TAMPA, Fla — As the pandemic slows and hurricane season continues, a majority of Floridians say they're are concerned about this year but consider themselves prepared to face a storm.
That’s according to data from a statewide survey from the University of South Florida's School of Public Affairs.
The findings come from the responses of 600 Floridians from across the state surveyed between June 3 and June 14.
"Most households have at least three days of food, water, and medicine. After all, this is why they've needed to stay home over the past year during the pandemic. But the survey also showed that even though Floridians had food they had water and medicine, the preparedness really stopped there," USF associate professor Christa Remington said.
The researcher says the survey shows Floridians may be confusing pandemic preparedness with hurricane preparedness, however.
Most Floridians do not have an evacuation plan or hurricane-specific preparedness items.
- 34.3% have an evacuation plan
- 58% do not have an evacuation plan
- 7.7% are unsure
"We found that many hurricane specific preparedness items like a weather radio or backup batteries, emergency kits, those were missing from most households. More importantly than that, more than half of Floridians don't have an evacuation plan, so this points to a really troubling overconfidence," Remington said.
There are several reasons why Floridians wouldn't evacuate or go to a shelter even if a Category 3 or higher hurricane was approaching:
- Safety of property (76.2%)
- Being able to return quickly after the storm (78%)
- Owning pets (50.5%)
- Personal comfort (72%)
- No trust in the safety of public shelters (67.7%)
- COVID-19 (52.3%)
"Yeah, that's concerning. I would suggest that that's the reason to evacuate if you care for your loved ones. You want to get that in harm's way because we're asking for evacuations due to storm surge and as you know, storm surge is the most deadly part of a hurricane," Pinellas County Emergency Management's Operations Manager Joe Borries said.
While the county still encourages neighbors to evacuate to a friend or family member's home, if a shelter is the only option they'd hope people would go there to be safe.
"We take great concern with our shelters, you know, their risk ratings, we look at that, we make sure that we're only using the safest buildings within the county. There's protections from the winds there, so if they need a shelter, our shelters are able to take care of them," Borries said.
Most Floridians could manage without assistance if a hurricane passed through their community.
A large majority of respondents said they could manage for three days without assistance if a hurricane left them without water and power.
- 76% could manage
- 24% could not or weren’t sure
“I would like to think that our messaging is working,” Borries said. “We'd like to think that the messaging is getting out and folks are becoming more aware what steps they can take to harden or mitigate their risk and then get themselves comfortable at home."
While officials continue their messaging for people to get prepared for a hurricane, what's clear is Floridians are paying attention and want to get the latest up to date information as soon as possible.
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