Florida can expect more active hurricane seasons like the one that just ended, but Floridians may not be ready for them. That’s the finding of a survey commissioned by a group called the National Hurricane Survival Initiative.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active season since 2005 and the seventh most active since they started keeping historical records in 1851.
The season produced 17 named storms of which 10 became hurricanes including six major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) – including the first two major hurricanes to hit the continental U.S. in 12 years. One of those was Irma, which swept through the Florida Keys and up the state’s west coast in September.
“Irma made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane and was part of the record-breaking 2017 hurricane season and should serve as a wake up call for all of our residents,” said Craig Fugate, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Florida Department of Emergency Management. “It’s looking like more active hurricane seasons are the ‘new normal,’ and Floridians certainly need to take hurricane preparedness more seriously to prevent loss of life and property.”
The survey shows 51 percent of residents weren’t prepared for Irma when it came to basic storm preparations. Twenty-three percent said they lacked adequate supplies of gasoline, while 22 percent of Floridians said they didn’t have window protections, like shutters or boarding. Another 20 percent said they failed to have batteries or backup power, while 15 percent did not have an evacuation plan or water supply.
But preparedness means more than having the proper supplies for a hurricane. It’s also knowledge.
They initiative’s survey shows many Floridians don’t know proper safety procedures for operating a generator or transporting gasoline while evacuating. Thirteen percent of those surveyed incorrectly said the garage is a safe place to run a generator, while 28 percent incorrectly said the trunk was the best place transport gasoline.
People also have a lack of understanding when it comes to their homeowners insurance policies. While most homeowners have hurricane deductibles of around $5,000, many of those surveyed believe their deductibles are less than that.
“Many people don’t realize that hurricane damage is subject to a special hurricane deductible,” said Locke Burt, chairman and president of Security First Insurance, which sponsors the initiative. “Some people can afford a larger deductible than others, but all homeowners need to know what their deductible amount is, and what their policy does and does not cover.”
Insurance officials advise Floridians to consider purchasing flood insurance since flood damage is not covered under a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. The survey showed that many Floridians tried to purchase flood insurance when Irma was approaching Florida, but only 1 in 3 said they were able to add it in time.
The survey also shows that while four in 10 Floridians evacuated during Irma, 1 in 4 are less trusting of hurricane forecasts after Irma. Forecasts originally had the storm hitting southeast Florida, but Irma kept moving west, forcing forecasters to make several changes in the projected path of the storm.
“That uncertainty is part of the forecast,” Fugate said. “I think we have to do a better job of assuring people that the best science and best minds with the Hurricane Center putting out what is the best information at the time, but always has uncertainty to it.”
In an effort to educate Florida residents and encourage them to be hurricane-ready, the initiative launched an awareness campaign featuring information and tips on its GetReadyFlorida.org. It has also produced a 30-minute television special hosted by Fugate that is scheduled to air in early 2018.
The survey, which included more than 500 Floridians, was conducted between Dec. 5-10 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.