Pinellas County emergency management prepares for this hurricane season

A realistic satellite graphic of hurricane moving toward Florida.
This hurricane season is forecasted to be one of the busiest in a while. Pinellas County is urging residents to be prepared. Image from National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration/iStock for WMNF News (2024).

This hurricane season, Pinellas County plans to focus on getting timely, relevant, and accurate emergency information to the public if a storm threatens the coast.

Speaking at a media briefing Tuesday, Director of Emergency Management Cathie Perkins said there are three main things the public should do going into this season: make a plan, know your household’s risk, and stay informed.

She said community members have talked a lot about the busy forecast and the number of storms projected this season.

“I just want to impress upon people that it really doesn’t matter how many storms there are, it’s the one that impacts you that makes a difference for all of us,” Perkins said.

Pinellas public information manager Dave Connor said the county has looked at past storms and evaluated how they can do better this season.

He pointed to a 2023 study asking residents about their decision whether to evacuate or stay during Hurricane Ian.

One of the top reasons people stayed during the evacuation was because of their pets – either they did not have a plan or they had too many.

He stressed that if people have pets, they should make a plan for them along with their families “because choosing not to evacuate puts you and your pets in danger.”

Perkins said it’s important to know what services are available as well.

“We have three pet-friendly shelters, and our transportation services will offer free rides once we order the evacuation,” she said. “They’ll pick you up from any bus pick-up point. You tell them that you want to get to a shelter and they’ll help get you there.”

There are also transportation services for residents with special needs – but Perkins said residents should try and sign up on the Pinellas County registry before a storm hits.

Additionally, Connor said people do not need to travel very far for an evacuation.

Depending on what level evacuation is called, residents need only get outside the area under an order. Sometimes that might mean they only need to travel a mile or two.

“You don’t have to go to Georgia. You don’t have to go to Jacksonville. You just need to go out of the ordered zones for evacuation,” Connor said.

Pinellas residents can stay informed during an emergency by checking the disaster website regularly or signing up for Alert Pinellas, a service that sends free alerts about emergencies and other important community news.

“We’re all very lucky we haven’t been hit by a direct, major storm impact in more than 100 years,” Connor said. “As you know, the Indian mounds are not going to protect us for any amount of time – we’ve just been lucky.”

“And it’s just going to take one, especially as we’re looking at a very active storm season,” he added.

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