstreet takes warnings seriously and he has to be sure all of the homes he manages are secured before a storm. He's also made sure that his company has transferred all of its important data and information from paper files to digital ones that can be accessed anywhere, so there is no fear of losing vital business information.

"Fort Myers Beach is a small-business community," Martin said. "We know small businesses get hit hardest in a disaster."

Martin says not only to businesses need to have a plan for their property and data, but also for their employees. Communities can better bounce back when its small businesses can open their doors too. Fort Myers Beach's small businesses play an important role in what Martin called "psychological first aid:" "When residents are able to get out and have a cup of coffee, there is a sense of returning to normalcy."



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