Leon County Disaster Survival Guide
Prepare. Act. Recover.
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A prepared community is a resilient community
Leon County is a resilient community filled with local officials, neighborhood leaders, and community partners working around the clock during disaster to keep us safe. Thanks to our community members’ resilience and preparedness, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designated Leon County as the first #HurricaneStrong community in the nation, making us the model for resilience everywhere. We are proud to be #HurricaneStrong and Leon County remains committed to keeping citizens informed and prepared for emergencies.
Plan now. When disaster strikes, it is too late to prepare. This section will help you plan to keep you and your family safe during disasters. Be prepared by having a plan and disaster bucket for your family.
Build Your Bucket
Leon County encourages citizens to put disaster supplies in a waterproof and durable five-gallon bucket. Keep these essential items in a bucket near an exit door in your home or in your vehicle.
Consider adding the following to your bucket during COVID-19: Cloth face masks, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol.
Watch or Warning
Knowing the difference between a watch and warning can help keep you safe. Whether a watch or warning, listen closely to instructions from local officials using a TV, radio, cell phone or other communication device.
Watch: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.
Warning: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected within the specified area within 36 hours.
Watch: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
Warning: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
Watch: Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching.
Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Proceed to a safe room immediately.
Watch: A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.
Warning: A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
Flash Flood Warning:
A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take minutes or hours to develop.
5 Questions to Ask About Your Policy
Not all insurance policies are created equal. Check your policy or talk to your agent to make sure you have sufficient coverage and to determine if any home improvements would qualify for a discount on premiums. Learn more about insurance policies from the Insurance Information Institute at iii.org.
Most homeowner insurance policies do not cover damage from rising flood waters. If you own a home in a flood zone, your mortgage company will require you to carry a flood policy. Even if you don’t live in a flood zone, consider the additional coverage. Anywhere it rains, it can flood. To learn more about flood protection, visit LeonCountyFL.gov/FloodProtection.
Don’t wait until it is too late to buy a flood insurance policy. Typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period before your policy goes into effect.
Questions to ask:
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ toll-free Insurance Consumer Helpline is available year-around to assist Florida’s insurance consumers. Insurance specialists are available to answer questions or concerns regarding insurance coverage and advocate on a consumer’s behalf to resolve a dispute with an insurance company. Consumers may contact an insurance specialist at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236) toll-free, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For additional information on preparing for a natural disaster, visit the Department of Financial Services’ website at MyFloridaCFO.com.
Sandbags can redirect stormwater and debris flows away from homes and other structures if they are correctly filled, placed and maintained. However, sandbags will not seal out water and residents should not rely on sandbags to save their home from major flooding, especially fast moving hurricane storm surge flooding. Consider the severity of flood conditions before deciding whether sandbags would provide effective protection.
Sandbags are made available by Leon County and the City of Tallahassee for heavy rain. Leon County sandbags are limited to 15 bags per household and citizens should bring shovels to fill bags. County locations will be staffed. Sites will remain open until officials determine sandbags are no longer needed. Updates about sandbag availability will be provided during an emergency at LeonCountyFL.gov/ei.
Making the decision to stay or go
When a hurricane is approaching, will you stay in Leon County or drive miles away to another location? Evacuating to a safe shelter locally or in a neighboring county has advantages; you will avoid traffic jams and highways crowded with vehicles from other counties joining the evacuation. Even if you leave the area, the storm could shift and still put you in harm’s way. Additionally, you may need to adjust your preparedness plans based on the latest health and safety guidelines from the CDC and your local officials. The next section will guide you through the steps you should take as a storm is approaching and the choices you’ll have to make.
Understanding the forecast
5-day cone actions
When the Big Bend area is in the 5-day cone, it’s time to implement your plan and preparations. A hurricane is on a probable path to reach our area in five days.
3-day cone actions
As a storm moves closer to land, the accuracy of the forecast increases and residents should step up their preparation with the following actions:
Hurricane Watch actions
(48 hours ahead)
Hurricane Warning actions
(36 hours ahead)
When a Hurricane strikes
Hurricanes Have Two Main Parts:
A Category 1 hurricane like Hermine, with winds of 74 to 95 mph, can rip apart a mobile home. The National Hurricane Center reports that no mobile home or manufactured home — no matter how new it is — can be a safe shelter from hurricane force winds. Also, tornadoes can spin off from hurricanes. Straps or other tie-downs will not protect a mobile home from high winds associated with a hurricane. In 1992, 97% of all manufactured homes in Hurricane Andrew’s path in Dade County were destroyed, compared to 11% of single-family, non-manufactured homes. If a hurricane threatens Leon County, all mobile home residents should plan to evacuate to a safer location. If you must evacuate and do not have access to transportation due to age, disability, or other special needs, you should register now with Leon County Emergency Management.
Plan to stay if ...
Plan to go if ...
Learn more about evacuations and sheltering »
During a disaster, services could be impacted, including electric, water and sewer. When preparing, consider that you could be without these important utilities for an extended period.
For City of Tallahassee customers, you can report electric outages via the City’s DigiTally App, Talgov.com/Outage, or by calling (850) 891-4YOU (4968). During major events, the City will send information directly to utility customers. Keep your contact details current by visiting Talgov.com/Update or by calling (850) 891-4968.
For Talquin Electric Members, you can report an electric outage via Talquin’s mobile app for either Apple or Android phones, by texting #OUTAGE to 85700, or by calling 1-866-899-4832 (Automated System) or 1-888-802-1832 (Live Operator). You can also receive notifications via the mobile app or sign up for text alerts at TalquinElectric.com.
Duke Energy customers, call 1-800-228-8485.
Call wait times will be longer during major events.
TWO DAYS: The approximate time frozen items can be stored safely if you keep the freezer door shut.
FOUR HOURS: If your refrigerator’s power is out for longer than this time, move perishable foods into an ice-filled cooler.
If you are considering purchasing a portable generator, the City of Tallahassee offers a low-interest loan program for qualified homeowners. To be eligible, a transfer switch and interconnect agreement are required. Get details by calling 891-4YOU (4968).
A generator can keep your appliances going after a disaster, but it comes with several dangers:
CARBON MONOXIDE: Use generators outdoors and away from windows and doors to avoid exposure to this deadly, colorless, odorless gas. Never operate a generator indoors.
FIRE: Make sure the generator is cool when refilling the fuel tank and store flammable fuel away from fuel-burning appliances.
ELECTRICAL SHOCK: An electrical shock from your generator can kill you.
If the drinking water supply is compromised by a disaster, a boil water notice will be issued, which means there’s a possibility of contamination.
BOIL: Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil for 1 minute to kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
BLEACH: Add 1/8 tsp. of unscented bleach per gallon of water and let stand for 30 minutes; bleach used should contain 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. This is less effective but will work if there’s no way to boil water.
If a sewer outage is announced, DO NOT flush your toilet. Powered sewer lift stations may be down, which could cause a sewage back-up in your home.
Use a chemical toilet or create an emergency toilet by one of the following methods:
5-GAL BUCKET: Line with heavy-duty trash bag and use household bleach as disinfectant. Make sure it has a tight lid.
TOILET BOWL: Turn off your outside water supply first and flush once to empty before lining with a trash bag. Do not use kitty litter — it cannot be flushed after the sewer system is running.
After a storm, roads may be littered with debris and many routes may be flooded. Avoid unnecessary travel and, if you must venture out, always obey Road Closed signs.
Never drive through standing water. Treat any intersection with non-working traffic signals as an “all way” stop. Be prepared to stop at every intersection.
In a declared state of emergency, it is illegal to sell necessary goods or services at increased prices. If you believe a business or individual is price gouging, call the Attorney General’s Office at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226).
Hire Licensed Businesses
If repairs to your home or property are needed, hire reputable and licensed people and avoid any contractor or appraiser who says they can adjust your insurance claim. You can verify a contractor’s license and check to see if there are any complaints against them by calling the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 487-1395.
Who to call
Preparing debris for curbside pickup
Debris removal is integral during the response and recovery phase of a disaster. Initial response begins during the disaster event when crews are activated to cut and toss debris off the roadway. Routes to critical facilities (such as hospitals) and other priority routes are addressed first. This process ensures police, firefighters, EMS and other first responders crucial to the response can navigate the roadways safely.
During the recovery phase, eligible disaster-related debris will be collected from residential neighborhoods. Debris should be placed curbside and separated in the following categories: construction, vegetative, household hazardous waste, appliances/white goods and electronics. During this process, DO NOT bag debris or put debris in containers. Depending on the severity of the event, it may take multiple passes before all debris is collected.
HaveAHurricanePlan.com is part of the Leon Ready program. Find more preparedness resources, including Build Your Bucket, the Leon County Emergency Information Portal and Neighborhood Readiness Trainings, at the Leon Ready portal: www.LeonReady.com
The agencies below are critical during any disaster. Please consider learning more about volunteering with these nonprofits partners.
To be connected with all other partners in our area, please contact Leon County Volunteer Services.
If you are unable to use your smartphone, tablet, or computer, timely and critical updates will be provided by emergency management officials on 88.9 WFSU-FM radio. By partnering with WFSU, Leon County and the City of Tallahassee will help ensure that any citizen with radio access stays informed before, during, and after a disaster. Also, visit Talgov.com for information and updates from the City of Tallahassee.
Additionally, iHeartMedia will also provide updates on the following radio stations: WFLA-FM 100.7, WFLF-FM 94.5, WTNT 94.9, KISS-FM 107.1, X-FM101.5, and The Beat-FM 105.3.
I'm Billy the Bucket! As Leon County's emergency preparedness mascot, I'm here to help you and your family get ready for hurricane season. Find my coloring page and coloring book for the whole family at LeonCountyFL.gov/BillyBucket. They're filled with helpful information for the hurricane season!