Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi asked those in attendance at the town’s annual hurricane preparedness seminar how many of them knew someone who would stay on the island when a hurricane hits. Almost half of the approximately 20 people in attendance raised their hands.
“Well, give me their names and addresses because I want to issue them a toe tag to wear,” Dezzi said.
Dezzi said his firefighter/paramedics cannot help those on the Key once 45 mph winds start whipping through.
“We have people out here who will refuse to leave, and that’s a shame because we won’t be able to help them when they dial 911 and realize they made a mistake,” Dezzi said. “The streets flood out here during a summer storm, so you’re kidding yourselves if you don’t think a major storm will overtake this island.”
Throughout the meeting, emergency officials urged residents to have a plan in place.
Town Manager Dave Bullock urged Longboat Key residents to remember that the Key is vulnerable to hurricanes.
A 30-second gust of powerful wind and rain hit the middle of Longboat Key March 31, 2011, causing widespread damage to 15 residences and ripping off the roofs of three mobile homes and downing power lines in the Twin Shores and Gulfshore mobile-home communities.
“And that was just a regular storm with a strong gust of wind and a lot of rain,” said Assistant to the Town Manager Susan Phillips. “Imagine what a hurricane could do.”
Bullock said the seminar is an annual reminder to warn residents to stay prepared during every hurricane season.
“A major storm has not happened on Longboat Key for a long, long time,” Bullock said. “We are extraordinarily lucky on the southwest coast of Florida, but since 2004 we have had damaging hurricanes come very close to us. Our luck can eventually run out.”
Bullock reminded residents that a storm years ago, before the island was inhabited, created a storm surge that completely overtook the Key.
“That storm and the saltwater wiped out all the vegetation and crops on this Key for two years,” Bullock said. “Imagine what a storm surge like that could do to a Key full of houses and condos.”
Bullock said the seminar was not intended to scare people, but to remind them to always be vigilant and have a plan.
“We have to remember that living in an area as beautiful as this comes along with risks,” Bullock said. “That’s the price we pay and why the town has a good plan and why we want all of you to have a plan as well.”
TOWN UPDATES EMERGENCY NETWORK
Longboaters can be thousands of miles away from their island homes and still receive real-time alerts about weather events that could impact their Florida properties.
In 2006, the town contracted with CodeRED, Emergency Communications Network LLC to provide high-speed notifications to residents via their telephones. The system quickly delivers telephone calls and/or voice mails to targeted areas of the community, or to the entire island, when needed.
And with a growing trend of people abandoning their landlines for smartphones, the town is urging people to visit www.longboatkey.org and click on the CodeRED link to add their cellphones and update their contact information.
There is no cost to register, and individuals can register multiple phones to ensure receiving messages on their landlines and cellphones.
CodeRED also offers free app downloads for iPhones and Android subscribers that allow residents, as well as those visiting or traveling in the area, to receive community and emergency alerts on their smartphones.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].