Hurricane season began this week, and experts say college students should be prepared.
After nine years without any major hurricanes in Florida, Gainesville residents have grown complacent — but they shouldn’t be, according to emergency management officials.
“No one has a crystal ball to say whether we’re going to be impacted by tropical weather or not,” said UF emergency manager Kenneth Allen.
Although no storms are currently being tracked in Alachua County, Allen said everyone in Florida should prepare for storms through the end of hurricane season in November.
Nineteen-year-old UF health education and behavior junior Crystal Pinder knows firsthand how intense Florida’s storm season can get.
Her family filled gallons of water, grilled meat and stored food before Hurricane Katrina tore through Pinder’s hometown of Miami in 2005.
“Our power was off for a whole week,” she said.
At the time, Pinder was scared. School was closed, and the wind howled. She and her family found ways to entertain themselves as they waited out the storm.
“It was a tough experience, but we got through it,” she said.
Pinder said she’s not worried about this summer’s storms, however. She lives far from the beach on the fourth floor of an apartment in Gainesville, she said.
Regardless of their altitude, students like Pinder should still be prepared, Allen said.
Floridians should load up on important safety items such as flashlights, coolers and portable generators, all of which are tax-exempt throughout the state until June 8.
College students specifically are encouraged to gather a three- to four-day disaster supply kit complete with water, food, batteries, back up phone chargers, first-aid items, current identification and important documents such as medical or health insurance information.
And don’t forget Fido, either.
Cats and dogs should be wearing collars with up-to-date information and should have enough food to last out the storm as well, according to Gainesville Regional Utilities’ safety checklist.
“We encourage students to get a plan, get a kit and be informed,” Allen said.
In the event of an emergency, students should call Alachua County Emergency Management at 352-264-6500 for evacuation information.
Alachua County emergency management coordinator Jen Horner said college students can take advantage of having two homes.
If a storm does head toward campus this summer, Horner recommends waiting it out with relatives.
“I think the number one thing is to go back home,” she said. “Go home to mom and dad.”
[A version of this story ran on page 1 - 4 on 6/5/2014 under the headline "Students, prepare for hurricane season"]