As Floridians begin to return to a modified sense of “normal” life with the coronavirus pandemic still lurking, another potential crisis looms: hurricane season.
A majority of state residents are more concerned than usual about the coming 2020 hurricane season, a feeling that is exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly all Floridians expressed at least one significant concern, ranging from the strain on first responders to more business closures and damaging hits on the economy, according to a new survey conducted by a statewide hurricane safety initiative, Get Ready, Florida!
“COVID-19 has created a very real, sustained sense of anxiety, and that’s even before the wild card of a major hurricane,” said Jay Neal, President and CEO of the FAIR Foundation and a Get Ready, Florida! partner. “Add hurricane season to the uncertainty of the pandemic and you introduce another set of serious issues to worry about.”
More than half of Floridians surveyed (51%) feel more concerned about hurricanes this year than in other years due to their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few months, with the rest feeling no different at all. More than 9 in 10 (91%) said they had at least one concern regarding the upcoming hurricane season, including:
- More strains on first responders (62%)
- Business closures or more hits to the economy (58%)
- Fewer shelters open due to social distancing (43%)
- Uncertainty about where it would be safe to evacuate to (39%)
- Ability to care for elderly or special needs relatives (35%)
- Ability to afford supplies (30%)
That uncertainty about where and how to evacuate or find shelter may aggravate an existing problem – the tendency of many Floridians to ignore evacuation recommendations or wait until the last minute. According to the survey, nearly half (47%) of Floridians report that they have stayed where they live through a storm despite recommendations to evacuate.
“Social distancing will change the way we shelter people in a hurricane, without a doubt,” said Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “For instance, everyone should add masks to their family hurricane kit. But if you’re told to evacuate, you still need to heed those orders and get out to a safer place.”
The economic strain of COVID-19 may also leave some Floridians less prepared for hurricane season. In addition to the 30% who worry about their ability to afford supplies, about 25% say they have put off needed home repairs due to COVID-19.
Many Floridians continue to lack essential safety knowledge needed for hurricane season. For instance, when asked where it’s safe to use a generator, 27% cite an unsafe spot, including a balcony or garage.
And while nearly a quarter of Floridians (23%) feel more prepared for hurricane season, possibly because they’ve become accustomed to spending more time at home, experts say it is important that all Floridians stock up on the basics they need to weather a storm.
“It’s important to plan ahead and ensure you have an adequate supply of tap and/or bottled water when hurricanes emerge as a potential threat, said Kent Koptiuch, natural resource manager for Nestlé Waters North America. “Emergency managers now recommend households have enough food and water for seven days, including one gallon of water per person per day.”
Get Ready, Florida! is an annual statewide public education initiative that has been working to educate Floridians about hurricane preparedness and safety for more than 20 years. The survey of 1,500 Florida voters was conducted by Sachs Media Group on May 21-22, 2020, with a margin of error +/- 2.2% at the 95% confidence level.
To see the full survey results or for more information about hurricane preparedness, visit hurricanesafety.org.