Be Prepared and Be Safe!

Are you prepared if a hurricane or severe storm strikes this year?

City of Tampa Fire Chief and Chief of Emergency Management Thomas Forward says your amount of preparation is going to impact your quality of life in the first 72 hours of a weather disaster.

A key message I have for clients and prospective clients of my home and business inventory service is to be prepared. With the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane Season starting last week, there were plenty of people, news outlets, governmental agencies and other businesses doing their part to spread the word about being prepared for the worst.

I had the opportunity last week to attend 2 hurricane preparedness events, the Tampa Downtown Partnership Downtown Security Networking Annual Hurricane Preparedness Meeting and the Hillsborough County 2017 Hurrican Expo. Both events provided a wealth of information for individuals and businesses to learn about what to do to be prepared and what resources are available to us after the storm.

It is so important for each of us to do what we can now, before a storm or hurricane comes our way, to set up official weather and alerting apps on our phones and devices, to know our evacuation zones (which have changed if you live in Hillsborough County), to have a communication plan with our families, employees and neighbors who may need assistance, to have an emergency kit ready and to be prepared to take care of ourselves, our families and those that rely on us when trouble is evident.

When it comes to official alert apps, I keep several active on my phone. First, not only for weather alerts, but for tips and information I use the FEMA app. You can setup the app to alert you for weather for up to 5 counties, which I like so I can know what’s going on for family members that live or travel outside of my home area. Another app which is a text messaging app that I have, again not only for weather alerts but for all types of City of Tampa notifications like gas leaks, boil water orders, critical threat situations and one that I find helpful quite often lately is street closures for planned events. Even if you don’t live in the City of Tampa, like me, you can set up the alerts for your child’s school, your workplace or any location inside the City of Tampa’s limits.

Something I learned at the Hurricane Preparedness Meeting is the Hillsborough County Evacuation Map Zones have changed and have changed a lot. Do you know your Evacuation Zone and Shelters? Hillsborough County residents can use the Hurricane Evacuation Assessment Tool (HEAT) to determine if you are in one of the five evacuation zones. It also provides information on shelters, hospitals, fire stations and sandbag locations. An important thing to keep in mind, if an evacuation order is issued, you should evacuate to the closest safe location that is not under an evacuation order. That means you don’t have to hit the Interstate to head north to Georgia or further. We’ve all seen the situations that occur with jammed highways during evacuation orders. You certainly don’t want to be trapped in your car during an evacuation, right?

If you don’t have your emergency supply kit ready, start now. You don’t have to go out and buy everything at once; hurricane season goes through November, with peak months being June and October for storms in our area. Each week when you go to the grocery store, pick up a couple items to add to your box. First, buy a decent size plastic container with a good closing lid. Be sure you have a good place to store the container inside your home. You don’t want to keep the emergency kit outside in a shed in case you can’t get to the shed in an emergency. Second, I think it’s important to make sure you have a good first-aid kit. Then get your weather radio, flashlights, batteries and backup chargers, etc. Once you have the bigger, more expensive items taken care of, focus on your water and food supply. After a few weeks, you’ll find that you’ve built yourself a good emergency supply kit and can have the peace of mind that you have it, just in case you need it. The point is to be prepared for 72 hours of no electricity, no services. When severe weather disasters occur, emergency responders will focus on getting services back in operation based on an established priority. You need to be prepared to take care of yourself, your family, your neighbors that can’t take care of themselves and your own property. is a great resource for instructions and guidance on how to and what to include in your emergency kit. Visit the Basic Disaster Supplies Kit page for all the details.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman reminded us at the Hurricane Expo this weekend at Westshore Plaza to not forget the pets! Be sure to prepare for taking care of your pets before, during and after a weather disaster. For me, being prepared when it comes to my dog Belle (that’s her below) includes having food (and treats), water and daily meds in my family emergency supply kit. Again, has great information and instructions for emergency preparations for pets. Visit the Pet and Animal Emergency Planning page for lists, articles and videos.

I’d like to invite local Tampa Bay area people to attend a complimentary Breakfast Briefing: Get Ready! Hurricane Prep Talk with Commissioner Sandy Murman this Friday, June 9th beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library. Commissioner Sandy Murman and Hillsborough County Director of Emergency Management, Preston Cook, will give a presentation on preparing for hurricanes as the season begins. There will be great giveaways and each attendee will receive a FREE Business Emergency Recovery Toolkit (BERT bag) for use during storm prep and post-storm recovery. Click here for more information and to register for this free event.

Hopefully, we’ll make it through the 2017 hurricane season without a major storm but it’s a safe bet that we’ll have some severe weather in our area. Let’s all be safe and let’s all be prepared, just in case.

If you’re interested in learning more about documenting the contents of your home or business first to make sure you are properly insured and second, to be prepared to file a claim after a loss such as from a weather disaster, please let me know. Whether you’re interested in doing it yourself or hiring a professional to do your home or business inventory, I am always happy to help with the information you need. Call me at 813.308.9727 or email me at