NAACP

This week begins the start of the 2020 Hurricane Season, and now more than ever, plans to get ready for it during this added element of COVID-19 were discussed during an online forum on May 28th.

The 90-minute Town Hall Zoom presentation was sponsored by the NAACP South Dade Branch with various leaders from the South Dade NAACP, American Red Cross, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management, Community Preparedness and Education, and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) who gathered to talk about ways to gear up for the upcoming season, while still being safe during the ongoing pandemic.

Moderated by the NAACP Area Director for the Florida State Conference, Harold Ford, the webinar began with the South Dade Branch Chairwoman for the Environmental and Climate Justice (ECJ) committee talking about what they will implement in the event of a hurricane.

Pam Brown-Eyo explained how the South Dade NAACP has a notification system in place that will alert its members via text message asking, for example: ‘are you safe and taking the precautions needed?’, with the aim of creating a network to make sure its members are safe before and after a storm.

Brown-Eyo and the ECJ also recommended getting storm supplies now, as social distancing and other pandemic restrictions may make obtaining them harder during the peak of the season.

Kamalah Fletcher, of the American Red Cross’ Community Partnerships Team for the South Florida Region, then spoke about how their group works to have connections and clear communications in place to ensure an efficient distribution of services in time of emergency, especially in vulnerable areas for all citizens.

Michael Lampert, Volunteer Instructor and Lead Trainer from the American Red Cross’ Advanced Disaster Team next detailed how best to individually prepare in advance of a hurricane emergency in three main steps.

Lampert recommended to begin with having a two-week kit that includes the items a person will need in case they don’t make it home, and a go bag in case of a sudden evacuation with three days of supplies: things like canned goods, and manual can opener, batteries, a NOAA approved battery-powered radio, cell phone and chargers, a paper map, and cash.

Additionally, Lampert said to also have supplies for each family member and pets, such as critical medicines (30 day supply), bug spray, and entertainment.

Making a written plan of action was then explained as thinking about likely disasters, household members who travel, those with access/functional needs, and pets/service animals.

Lampert stated that engaging the whole family to think about alternate evacuation routes, places to meet up if separated, letting your neighbors know of them also, and practicing plans will maximize the effectiveness of the plan.

And lastly, being informed of the weather, forecasts, official local emergency information, and where disasters are likely to be in your area (flood zones, low-lying areas, etc.) will enable citizens to be before a hurricane or storm emergency hits.

Getting our homes in order now by checking for shutters, flood insurance, and windstorm insurance beforehand will help as well, Lampert said.

The Red Cross Emergency App is also available to download for free on Apple and Android devices, and includes other emergency tips to safeguard yourself and your family.

Maria Torres, NOAA Meteorologist and member of the National Weather Services Hurricane Center, followed to speak about the 2020 Hurricane Season.

The Climate Prediction Center, on May 21st, indicated the season’s probability for above-normal activity at 60%, with near-normal activity at 30%, and below-normal activity rounding out the last 10%.

As of right now, Torres said there is a probability of 13-19 named storms, out of which 6-10 could become hurricanes, and 3-6 would become major hurricanes with maximum sustained winds above 110 miles per hour or greater: category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes.

While most of these storms stay in the Atlantic Ocean and never hit South Florida, Torres explained preparing for them as early as possible is advised.

Torres also said during a hurricane/tropical storm watch (48 hours before hurricane impact) or a hurricane/tropical storm warning (36 hours or sooner before hurricane impact) people should only be getting any last minute items that have been forgotten; most preparations should have already been completed by the time any of these alerts have been given.

Advisories are only local forecasts based upon meteorologists review and recommendation for any given area, and should also be followed accordingly, Torres said.

To get any and all up-to-the-minute weather information, the National Weather Service App is also available for download to Apple and Android devices.

Jessica Sandoval -- Miami Dade County Office of Emergency Management, Community Preparedness and Education Emergency Management Coordinator -- then discussed how emergency shelters will be available during this year’s hurricane season.

Sandoval stated shelters will change, based upon wind/weather conditions, and to listen to local news coverage detailing when/where a shelter is open; a shelter open for one hurricane, might not be open for another or the next hurricane.

Amidst the pandemic however, Sandoval also said sheltering-in-place at home or at a friend’s house is advised, but where deciding to do so should be determined by how safe an individual feels at one or another location in your area, and all shelters will follow CDC guidelines for social distancing,  screening, and mask requirements.

Hurricane Preparedness Guides have been mailed out and should be received within the next coming days, but Sandoval explained that those who didn’t receive one can contact Miami-Dade Emergency Management at 305-468-5400, or go to miamidade.gov/hurricane for a copy, and to miamidade.gov/alerts to sign up for text alerts, as well as readysouthflorida.org and miamidade.gov/oem for additional resources.

Sandoval said for those with special needs, the Emergency and Evacuation Assistance Program is also available for those with nowhere to go, by registering and filling out an online application at any time, all year round. Clients' needs will determine whether they go to a hospital, medical center, or general population shelter and they will be called beforehand to verify if they need assistance, or not.

Kamalah Fletcher also indicated these individuals will be picked up a couple of days in advance of a storm, without pets, or other family members, and neighbors should work together to check up on those with special needs, who might not have access, or be tech-savvy enough to get this and other pertinent information.

Manuel Ibanez, CERT volunteer, concluded the last of the presentations and explained that after a hurricane or storm, CERT comes into the community to offer help with fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations prior to police/fire/ambulance arrival.

Ibanez said a 20-hour basic CERT certification course is available online at Miamigov.com for interested individuals at:

https://www.miamigov.com/Notices/Events-Activities/CERT-Training.

A question and answer session also finalized the online forum with additional information, such as the question of whether COVID-19 supplies would also be considered tax-free for hurricane preparedness, and has been sent by the South Dade NAACP to Senator Annette Taddeo to clarify.

To review the questions and their answers, or to access the entire recording of the Virtual Town Hall presentation, please go to the South Dade NAACP Facebook page accordingly.

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