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Hurricane prep tips from a Florida emergency manager

Apr 04, 2023Apr 04, 2023

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Longtime emergency manager Alan Harris invited WESH 2 into his home to show us how he preps for hurricane season. We started off on the outside of the home, then worked inside the home."When we're in the backyard, I look for anything that could become a missile during the storm. So as the winds start to increase, anything that's going to fly like an umbrella, I tie this down with ties that would be used like a blue tarp on a roof. It's a very, very strong rope, fill it up completely, the arm, protect that down. I've done that quite a few years and never had any issues. It didn't even budge," Harris said. While doing a backyard check, Harris also makes sure all of the trees are trimmed away from the house and any power lines.

Download the WESH 2 Hurricane Survival Guide 2023"I've cut back the limbs there all the way to the pole. So, if anything does happen, if any branches fall down, it shouldn't effect this or the mast arm, which is on the roof. A lot of times during hurricanes, what we see is that it'll hit the line, and the mast arm comes down. That's the responsibility of the homeowner. That is not the responsibility to the power company. The power company is at the pole. So, I want to protect this line as best I can. So hopefully, this will stay even if the power line goes down," Harris said. Next, we head to the garage to check out one of his most important items – his generator. From keeping the refrigerator on, to powering the window AC unit, a generator can provide the family relief in a storm. But there is one key thing Harris wants you to know if you have a generator."I store it inside, of course. But if this is operational, I take it to the backyard. And quite a few feet. There's a tree out back," he said.

Harris says you never want to keep your generator running while inside the home. That includes the garage with the door open."That would be carbon monoxide poisoning. We don't even really suggest in the front yard. Unfortunately, even at the county level, we've had people try to steal our generators at traffic signals. All of those are geo-located, though, so we can see it driving down the road. And a deputy will catch you, as they have in post-other events," Harris said. From there, we head over to his expansive disaster kit that has things like extra power cords, bungee cords, safety goggles, hanging camping lights, a bucket, tools, coolers, a large fan, and much more. These are all stored in waterproof containers, so they don't get damaged. In his kit, Harris also has a radio."We have to have a radio. We have seen so many people have tuned into smartphone apps and things like that. But those cell towers go down. This is the only way we're going to get information, most likely. So, we need to have a radio," Harris said.

This is just the tip of the iceberg with our visit with Harris Head to part two for more.

Flooding can be a big issue during a storm. While a lot of people may think water can enter from the roof, it can also enter from the base of your home.

"We have to look and see if water is going to come up and potentially flood our home. The way we do that initially is I'm going to look around and see where I am in the neighborhood. I can see that I've gotten a good flow here, and it's going down to a storm drain. I'm considerably up, so it's going to take quite a bit of water to make it all the way to my house. What I'm going to do is, if anything, I'm going to use sandbags. So I'm going to shore up around the garage," Harris said.

But what about a big flooding threat like what we saw during Hurricane Ian?

"If you look around and you see homes that are above you, as you look around and you're in the bowl, then there, you're going to want to protect your valuables. If you know that you're in a floodplain, if we get something like Ian, it will flood again. We want to protect our home as best as possible. At least our personal belongings are things that we cherish the most. So have those in a place where you can move them up away from the water," Harris said.

Harris also suggests moving valuables to the second floor if you have one. Included in those valuable items should be documents like insurance policies and health benefits.

"For important papers — like my flood insurance policy here, my home insurance policy, hurricane loss mitigation policy — I'm going to make sure that I scan those. I put those in the cloud, as well as put these in a waterproof container," Harris said.

Harris says a waterproof container can be as simple as a Ziploc bag.

This may seem like an overwhelming amount to tackle before a storm, but you don't have to do it all at once. Experts recommend doing things slowly over time.

"Each time I go to the grocery store, each time I go to the hardware store, I may buy a couple extra items," Harris said. "I've had a nice disaster kit, and I may do a few extra things around the yard each week. My home is prepared as best it can be for the upcoming hurricane season."

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