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Emergency planning for hurricanes based on US Census

City of Jacksonville Emergency Preparedness Deputy Director Todd Smith uses information gathered during the Census to prepare for any situation during a disaster

Emergency planning for hurricanes based on US Census
Emergency planning for hurricanes based on US Census

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hurricane season begins June 1, but preparations in Northeast Florida have already begun, with traffic patterns in case of an emergency being laid out and shelter locations being designated.

Emergency operations centers get the information to plan for disasters such as hurricanes from the U.S. Census.

Once every decade, U.S. Census Bureau workers go out into our communities and ask for information such as how many people live in your home and what language do you speak -- simple information from you that is critical in an emergency.

“Our emergency planning is based on the Census," said City of Jacksonville Emergency Preparedness Deputy Director Todd Smith.

One of Smith’s jobs is to use information gathered during the Census to prepare for any situation during a disaster.

“We can plan for the amount of sheltering that we would need," Smith said. "That would be one topic amongst many topics.”

Other topics include medical needs, public transportation and even what language to print the emergency guides in -- all aspects we saw put into practice last year when Hurricane Dorian crawled up Florida’s East Coast.

“When the mayor called for the evacuation for A, B, and subsequently C, that was about 465,000 people that were under the evacuation order," Smith said. “Any of those things, all of those things are affected by having an accurate Census.”

Starting this month every household will receive a form in the mail asking these six questions:

  • Their age and date of birth
  • If they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin
  • Their race
  • Their relationship to other people in their household
  • Their sex
  • Whether their home is rented or owned by a resident

Remember, the Census takers will not ask you about your immigration status and will not ask for any money.

And, if you do not fill out that form, you’re breaking the law and could face fines up to $10,000 if you provide false information. You can also expect the U.S. Census Bureau to follow up in person or by phone to collect the information.


About the Author:

Lauren Verno anchors the 9 a.m. hour of The Morning Show and is the consumer investigative reporter weekday afternoons.