Answers to common questions
Q: What if there are time limits on refills of my prescription?
A: That should not be a problem if a hurricane is threatening. Florida law requires waiving those limits when preparing for an emergency.
Q: What are some items I should have in my survival kit?
A: Non-perishable food, cooking and eating utensils, first aid kit, flashlight and batteries for each family member, cleaning materials including bleach, plastic gloves, hand sanitizer, extra glasses and hearing aid batteries.
Q: What is a hurricane watch and what should I do?
A: The National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane watch when tropical storm winds are possible in 48 hours. However, weather conditions will get worse long before that. It means you are under the threat of a hurricane and should start your storm preparations.
Q: What is a hurricane warning and what should I do?
A: A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane force winds are expected with tropical storm winds arriving in 36 hours. You should be well under way completing your preparations such as boarding the windows and clearing the yard. If you are likely to evacuate, you should consider leaving if possible.
Q: How do I know if I live in an evacuation zone?
A: Your county emergency management office issues evacuation zone maps each year and they are published online. You may be able to enter your address online to find your evacuation zone. Or you can call the emergency management office.
Q: I live in a new mobile home with secure tie-downs. Do I still have to evacuate?
A: Yes, even mobile homes built to the newer standards are vulnerable in hurricane or tropical force winds. There also is the threat of tornadoes spawned by hurricanes and tropical storms far from the storm's path.
Q: What if I live in an evacuation zone but don't have a car to drive to a shelter?
A: Many large counties have special public transportation arrangements to get people to shelters if they don't have their own transportation. Check with the county's public transportation system or emergency management office.
Q: How long will food stay cold in the refrigerator after the power goes off?
A: It will stay cold for about four hours, if you keep the door closed.
Q: What about the freezer?
A: A full freezer will maintain its temperature for about 48 hours. A half-filled one, 24 hours if the door stays closed.
Q: What should I do with food in the refrigerator?
A: If it has not been below 40 degrees for two hours, you can cook it to the proper temperature and eat it. Throw it away if it has been above 40 degrees for two hours. Meat, fish, poultry and dairy foods can cause illness even when properly cooked, if not kept at a safe temperature.
Q: Is there enough shelter space if a large storm hits?
A: Generally, yes. Counties in the Tampa Bay area have eliminated their shelter deficit for most storms and have enough room. Many new schools have been built to double as shelters. A few counties may be tight on space if evacuations are ordered for a rare Category 4 or 5 hurricane.
Q: How long will the power be out?
A: It could be for days or even weeks. Utilities prioritize where to restore power starting with places such as hospitals, police and fire, emergency management or other locations that provide emergency and vital services. Then they try repairs that will get power back on the fastest for the most people.
Q: Will I be able to get gas for my car or generator?
A: Possibly. The state of Florida started a program requiring gas stations to either have generators or make arrangement for portable power supplies if they are near interstates and other major highways. However, not all gas stations will have generators. It's best to fill up before the storm and drive as little as possible.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control, National Hurricane Center, American Red Cross, Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management and Polk County Emergency Management