PBC emergency management monitoring Hurricane Irma

Level 3 monitoring activated across county

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Palm Beach County's Emergency Operations Center is preparing for a busy week.

They're getting their people in place and getting everything moving behind the scenes as they prepare for any potential impacts from Hurricane Irma.

"Right now, the models are very consistent in the early part of the forecast and they start to diverge at the end of the forecast," said EOC director Bill Johnson. "So as I said, there's a lot of ocean, a lot of time. We need to continue to monitor the storm and see how things change. Things definitely will change, I'll tell you that."

Johnson says people need to get their hurricane plan and hurricane kit together now.

"Any hurricane that's on the ocean in the Atlantic that's got it's cross hairs set on us concerns me, makes me stay awake at night," said Johnson.

He suggested people get a hurricane plan together now: Know where you need to take your family and your pets, as many shelters do not accept animals.

If you haven't started one already, get a hurricane kit together with things like water, non-perishable foods prescription medications and important documents sealed in a plastic bag. A good rule is to plan about a gallon of water, per person, per day for several days.

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Johnson said he's in constant communication with the National Hurricane Center, which just finished a busy past two weeks with Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

"We can't compare storms because Harvey was a slow moving, a really wet storm, of course -- the system over in Houston isn't quite the same as it is here," said Johnson. "Not to say that if we got 50 inches we'd wouldn't be in a world of trouble but the fact of the matter is, we need to continue to monitor this storm and be prepared, and be ready."

He says it's obviously still too early to start issuing any kind of evacuation orders as they continue to keep an eye on the storm.

"What it does mean for us, we're putting all of the behind the scenes machinery in place. All the wheels are starting to get in motion and the closer we get the faster that wheel turns," he said. "Planning some meetings and maintaining those twice daily conference calls with the National Hurricane Center so we're monitoring this storm very very closely, as should all of our residents."

You can see a map of the evacuation zones --- should they be enacted --  on the county's website, www.pbcgov.com.

Johnson says toward the middle of the week they will have a better idea of what to expect from this storm.

Experts on hurricane preparedness spoke to WPTV earlier this year at the annual Governor's Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach.

"Disaster preparedness starts with the individual," said Chuck Hagan, who oversees logistics for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. "Matthew was a paralleling storm, it was very hard to forecast because you didn't know where it was going to come come in at."

No matter what happens this year, he walked us through expert advice on what families need to be thinking about when creating a hurricane emergency plan.

"Do I have bottled water in case of water pressure? Do I have food that doesn't require electricity to prepare?" said Hagan.

He suggested establishing a meeting site in case family members get separated. Figure out where you can go -- whether it be a family or friends house -- in the event that you are under an evacuation order.

Click here to craft your own plan for your family or business.

You should also making a list of the essentials you need to grab before you evacuate.

"Want to make sure I take the family album, what's in the safe at home -- the birth certificates and things like that," Hagan said.

As Irma inches closer to Florida, people will want to make sure they have enough fuel in their tank.

"Try not to let the tank get below half. That way, if you're having to leave quickly you can get away from the danger area and not have to search for a gas station," said Hagan.

As the storm gets closer and more information becomes available, double-check whether or not you actually need to evacuate. Officials are working on better forecast models and evacuation systems so that the right areas are evacuated.

"We've seen people over-evacuate. And the problem with that is it puts too many people on the interstate and now they are driving 5 mph. And you have a clogged interstate system, which puts people at risk," said Hagan.

Finally, pack an emergency bag filled with supplies for up to three days.

"If you have infants, enough formula, pampers, any medications that they might need," said Carlos Castillo, a regional disaster officer for the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross walked us through what you need:

  • Emergency blanket
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Extra batteries
  • Rain poncho
  • Drinking water
  • First aid kit
  • Gloves
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, tissues, etc.)
  • Copies of personal documents (passports, driver's license, birth certificate, insurance papers, etc)
  • Extra cash

Click here to learn more about what you need to prepare for an emergency.

Castillo said you will need cash in the likely event that power is out.

"If the power is down, the ATMs might not be working," said Castillo. "Things like that they would need to have in case the power is out for a few days and they can't stay at home."

There is also an Emergency app by the American Red Cross that allows you to plug in your zip code and get emergency alerts. Each disaster alert will with a guideline on what you need to do. The app is available on Apple and Android devices.

 

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