Ex-FEMA chief: Coronavirus adds wrinkle to hurricane preparedness

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The worst of the hurricane season is yet to come. And forecasters expect it to be extremely active, perhaps one of the most active on record. With the coronavirus pandemic those of us who live here have to take additional steps to be prepared.

COVID-19 changed how we prepare for a storm. From everything we need to put in our hurricane preparedness kit to figuring out evacuation plans when a storm is approaching, there are some harsh realities we have to face when it comes to evacuations. That means we’re more concerned about exposure to other people and where we shelter — factors we didn’t have to consider much before.

Craig Fugate, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Division of Emergency Management said, recommendations from state and federal authorities haven’t changed much, as they have always urged people to find the shortest distance to higher ground.

“Your best option is usually friends and families that live inland. Hotels and motels are other options,” Fugate said Monday on The Morning Show. “But we still need to make sure we have shelters available for people who need them. We really need to focus on this evacuation notice in spite of COVID.”

“If you are in the evacuation zone, the risk there is drowning from these storms. And that is why it is so critical that people evacuate and take their pets with them.”

While most of the usual steps we take to prepare for storms still apply, such as stocking up on essential supplies like water, batteries and medicine and keeping important paperwork handy, the coronavirus pandemic means there are other things we must take into consideration this year.

“It’s really about the masks and hand sanitizers and things like that, that you (should) bring with you,” Fugate said. “But again, I need to emphasize this over and over again: it’s really about the imminent threat of drowning and we need people to evacuate.”

Fugate said the guidance from officials can change because of the pandemic. It’s important to note that shelters might be limited, based on what is happening at any given time with the health crisis. As a result, it’s critical to prepare and make an evacuation plan sooner rather than later.

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