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Hurricane preparedness seminars set

By Staff | Jun 13, 2012

Local authorities have two seminars planned in the coming days to help residents better prepare for hurricane season, which kicked off on June 1.

The city of Cape Coral has partnered with Lee County and WINK News to present a hurricane preparedness seminar from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in the Cape Coral City Council chambers, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.

The public is welcome to attend or watch it live on CapeTV, Channel 98 on Comcast. It will be replayed on the TV, and played on the city’s Web site.

“We typically do some form of hurricane preparedness every year,” Cape Coral Fire Chief Bill Van Helden said.

An array of speakers are lined up for this week’s seminar.

Van Helden will talk about the city’s role and responsibilities in a storm, and Police Chief Jay Murphy will discuss how locals can return to an evacuated area.

WINK News meteorologist Jim Farrell will cover the weather and season.

John Wilson, director of Lee County’s Division of Public Safety, will discuss the changes to the area’s storm surge risks and what it means in terms of evacuations. A 2010 study changed the risk for storm surge significantly.

“There’s a lot more folks in the Cape who may have to evacuate under a Level B storm surge threat,” Wilson said.

He explained that the levels range from the classification of A to E, and that threat is based on multiple points like size, speed, strength and wind power.

“A moderate sized hurricane could create storm surge flooding in those areas of the city,” Wilson said.

Van Helden echoed that.

“The potential impact from the threat of a hurricane has grown,” he said. “We want to be able to communicate some of those changes to the public.”

During the seminar, one of the city’s building officials will go over how to obtain an emergency permit for repairing a roof, along with discussing the use of licensed contractors and proper materials when doing any repairs.

Unlicensed contractors and substandard materials were prevalent in 2004.

“We want to make sure, as much as possible, that does not happen again,” Van Helden said, referring to what happened following Hurricane Charley.

There will be a question-and-answer session after the seminar, and copies of the Lee County All Hazards Guide will be available. It also can be found online.

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” Van Helden said, adding that those who had a plan fared much better in 2004 than those who did not have a plan.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with Abby Services In Home Care for Seniors to host a hurricane preparedness seminar, as well. This one is for seniors and will run from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday at the LCSO headquarters.

Following Hurricane Katrina, of the nearly 1,000 New Orleans residents who died from hurricane related deaths, almost half were age 75 or older.

“Our goal here with this seminar is to give them some idea of how to pre-plan,” Stacey Payne, community relations manager at the LCSO, said. “If we can take the steps before a storm hits, we’re going to make ourself safer.”

“So, if a disaster does come upon us, we’re not scrambling at the last minute,” she added.

Topics to be covered include the supplies needed to wait out a hurricane, making plans to evacuate to a shelter and the procedure for those who need a Special Needs shelter, and preparations for those who need a caregiver.

“Some of the things are the transportation issue, as well as medications,” Payne said.

Some seniors may be caregivers themselves and that will be discussed.

“In addition to the what to do before to prepare for a hurricane, we’re also going to be addressing what to do in the unfortunate occurrence that one does hit,” she said.

Scott Strachan, an administrator with Abby Services, said the seminar will review information from the Lee County Emergency Operations Center.

“There’s specific information that seniors maybe aren’t aware of,” he said.

The issue of pets and the lack of knowledge about pet-friendly shelters is one issue.

“A lot of our clients refuse to leave because of their pets,” Strachan said.

He added that seniors should plan ahead just like other residents.

“Just like everybody else, they need to make appropriate preparations,” Strachan said. “Hurricane season is right there.”

The senior seminar is free, but seating is limited, so those who want to attend are asked to register. To register, contact Jaimee Thompson with Abby Services at (239) 590-0861 or e-mail jaimee@abbyservices.com.

“Hurricanes are a part of Southwest Florida in the summer,” Wilson said. “People need to be aware of their risks and know how to plan and prepare.”

Van Helden echoed that.

“For the safety of you and your loved ones, you need to be prepared and have a plan,” he said. “Nothing will take the place of personal responsibility.”