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Are You Red Cross Ready?
By Cyndi Houck, Community Affairs Director, Manatee County Chapter of the American Red Cross

If you are a long time resident of Florida, you are probably familiar with these two dates: June 1st and November 30th - more importantly, the time span between them.  This is known to Floridians and many residents along the southeastern coastlines of the United States as Hurricane Season.  Some are much too familiar with this time of year, and there are those who have never really been affected by a storm.  Regardless of the category you fall into, being prepared for a potential disaster, whether related to Mother Nature or other causes, will greatly assist you and your family should the need arise.

Although August, September and October are the peak months for severe weather, we must always keep a watchful eye on the radar screen.  If you haven’t already prepared a plan for your family, now is the perfect time to do so.  You and your family can be Red Cross Ready by following the 5 point plan below:

  1. Develop a plan for responding to an evacuation order if issued by local government officials.  Decide where to go, what to take, and who to notify about your decision.  This also includes communicating with family members and developing meeting locations should you be separated for any reason.  Don’t forget your pets!  They are family, too.
  2. Put together in advance the following supplies in a duffle bag or other large waterproof container:
    1. Flashlight with plenty of extra batteries.
    2. Battery-powered radio with extra batteries.
    3. First Aid Kit (available at your Mid-County Red Cross office).
    4. Prescription medications in their original bottle, plus copies of the prescriptions.
    5. Eyeglasses (with copy of prescription).
    6. Water (at least one gallon per person/per day for three days).
    7. Foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking.
    8. Items that infants and elderly household members may require.
    9. Items that pets require: medical and vaccination records, food and water, bedding, comfort items, etc.
    10. Personal hygiene items, sanitation supplies, and basic tools.
    11. Medical equipment and devices such as dentures, crutches, prostheses, etc.
    12. Change of clothes for each household member.
    13. Sleeping bag or bedroll and pillow for each household member.
    14. Checkbook, cash, and credit cards (cash is very important as when power outages are widespread, credit cards may not be accepted).
    15. Map of the area.
  3. Gather in advance the following important papers if you think an evacuation order may be issued
    1. Driver’s license or personal identification.
    2. Social Security card.
    3. Proof of residence (deed or lease).
    4. Insurance policies.
    5. Birth and marriage certificates.
    6. Stock, bonds and other negotiable certificates.
    7. Will, deed and copies of recent tax returns.
  4. Remember that when an evacuation order is issued, time is critical.  Do not delay your evacuation because you do not have all of the items on these lists.  By the same logic, having these items available well in advance will speed your evacuation and quite possibly save your life.
  5. Finally, take these actions to prevent damage to your home:
    1. Remove diseased or damaged tree limbs.  Also, strategically remove branches so that wind can blow through the tree.
    2. Move or secure lawn furniture, outdoor decorations or ornaments, trash cans, hanging plants and anything else that can be picked up by wind and become a projectile.
    3. Install hurricane shutters or precut ½” outdoor plywood for each window of your home.  Install anchors for the plywood and pre-drill holes in the plywood so that you can put it up quickly.
    4. Reinforce double entry doors by adding bolts to the top and bottom of the inactive door.
    5. Install hurricane clips and straps to roofs.  (Consult a professional.)
    6. Install permanent shutters on your windows.
    7. Install protection to the outside areas of sliding glass doors.
    8. Strengthen garage doors.


This list may appear a bit daunting, but done in incremental steps will not only make it easier to accomplish, but will also assist you in alleviating worry and stress should disaster strike you and your family.  It will also save much time and frustration if done in advance as opposed to fighting crowds at area retailers by waiting until the last minute.

The American Red Cross has speakers available to provide FREE presentations on disaster preparedness.  To schedule a presentation for your homeowner’s association or community group, call (941) 792-8686.  Your Red Cross is here to assist you, with two locations in Manatee County.  We are located at 2905 59th Street West, or in Lakewood Ranch at 10311 Malachite Drive (behind the YMCA off Lakewood Ranch Blvd. past Lakewood Ranch High School), or visit 

We want to keep you safe, and Red Cross Ready!