The Cop Column
June 2008
Sgt. Rick Hord
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office

What Not To Do For Hurricane Season

            With another hurricane season upon us, you’ve probably seen plenty of checklists and preparedness guidelines.  There’s no shortage of good advice, so rather than repeat what you’ve probably heard and seen a dozen times, here’s my personal list of what not to do.

Don’t pay attention to those pre-season hurricane activity forecasts.

They’re meaningless for hurricane preparedness purposes. There could 50 named storms this year, but if none of them threaten us, we had a “slow season.” If there’s only one storm, but it comes in right on top of us, we had a busy year.

Don’t panic.

            It might be difficult to not panic, if you watch the saturation coverage of 24-hour news and weather cable channels. Panic, of course, makes any situation worse, not better.  

Don’t become complacent.

            The flip side of panic is equally dangerous. It’s also a legitimate concern of emergency planners, well aware of the “cry wolf” potential of unceasing media coverage of every tropical depression.  

Don’t rely entirely on government agencies to keep you safe.

            Emergency Management officials do fantastic work in both in small communities and metropolitan areas… but their success depends on the citizens they serve making their own emergency preparations… and remaining informed and alert as potential threats develop. 

Don’t evacuate unless you need to.

            If your home is both sturdy and out of any area that might go under water, your best option is probably to turn your home into a shelter. Many communities have experienced the evacuation disasters of too many people trying to leave at the same time. Those who remember Opal in 1995 know all about that problem. Thousands of Emerald Coast residents who would have been far better off to shelter at home fled at the last minute, and were in danger of being stuck on the highways during the storm.     

Don’t get lost.

            After a storm, you might need to use unfamiliar roads, and you might need to visit locations that are not part of your familiar routines. A modern GPS unit or a simple old fashioned street map will probable be very useful.

Don’t flag down power company trucks.

            This has been one of the biggest post-hurricane complaints for many decades. Residents desperate for relief, see a power company truck driving through their neighborhood, and flock to it.  Power companies are incredibly efficient with the complex process of restoring service after a disaster. Well-intentioned citizens interrupting crews at work seriously slows the process.

Don’t run out of clean underwear after the storm.

            Plenty of folks stock up on batteries, drinking water, food, ice, and other supplies, and  forget to do the laundry just before the storm hits. Moral of the story: Don’t forget the simple necessities of life. In first days after a hurricane, it may be difficult to get baby formula, do the laundry, refill prescriptions, and tend to many other routine tasks. I like to think of hurricane planning as preparing for a week-long camping trip.