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Cape resident begins preparing at beginning of hurricane season

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

For one Cape Coral resident, preparedness begins at the time hurricane season starts with putting together his getaway bag and getting food and emergency essentials together.

"Preparedness takes planning and practice," said Stephen Griffis, retired fire captain and paramedic for the Orange County Fire Authority. "Practice, practice. Train like you forgot. Fight like you train. It's Mother Nature, do not take her lightly."

Every year he takes the time to make himself, his equipment, generators, shutters, food and fuel ready in the event the storm puts him in harm's way: You cannot wait until the last second to gather essentials because it will not be available, he said.

Article Photos

Stephen Griffis and his pets evacuated to Tarpon Point during Hurricane Irma.

"Every time I prepare my property for a storm I learn something new, how to do it better," Griffis said. "How to become more effective and efficient to the task of making our home ready."

That task is usually done by taking notes of what can be improved upon the next time.

"When it's all over, I reorder any tools, parts, nuts, bolts, anything that will make the next time to the need to become ready," Griffis said.

At the beginning of hurricane season he spends time filling his generators with fuel, while putting everything else into ready mode. Five days out, he starts monitoring the storm more closely and two to three days out he starts making his house ready.

"As soon as anything comes across Africa, I keep an eye on it to be ahead of the game, so that should I need to go, I can go," he explained.

When Hurricane Irma made her presence known, his first plan was to stay in place and monitor the system. Although he decided to stay and not evacuate, Griffis encouraged others to leave because of its potential.

While monitoring the storm he looked specifically at its intensity and severity.

"At the end it was the potential flooding that concerned me more than anything else," he said.

Although his wife was out of town at the time, he had two dogs and a cat to look after. While watching the news and talking to friends he decided it could be more than what he was willing to handle.

"I decided to move to Tarpon Point and vacate the house. It became extremely evident that the smart move was moving out of harms way and evacuate to higher ground," Griffis said after friends offered him a place. "It was high enough and secure enough; a safe place to evacuate to."

It came down to not sacrificing his own and pets' lives and leaving the material things behind. Griffis said it came down to the decision that he did all he could do to prepare his home, that it was now in the hands of Mother Nature.

With his preparedness down to a science, Griffis knew how much time it would take to prepare his property, enabling him to help others get their homes ready before the storm.

"I spent quite a bit of time helping them get ready and (helping them) make their decisions to leave," he said.

When he returned home, his property fared fairly well with a little bit of tree damage.

"Just because you were lucky once you cannot wait until the last second to start putting everything together. I have been ready for this since I moved here. Every year I prepare," Griffis said. "I prepare for the worst-case scenario. At the end of season we eat our leftover food and canned goods and get ready for the next year."

Once the storm passed, Griffis secured his family pets and property and hit the road to help others.

"Wherever there is a need to help, I have my truck full of gas, tools, chainsaws. I go looking to help . . . look for opportunities to help others in need," he said.

In addition, he also helped in checking on his real estate clients' homes to make sure they were secure and assist with any damage.

"While knowing life safety is first and foremost, all the rest is just stuff. And stuff, we can replace if needed," Griffis said.



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