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Thursday, May 23, 2024

As students continue to move in, some forget to put hurricane preparedness on their to-do list.

"After Katrina we learned how certain storms could prevent or delay emergency response," said Danny Hinson, emergency management planner for Alachua County Fire Rescue.

"That's when having taken the time to prepare for the storm becomes the most important," he said.

According to a recently released statewide poll by Florida International University's Metropolitan Center, less than 25 percent of Florida residents have supplies that will last at least three days.

While less than a quarter of residents surveyed have some supplies at hand in the event of a storm, 54.4 percent of respondents feel "extremely" or "somewhat vulnerable" to hurricanes.

However, some students don't share the feeling of vulnerability.

"Relative to other parts of the state, I don't think a hurricane making landfall is that serious of a threat to us here," said John Hunt, a UF history senior.

"We would probably just get the remnants of a storm if anything," he said

UF political science senior Anne Lesser shares Hunt's sentiments. She said Gainesville's location in the middle of the state is why she doesn't worry during the hurricane season.

"I've never worried about hurricanes in Gainesville, and I'm not worried about them now," she said.

Both said it would take a hurricane to make landfall in Gainesville for apartment complexes to actively encourage hurricane preparedness so that students take the time to buy supplies.

Jack Ryals, an employee of the local hardware store Jackson Industries Stoneworks, said students like Hunt and Lesser should be mindful of Hurricane Katrina.

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"They should think that had they been in Katrina and didn't have food for three days, what would they have done," he said. "It doesn't take much to get prepared, so why not do it?"

Hinson said he and other emergency management planners actively encourage residents who feel vulnerable to be proactive and adequately prepare for the hurricane season.

Alachua County Fire Rescue organizes their yearly Get Ready campaign in June at the Oaks Mall to accomplish this.

At this year's campaign, Hinson said he ran his own small survey of Gainesville residents to understand the level of preparedness among them.

He said of the 12 people he talked to, 90 percent felt they knew what to do if a hurricane threatened their home. Most of the people he talked to were students.

"We set up 20 to 30 booths with pamphlets of information to educate the population on hurricane safety," Hinson said.

Hinson said these responses are encouraging. UF's emergency management is also helping educate students on hurricane preparedness, Hinson said. The amount of information the county and university provide is sufficient enough so that all students know what to do in the event of a hurricane.

"A responsible student would take this information to heart," he said.

Kenneth Allen, UF's Environmental Health and Safety Office emergency management coordinator, said that both on- and off-campus students should take the time to make necessary preparations.

"The first things students should look into is insurance to cover their belongings," Allen said. "Off-campus students should take special care to have emergency supplies and a battery-powered radio."

Students living on campus have the added support of the Department of Housing and Residence Education. The department ensures that all housing is prepared for hurricanes and maintains a Web site with important information for students to follow in the event of a storm.

Hinson said the Alachua County Fire Rescue urges unprepared residents to visit FloridaDisaster.org to develop a personalized disaster plan.

This Web site offers residents emergency contact information, a list of hurricane shelters, emergency routes and what supplies they will need.

Hinson said he hopes that it won't take a direct hit by a hurricane to make residents realize the danger of sitting back and not taking precautions.

"It's beyond our control whether people actually prepare or not," he said. "We can only educate and educate and educate."

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