By Steve “Stef” Stefanides
Marco Island Public Safety personnel have been carefully watching the progress of Hurricane Irma since it appeared on the scene over a week ago off the coast of Africa and started its long trek across the Atlantic towards our area.
Police Chief Al Schettino and Fire Chief Michael Murphy have been in constant contact with their counterparts throughout Collier County and the State of Florida as the entire state prepares for a potential hit from the Category 5 storm.
“The entire city staff is engaged in preparing for the storm and the potential impact it will have on all facets of the city operations,” said Chief Schettino. Schettino and Murphy have been engaged with their command staffs and coordinating with Collier County Emergency Management Personnel regarding storm preparations over the last week.
Planning for these types of emergencies are not new for the city staff, as they have engaged in similar planning for Hurricane Charley in 2004 and Wilma in 2005. Both brought strong winds and rain to the Southwest Florida Region during those back to back years, but the dozen years which followed saw little to no activity.
“It is important to note that events such as this will impact all departments within the city,” said Chief Murphy. “As with previous storms, we’ve worked together as a team to insure that we have a well-coordinated response.” Murphy also serves as the Emergency Management Coordinator for the city in the case of these types of emergencies.
Evacuation orders may be issued by the Collier County Emergency Management personnel later this week for residents in low lying areas such as Marco Island. Residents are cautioned to heed those orders and stay abreast of changing conditions as the week progresses.
Emergency personnel also suggest that the following be done to prepare for any voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders:
- Have a plan to evacuate the area and advise your family as to that plan.
- You might be smart to video or photograph the inside and outside of your home prior to any storm and after an event for insurance purposes.
- Please stay well informed of any announcements regarding the storm situation and heed those requests from Emergency Management Personnel.
- If you do evacuate the island, plan on taking any valuables and important papers with you in waterproof containers.
- Secure all storm shutters and other protection.
- Secure all your patio furniture and loose items such as potted plants and other decorative items to eliminate the potential from those becoming flying objects.
- Should you stay in place, make sure you have water for at least a 3-5 day span, as well as food for that period.
- Do not run generators which are “back-fed” into household electrical outlets such as dryer plugs. This is a dangerous and possibly fatal mistake.
- If you do have an auxiliary generator, make sure it is properly fueled and secured.
- DO NOT RUN PORTABLE GENERATORS INSIDE A GARAGE OR YOUR HOME. Carbon Monoxide may leak into your home and that can be fatal. Always run generators outside of any enclosed areas and insure the exhaust is aimed away from your living areas.
- DO NOT FUEL a running generator. That too can be a dangerous situation and result in a fire and serious burns.
- If you evacuate turn off all power in your home with the exception of the necessary appliances such air conditioning and refrigerators.
- Make sure if you stay in place during a storm that you have a portable radio and extra batteries to stay informed of the progress of the storm and any other relevant information.
- Stay off of all roadways after the passing of the storm to insure emergency crews can immediately engage in cleaning up debris and restoring power.
- Remain “sheltered in place” until told otherwise.
- Do not attempt to return to your homes until advised it is safe to do so.
- If you do venture outside after a storm please be aware of downed power lines. Your curiosity can be fatal in this case.
- Emergency personnel will not be able to reach you once the storm begins to lash the island due to concerns for their safety. PLEASE heed the request for evacuation, whether mandatory or voluntary when they are issued. It can be a matter of life and death.
- Access to the island and your homes will be granted as soon as it is safe for you to return.
- If you haven’t already, go onto the city’s website and sign up for the CODE RED ALERTS. You may do so by simply logging onto the site from your computer at www.cityofmarcoisland.com and click on the CODE RED menu and fill out the form. You’ll be advised of any late breaking information regarding the storm or any other emergencies.
Check back to the Coastal Breeze News for late breaking news regarding the storm and other news regarding the island at www.coastalbreezenews.com.