DeSoto County emergency management interim director Catherine Furr

DeSoto County emergency management interim director Catherine Furr

Dear Residents,

It’s that time of year to prepare for hurricane season. Please don’t wait until the first storm is approaching.

This year, consider COVID-19-related precautions and, if possible, add hand sanitizer and cloth masks to your emergency preparedness kits. The experience with COVID-19 demonstrates to all of us the importance of having disaster supplies in our homes. We do not know what the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season will be like, but everyone should have a plan and prepare now.

The ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges and opportunities for public safety and emergency management. One of the most important is making sure the correct measures are in place to operate hurricane shelters while COVID-19 is still a concern. Emergency Management and the Florida Department of Health in DeSoto County have been in regular communication, discussing ways to safely operate storm shelters, by modifying procedures, to accommodate the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.

People who are medically dependent and will need assistance during a storm are encouraged to submit an application to the Special Needs Program, which can be done online at DeSoto County Emergency Management (desotobocc.com/department/emergency management/special-needs) or by calling our office at 863-993-4831. In addition, all registered medically dependent persons must make every effort to bring a caregiver to the designated medically dependent hurricane shelter. Pets are not allowed in the Special Needs Shelter facility. If necessary, prearrange pet care with your local veterinarian or indicate this need on your Special Needs program application.

Whether to stay or evacuate for a hurricane depends on which type of home you reside in. As a hurricane approaches, DeSoto County Emergency Management may issue evacuation orders depending on the intensity of the storm. Your home may not be safe during a major hurricane — a Category 3 or higher — if it wasn’t constructed to meet Florida building codes.

If you haven’t done a wind inspection on your house, or if you don’t have storm shutters, it may not be safe to stay. If you do have to evacuate, you should first try to stay with friends or family who live in a safe, prepared home outside of the evacuation area.

In the event of a storm, should you need to leave your home and cannot stay with family or friends, a hurricane shelter can be a safe place, but should be considered a final resort.

Emergency Management will be coordinating with the DeSoto County Turner Agri-Civic Center to use the facility as a general population hurricane shelter. The opening of this shelter will be announced through the media, county website, county social media platforms and via text alerts. The shelter is considered a last resort shelter and evacuees are expected to bring all their disaster supplies, (food, water and snacks) including bedding and comfort items. Pets are allowed at this shelter. However, owners are responsible to ensure that they have the appropriate crate, leash and food supplies. Pets must also be current on all vaccinations and have identifying tagged collars.

DeSoto County Emergency Management will keep residents informed as storms approach, and residents can count on us for help after a storm has passed. But, residents need to be prepared and self-sufficient until we can respond. Being prepared is the best way to make sure your family is ready for any disaster. Remember, “The first 72 are on you!”

Another important step for storm preparation and storm information should be a visit to DeSoto County’s website (desotobocc.com) for information on preparations for your family, your home, your neighborhood and business.

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