Hurricane preparedness should never become casual

In 2005, I survived three big hurricanes – Charley, Frances and Ivan. I thought I could escape Ivan, but as I made my way up the East Coast, so did he. We met in North Carolina where it was rainy, windy and unpleasant. I was, however, one of the lucky ones and suffered no major damages to my family, my house or myself. I lost power for a few days at most and spent the duration of hurricane Charley playing outside with the video camera.

Not the best of ideas, but I’ve got some funny footage.

The bipolar weather of the Sunshine State causes many Floridians – native and non-native – to be blasé about the hurricane season. “If it’s not a Category 3, then I’m not worrying,” is the common attitude of my family and friends. As we walk through stores that offer hurricane season preparation supplies, I don’t see anyone buying. I don’t see anyone in line holding extra batteries, flashlights or bottled water. They’ve survived it before, just like me, and clearly they feel that they can survive it again.

This attitude is, however, profoundly dangerous. Any hurricane or tropical storm can cause serious damage.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – a subdivision of Homeland Security – the hurricane season of 2007 “could be nearly as destructive as 2005, the worst on record.” The 2005 season was “the busiest season on record, (in which) 27 major storms formed in the Atlantic Ocean, 14 of which became hurricanes,” according to I watched the interactive videos and witnessed each hurricane – denoted by the well-known spiral – whizzing around the United States and Atlantic Ocean, changing color as it changed severity. Five of these storms either came somewhat close to Florida or trotted on through – Katrina, Ophelia, Wilma, Dennis and Rita. I only remembered Katrina and Wilma, but I should’ve remembered them all.

My ignorance is inexcusable and, unfortunately, many mirror it. The 2007 hurricane season is a chance to start anew. This season is predicted to be especially horrendous, and no risks can be taken. Hurricane Katrina was not expected, and the lack of preparation and communication cost this country many lives. That cannot happen again.

There are many resources to be taken advantage of when preparing for the hurricane season. FEMA claims that the best form of protection is information, much of which can be obtained from its Web site Those wishing to be prepared should get informed about hurricane terms, possible hazards and community protocol, learn the location of the closest vacuation centers and investigate possible evacuation routes. FEMA also offers plans and information on how to keep the family pets safe during hurricanes. It’s never too late to get started, and there is no such thing as being over-prepared.

My biggest concern, personally, is the use of generators when the power goes out. Many deaths in the 2005 hurricane season were from carbon monoxide poisoning due to the misuse of generators. My experience in the circus taught me to never operate a generator in a closed space. They need room to “breathe” and must be placed outside to eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless lethal gas – definitely not something to be trifled with.

In this information age, there’s no excuse not to know. In a few clicks the world is at our fingertips – including guides to everything from hurricane survival to how to tie down trees to keep them from falling over.

USF is creating its own hurricane safety plan and program, and an article containing this information has already appeared on the front page of the Oracle. There is no excuse for not knowing what is coming and not being prepared for it. In the upcoming hurricane season, we can protect ourselves from the walls of intense wind and rain with our own walls of plans, preparations and information.

Amy Mariani is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.