MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When it comes to planning for hurricane season, there are several key things that everyone should do.
One of the most important plans you need to make before a hurricane threatens is an evacuation plan.
Is your home in a storm surge zone?
Where will you go?
What will you take with you?
These are questions you should be asking yourself now!
Last year, Miami-Dade county emergency managers told tens of thousands of people to leave their homes ahead of the storm.
This time around, they know communication will be key, and they’ve made some changes to avoid the chaos.
Hurricane Irma prompted one of the largest mass evacuations in modern US history.
Shelters were at capacity, lines wrapped around buildings and highways were packed with cars.
“This is a life threatening situation. Surge could rush in and kill you,” Governor Rick Scott said at the time. “If you have been ordered to evacuate, now is the time.”
Some waited until the last minute, despite repeated warnings from emergency managers.
“Hurricane Irma triggered and unprecedented mobilization of resources,” said Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management Interim Director Charles Cyrille says they’ve spent the last few months working on ways to reach residents. “We want to communicate better with our residents. Communication is the key.”
Cyrille says some were confused about what “knowing your zone” really means.
“Don’t check your flood zone. We had over 5 million hits to our website of people checking their flood zone. That gave them a false sense of security. We want them to check their storm surge planning zone,” Cyrille told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana. “This is your potential threat. The evacuation order will always be a subset of what you’re looking at now.”
All of that information is online, and now, a new mobile app will provide vital info for evacuees.
“Everyone should download the Ready Miami Dade County app,” Cyrille said. “They’ll have information up to date. That’s one of the lessons learned. Communication with the public and timely information is what we learned and we’re working on improving that.”
Through the app, you’ll be able to see exactly which shelters are up and running as well as which grocery and drug stores are still open for business.
If your zone is told to evacuate, you do not need to leave the state, or even the county.
“You don’t have to go hundreds of miles like some did for Irma. We want you to go tens of miles,” Cyrille said.
The number of shelters available and their locations will vary by storm, and space will be limited.
“They will have bare minimum amenities. They’re lifeboats, not cruise ships. We want you to ride out the storm at an evacuation center, but don’t think you’re going to stay there for an extended period of time,” Cyrille added.
For more information on your storm surge planning zone which will determine whether you need to evacuate ahead of a storm, visit www.MiamiDade.gov/OEM.