Just last month, Joplin, Mo., a bustling Midwestern town with more than 50,000 residents, faced one of the most devastating tornadoes in recent history. Residents had a 20-minute warning from first sounds of emergency sirens.
Some ran for cover in basements, while others hunkered down inside local stores and businesses. Once the tornado passed, the aftermath was quickly realized, as one of the city’s two major hospitals took a direct hit, at least 123 residents died, and there are many more still to be accounted for. Thousands of city buildings and homes were damaged in the tornado’s path.
If there was a 20-minute warning here, would families of Collier County be ready for a natural disaster? As hurricane season has officially arrived, local officials with Collier County Emergency Management hope the answer will be a definite “yes,” and are currently in meetings to prepare residents to be fully informed both before, during and after a major storm or hurricane.
Inside the James M. Mudd Emergency Operations Center, Dan Summers, the director for the Bureau of Emergency Management, rallies his team to prepare for a busy storm season.
“We’ve gone a number of years now without storms here and we’re afraid of complacency of residents in preparing for landfall of a storm. Listen to government officials and take time to be prepared now,” Summers said, noting the economy adding an extra blow to the mix. “The economy today, will have a big impact on our recovery efforts.”
Compiling a plan and preparing insurance documents now can prevent problems later on, said Summers.
“Check your insurance carefully,” Summers suggests. Taking photos of property and recording personal items is essential when the time comes for recovery.
“We’ll have a dedicated phone line available once the hurricane center is activated, which is 252-8444 and, as always, check the Collier County Emergency Operations websites for more information. We highly recommend a NOAA weather radio to hear the latest weather bulletins, too. It’s the best $35 you’ll spend, and it works off of batteries,” he said.
In the event of landfall, Summers asks residents to have patience in emergency response following a major natural disaster.
“We want to remind folks that recovery and reentry takes time, and be patient with the process,” Summers said.
Whenever the process of disaster recovery happens, there is a chance of running out of essential foods, water and medications, too. And Jim von Rinteln, current CEO of the American Red Cross, recommends having a three- to five-day supply of everything a family may need to wait out the storm.
“The Red Cross reminds everyone to have a plan, and the importance of knowing where you are going to go, how you are going to go, and what you need to do once you are going to get there,” von Rinteln said, following a recent collaboration with Red Cross volunteers and educators to prepare for storms this summer.
The Red Cross also offers handy checklists for what you need to be prepared for a natural disaster, and there’s opportunities to volunteer to help your neighbors by calling 596-6868, to register for classes,” von Rinteln explained.
Pick up an All Hazards Guide from Collier County libraries to be prepared, plan and participate in a busy storm season for Collier County.
For those with special needs, residents can pre-register by downloading and filling out a five-page application from at www.colliergov.net/Index.aspx?page=1844 and mailing the completed application to: 8075 Lely Cultural Parkway, Suite 445, Naples, FL 34113.
To pre-register for a pet friendly shelter, visit www.collierpets.com or call Kathleen Drew, volunteer coordinator at Domestic Animal Services, at 252-PETS, for an application. The application can be mailed to pre-register pets in the event of an emergency.