Preparedness Month Begins with Floridians on Alert

"Disasters don't always occur when we are together with our family and friends, and so it is important to take a few minutes now to plan what you will do in the event you are separated," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said.

September is National Preparedness Month, something Floridians understand very well as many in the central part of the state boarded up their windows and storefronts Sept. 1 to prepare for the arrival of Hermine, a tropical storm that had strengthened into a hurricane before coming ashore. As part of the national Ready Campaign, FEMA and the Ad Council are urging families via social media to create emergency plans.

They're asking families to discuss their emergency preparedness -- what to do, where to go, and whom to contact in the event of a disaster or emergency. "Disasters don't always occur when we are together with our family and friends, and so it is important to take a few minutes now to plan what you will do in the event you are separated," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said. "It only takes a few minutes to talk through the greatest risks that can affect where you live, work, or go to school. But by having that conversation or making a plan, families will have more confidence and be better prepared when the next event happens."

That next event was hours away, potentially, for a large swath of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott on Sept. 1 urged all residents and visitors from Tampa Bay to Pensacola to get prepared, saying Hermine was expected to become a hurricane before landfall about 2 a.m. Friday. Hurricane and tropical storm warnings are posted for Florida's Gulf Coast from Charlotte County to Bay County, and Scott's message to the state's residents said storm surge is expected to affect Manatee, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Levy, Gilchrist, Dixie, Taylor, Wakulla, and Franklin counties most and at least 20 counties had closed their schools.

"This storm has the potential to be life-threatening if residents and visitors don't follow proper precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones," Scott said. "This storm will impact the majority of our state. Right now, we are concerned about storm surge in our coastal communities, wind, rain, and tornadoes. We can expect storm surges beginning this afternoon along the Nature Coast and the Big Bend, wind speeds up to 75 mph, rainfall of up to 15 inches in some areas, and tornadoes impacting Central and North Florida. Evacuations are occurring in many counties and, if you live in an area where mandatory evacuations are occurring, you need to evacuate now. . . . If you have a cell phone, charge it and keep it available all night. The National Weather Service sends out alerts for tornadoes, flash floods and hurricane alerts which can save your life. Do not ignore these messages and please stay alert to all warnings and pay attention to your local news. Anyone in the storm's path must have ready the resources your families need such as water, flashlights, batteries and medicine. Power could be out for days or even weeks. That is why you have to be prepared with all of these resources."

The FEMA/Ad Council public service announcement campaign is "Don't Wait. Communicate," and its videos and social media content encourage families to develop an emergency communication plan before a disaster occurs. The new campaign materials include English and Spanish radio, outdoor, and digital public service announcements and include hazard-specific PSAs to relevant markets such as Washington, D.C., New York City, Illinois, Los Angeles, and American Samoa.

"Communicating early to prepare for a disaster is vital—and it's also easy to do. Our partners have done a great job creating new PSAs and videos that will help extend this important message to new channels and platforms. By partnering with Facebook, we've created compelling, shareable videos that leverage online video trends to reach our target in a unique way," said Lisa Sherman, the Ad Council's president and CEO.

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