Published On: Mon, Jul 1st, 2019

Commissioner Corner: Are You Prepared For Hurricane Season?

By: Robert S Weinroth

We are now a month into the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a “near-normal” season with 2 to 4 major hurricanes expected.

Last year was the third consecutive year in which Florida was pummeled by a massive hurricane after a decade long respite. Northwest Florida in and around Mexico Beach continues its recovery from the devastation exacted by Michael.

Our residents need to avoid complacency now or when the cyclones begin to do their annual east to west migration from the African continent.

Hopefully, you availed yourself of the sales tax holiday in early June where, thanks to our governor and legislature, selected hurricane supplies were exempt from our 7 percent sales tax. If you were a procrastinator, it’s time to ensure you have the necessary supplies BEFORE the next named storm comes barreling down on us.

Whether you are new to our region or a seasoned veteran, it is important to take these storms seriously and be prepared to evacuate, if necessary.

Don’t be “that guy/gal” who stubbornly refuses to leave, later begging for help as the storm makes it clear the decision to stay was foolhardy. Your decision may potentially put your life in harms way and, more importantly, put the lives of first responders working to rescue you from your bad decision, in harms way!

Our county and municipal employees (including our police, fire and municipal services employees) have a plan to respond to nature’s fury, which they have demonstrated in the past, and they are capable of executing flawlessly.

Emergency Operations at the county and municipal levels of government will make it a priority to provide our residents with factual information and where necessary, emergency assistance.

Hurricanes are a fact of life for us just as tornados impact the Midwest and wildfires, mudslides and an occasional earthquake are an ever-present danger in the West.

After Wilma, as a result of an inability to obtain fuel, service stations were required to install backup generators. After the deaths of a dozen residents at a Hollywood nursing home, new statewide regulations were enacted to ensure our vulnerable seniors are not subjected to sweltering conditions when the next extended loss of power occurs.

It is everybody’s responsibility to be prepared for the next storm. Government alone cannot begin to handle all of the potential adverse impacts. It is also important to have a family evacuation plan in place and to make sure your residence is secure.

Emergency officials warn that residents should be prepared to survive on their own for at least 72 hours.

Supplies sell out fast once a storm has been forecast, so it is important to be prepared.

Some questions to consider:

Do you depend on electric medical devices or oxygen to stay well?  You must preregister for a special needs shelter. http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Special-Needs.aspx

Do you have enough canned goods and bottled water stocked? See checklist on all recommended supplies and other tips at http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/publications/hurricane_supply_checklist.pdf

Do you know the location of your closest shelter, gas station and/or grocery store with a backup generator? Go to: http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Emergency.aspx

Do you have a plan for your pet? The county operates a pet shelter, but you are required to register in advance. Go to: http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/animalcare/Pages/Hurricane.aspx

Do you live in a mandatory evacuation zone? Check to see at: http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Preparedness.aspx#Q8

Sign up for alert system: AlertPBC is the county’s Emergency Alert & Notification System used to notify users of imminent threats to health and safety via text messages, email or telephone calls.

Users will be alerted to various weather hazards such as tornadoes, floods, tropical storms or

severe weather alerts. In addition, alerts are also issued concerning public safety issues such as

law enforcement activity, missing persons, and significant road closures. To sign up for these up-

to-date emergency notifications, please visit www.AlertPBC.com.

Emergency officials will be communicating with county residents using social media. My office will also be posting on my Facebook page.

There is also a free emergency app, PBC DARTcal: ali, which will provide vital information such as storm surge evacuation areas, flood zones, shelter locations, grocery and building supply stores and gas stations with emergency generators.

PBC Dart also lets individuals and businesses send damage reports to the Emergency Operations Center, which will enable emergency workers to access and respond to areas needing attention during and after a storm.

While the new technology is terrific, there are still some basic pre-storm tips:

Get cash early. This will be extremely helpful when the ATM screens are dark and swiping a credit card doesn’t work during an outage.

Get gas for the car. Fill up as far in advance as possible.

Create an offsite or online data backup for important records, family photos, and other irreplaceable files that are stored on your laptop, desktop, or mobile device.

Use solar-powered USB chargers. No electricity or battery needed – just a little sunshine!

A hurricane evacuation shelter is a refuge of last resort; a place to go if you can’t stay at home or with a relative, friend, or co-worker or nearby hotel.

While shelters are set up in schools, the timing of openings and locations can change due to circumstances of the storm. Monitor local and social media for shelter openings and locations. Remember, pets can only be accommodated at certain shelters and only with a reservation.

Palm Beach County and the school district manage public shelters. Shelters provide simple meals, beverages and basic first aid only. Each person is assigned 20 square feet of space and must bring supplies such as bedding, blankets, inflatable mattresses, water, medicine, baby food, water, and toiletries.

For more information on shelter supplies, visit http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/dem/Pages/Shelters.aspx.

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. As a newly elected County Commissioner, Weinroth has been appointed Vice-Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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