September 2016

Important phone numbers and websites

Pinellas County Emergency Management: (727) 464-3800 | www.pinellascounty.org/emergency

Find your evacuation level: (727) 453-3150 | www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/knowyourzone.htm

Register for special needs transportation: (727) 464-3800 | www.pinellascounty.org/forms/evac-assist.htm

Follow Pinellas County Emergency Management on Twitter: twitter.com/PinellasEM

Sign up for Pinellas County's Emergency Notification Service Alert Pinellas: (866) 484-3264 | www.pinellascounty.org/AlertPinellas

Set your Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) equipped all-hazards alert radio for Pinellas County: Enter code 012103

If you know someone who would like to receive the e-Lert newsletter, have them visit www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/subscribe.htm

 

Sally Says

Sally Bishop photoFrom the Desk of Pinellas County's Emergency Management Director

"Should I stay or should I go?"

Our Citizen Information Center got this question from many concerned residents during Pinellas County’s recent brush with Hurricane Hermine. While Hermine veered to our north, it still dumped massive amounts of rain over the course of several days with occasional gusts of tropical storm force winds.

When there’s a strong chance that a hurricane or tropical storm will make landfall in the Tampa Bay area, the county may issue recommended or mandatory evacuation orders. Communities at high risk of storm surge, a fast-moving dome of water pushed ashore by strong winds, are advised to leave the area for higher ground or stay at a local shelter. Know your Zone - If you don’t know your evacuation zone, look it up now at www.pinellascounty.org/knowyourzone.

Tropical storm events like Hermine are much more frequent than a direct hit from a hurricane. Constant rain mixed with debris starts to fill up local drainage systems, water slowly begins to rise on the streets, and in some parts of the county, roads become impassable. You can help reduce flooding caused by drainage blockages by keeping debris and trash out of the streets, streams, and ditches and by clearing storm drains in your neighborhood.

When there’s a tropical rain event in the forecast, the county and its municipal partners may make sandbags available, which can help create a flood barrier at the entrances to your home. In these events, the county will advise residents to take precautions and avoid driving through flooded streets. In the case of Hermine, we sent messages directed to specific communities along the coast advising them to expect localized flooding, particularly during high tide. We also opened one emergency shelter for residents who felt they could not remain safely at home.

So why didn’t the county tell residents to evacuate? With no threat of storm surge and varying levels of rain impact across the county, there is no way for the county to determine house-by-house when – or if – an individual should leave. You should always prepare ahead. We recommend that every household keep enough water, non-perishable food and other supplies on hand to survive at home for several days after a storm. If you live in a historically flood-prone area and you expect the water level could creep up to your front door, you may want to consider leaving early while you can still safely drive. Of course, it should go without saying that if you believe your life is in imminent danger, call 9-1-1.

This edition of E-Lert will offer tips on how to assess your home’s risk of flooding and how to plan ahead. Take this time to consider what you will do next time a tropical storm prolonged heavy rain soaks our community.

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ASSESS YOUR FLOOD RISKS

Rising floodwaters from heavy rainfall can endanger coastal neighborhoods a well as low-lying or poorly-drained parts of the county any time of year. For detailed information about how to prepare for flooding, visit www.pinellascounty.org/flooding.  

flooded neighborhood

How to prepare

  • Find out your flood risk.
    Your flood zone is not your evacuation zone. Flood zones are based on the risk of your property flooding over a period of years as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Put your address into the Flood Map Service Center app to find your flood zone.
  • Prepare ahead
    Stock your survival kit. If your neighborhood floods and you lose power, do you have supplies on hand to stay home until the storm subsides? Review the Survival Kit Checklist.
  • Get a plan
    Plan your escape route. Even if your home is on high ground, do the streets leading out of your neighborhood flood during heavy rain? The flood zone maps above also show flood-prone areas in your vicinity. Consider which routes flood if you think you may need to leave.
  • Move your car
    If you know your streets are prone to flooding, move your vehicles to higher ground during a heavy rain event. 
  • Stay Connected
    Know where to get information. Official evacuations and shelter openings will be announced through local media, the county’s website and Alert Pinellas.
  • Stay out of the water
    During a flood, it’s important to stay out of the water. Floodwaters could contain chemicals, debris or dangerous wildlife. If water has breached your home, do not go into any room if water has submerged an electrical outlet or cord.
  • Purchase flood insurance
    Homeowners insurance does not cover damage from rising floodwaters. Purchase flood insurance for your home, business, or rental. Visit www.floodsmart.gov to find an agent and learn how much flood damage could cost you.
  • Note: Because Pinellas County has a proactive Floodplain Management Program and participates in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System, you may get a discount on your flood insurance premium. Check with your flood insurance agent to make sure your flood insurance policy is rated correctly and you are receiving the correct CRS discount.

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Preparedness spotlight:
When to use sandbags  

sandbags

Sandbags are made available by the county and municipalities for certain types of emergencies, such as localized flooding events. They are also available at local home improvement stores. Updates about sandbag availability will be provided during an emergency at www.pinellascounty.org/emergency.

Residents should not rely on sandbags to save their home from major flooding, especially fast-moving hurricane storm surge flooding. If properly used, sandbags can create an adequate barrier to keep slowly rising floodwaters out of your home during a heavy rain event. If flood levels are expected to be high, or the water is rising fast, it could take a substantial amount of sandbags to protect your property and this may not be a good option. During a direct hit from a hurricane, storm surge would be pushed ashore quickly at heights anywhere from 4 feet to more than 20 feet, which could easily overtake a sandbag barrier.

Review the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ sandbag use recommendations.

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