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Preparedness is key to a resilient community

May 18, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

When it comes to hurricane season, a prepared community is a resilient community.

"They are able to respond and recover rapidly, thereby improving the quality of life during and after a hazard," said Cape Coral Emergency Manager Jesse Spearo.

The emergency management team wants to emphasize the need for urgency.

"Hurricane season is six months long. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Take the necessary efforts to be prepared year round," he said. "Hurricanes have increased with intensity and frequency over the last decade."

Spearo said they have had hurricanes before the official start of hurricane season June 1, and well after it ends on Nov. 30.

Individuals can start preparing for hurricane season by making sure they have the appropriate go kit, which is their hurricane supply kit. Spearo said the kit should include everything from bottled water (one gallon per person, per day), nonperishable goods, a first-aid kit, medications, pet and family records, flashlights, extra batteries and radios.

In addition, it is good to scan and save important documents to a Cloud, or a USB drive. Pictures should also be taken of the property, home and business and its contents. Those pictures are useful for pre- and post-storm impacts.

The kit is "the laundry list that has been used by FEMA and the state for years. It's still an appropriate source to get ready for hurricane season," Spearo said.

To help residents stock up on supplies, the State of Florida has implemented a tax holiday this year for hurricane preparedness supplies. It runs from June 1, through June 7. Items as generators, batteries, lights and radios will be tax free during that time.

"They extended it after our very hyperactive hurricane season last year," he said.

The second step of preparedness is knowing where to get information, such as local news media and public agencies.

The City of Cape Coral likes to use such social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and the city's website homepage at to push information out to the community while monitoring potential impacts of tropical weather.

It is also important for residents to know their surge zone because two-thirds of the entire city lies in the A and B surge zones.

"We have only one identified shelter that lies outside of A and B surge zones," Spearo said of Island Coast High School.

A lesson learned from Hurricane Irma was the importance of individuals requiring special medical assistance during an evacuation to register before the deadline expired.

"That whole process is run through Lee County Emergency Management. You have to fill out forms and become preregistered for it," he said. "They struggled with Hurricane Irma because there was a surge of people that had not done it in the past. They have to properly plan and layout the facility with personnel and logistical support. We ask that if you have any condition that requires special medical assistance during an emergency that you become registered."

The city learned that a big part of their community, residents, are very resilient and strong with their preparedness efforts following Hurricane Irma, Spearo said.

"Our goal is to make sure we can provide information to help us prepare the community before hazards occur," he said, adding that the city wants to provide rapid information so residents stay informed to better protect their home, family and business. "Every year we try to get out to the community through social organizations to keep them informed . . . letting them know what they can do to get prepared and how to access information during critical times."

To help prepare the community, the annual Community Hurricane Seminar will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7, in the Cape Coral Council Chambers. The seminar will be recorded and shown on the city website.

This year, Spearo said they will have a number of their public safety partners providing information in conjunction with the seminar in a "mini-expo" from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Such groups as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Cape Coral Building Department, West Coast Guard Auxiliary, CERT and Wink News will be in attendance.

"We are trying to trend to a hurricane expo for the community," he said.

Speakers will include members from the Cape Coral Fire Department, Cape Coral Emergency Management, Cape Coral Police Department, Cape Coral Construction Industry, as well as two keynote speakers Volunteer Florida Emergency Management Director Ken Skalitzky and Dan Noah from National Weather Service Tampa.



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