Hurricane preparedness begins now

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Following an 11-season lull without a hurricane hitting the Sunshine State, the past two very active Atlantic hurricane seasons have appropriately caused Floridians to be much more vigilant with storm preparations.

Last year’s hurricane season was among the strongest on record, and forecasts are predicting another active year with the potential for 14 to 18 named storms, including seven hurricanes with three becoming Category 3 or higher. We could be facing another year with hurricanes as destructive as Irma, Maria, Matthew and Hermine.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to begin preparing. Be sure to have a hurricane preparedness plan for your family or business. Your family’s hurricane preparedness plan should include contact information for everyone in your family, medical information (including prescriptions), established emergency meeting locations and evacuation routes. You’ll also need a well-stocked emergency supply kit. The 2018 Florida Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, which runs June 1 through June 7, is a perfect time to stock up on emergency supply kit essentials, such as batteries, flashlights, radios and tarps – all tax-free.

In addition to having a plan and emergency supply kit, there are other things homeowners and business owners can do to help mitigate property damage and power outages. Hire a tree professional to assess the trees on your property, remove dead trees and trim branches that could damage your home, business or nearby power lines. Know what you need to pull inside in the event of a storm, such as patio furniture, toys and heavy planters. These items can easily become projectiles in high winds and cause significant damage to both property and power lines. Additional information on hurricane preparation can be found at www.floridadisaster.org.

As you prepare for another busy hurricane season, so have Florida’s public power utilities. Downed trees are often the cause of power outages during a storm. Public power communities across the state routinely clear trees and branches away from power lines to minimize outages. We also conduct regular inspections of utility poles, lines and equipment and upgrade those as needed.

Over the last two years, Florida’s public power utilities have taken many steps to storm-harden their systems and maximize responsiveness. We participate in hurricane drills, exercises and preparedness meetings throughout the year. And, we maintain open lines of communication with our network of mutual aid partners in the event we need to call upon them for personnel and equipment to assist with power restoration efforts.

While personal preparation and preparation among public power utilities are key to weathering a storm, we cannot stop the sheer force of Mother Nature. Following landfall of a tropical storm or hurricane, we know there will be damage and power outages. But, by working together to prepare in advance, we can restore your electricity faster, which allows us all to return to our daily routines more quickly and begin the work of rebuilding the communities we all call home.

Amy Zubaly is the Executive Director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association and Jacob Williams is the General Manager and CEO of the Florida Municipal Power Agency.

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