As a law enforcement officer and Floridian I’m currently preparing for two big events ahead of Hurricane Irma’s landfall: the storm and the deployment. At this point, both are sure things. I’ll try to provide an on the ground account of what is happening in the Sunshine State as and when I can.
As of right now . . .
While it’s been a while, this isn’t our first bad weather rodeo. Florida’s state level law enforcement agencies are ready across the board for immediate disaster relief and search and rescue efforts. The state Wildlife Commission (game wardens) and Bureau of Fire & Arson (fire marshals) are the tip of the spear when it comes to immediate search and rescue. As of this moment teams from both agencies are heading south and staging for quick deployment in what could be the hardest hit areas.
One thousand members of the Florida National Guard are on active duty and the other 6,000 members are on standby.
The Highway Patrol, Department of Law Enforcement, and Department of Investigative and Forensic Services are preparing for post-storm support for local area agencies to assist with their needs such as manpower for extra patrols to prevent looting.
Material is being staged in places like Orlando International Airport, Homestead AFB, and a variety of other locations. Assets are being moved to the Keys in case US-1 is knocked out by the storm surge.
Mandatory evacuations are already under way in the Keys and certain coastal areas. As such, gasoline is in short supply due to the panic buying along the Turnpike, I-95, and I-75 corridors. But on a general state level, fuel supplies are stable. We should have six-day supply. Governor Scott has ordered that all weight and safety restrictions are to be suspended for all truckers bringing fuel and other supplies into the state.
As of right now, under the declared state of emergency and evacuation orders, a number of Floridians can carry concealed firearms without a permit under State Law due to the passage of SB 290.
Openly carrying firearms, however, is still illegal except under very specific circumstances such as while on your personal property. Do not think that you can walk around your neighborhood with your AR slung across your back or while standing in line at the library or other relieve center for a MRE.
Best advice: stay concealed and don’t dress in a manner to attract attention.
On the personal side, I am preparing as best as I can. The yard and outside area around the house has been cleared of anything that could become flying debris. Hurricane shutters and plywood panels are staged, ready to be put up. Sandbags have also been staged for use just in case.
As a resident of the big bend area. I’m still in the cone and could still be affected by hurricane or tropical storm force wind, so it’s a game of wait and see.
My generator and Jerry cans are topped off, as is my truck and squad car. Food, water, and medical supplies are also staged and ready.
The key to all of this, of course, is to prepare. I had these supplies in place long before the storm was even on the map. Actually I had them before the start of 2017’s hurricane season. An ounce of prevention is absolutely worth a hundred pounds of cure.
The key to getting through an emergency situation such as Hurricane Irma is having the supplies and goods on hand before the panic. Right now, less aware people are clamoring for everything; cases of water and gas cans are few and far between on store shelves even as far as Gadsden County in the panhandle.
People everywhere are stressed and trying to get gas. Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, and Lowe’s are all sold out of generators. The panic has actually hurt fellow Floridians because people who are trying to evacuate are also having to search for the same supplies and gas as the locals are buying up.
Florida has a tax free holiday every year at the start of hurricane season (this year’s was from June 2 through June 4, 2017). They do this for a reason. Survival essentials like generators, batteries, radios, and other hurricane-related items are sold tax free.
In the end I hope and pray that this storm goes further east than predicted and never makes landfall. But we can’t bank on that. The state and I need to be ready.
In short, Floridians need to stay safe, stay armed, and be ready to help yourself and your neighbors. Just as in Houston, let’s show the world what being American is all about; stepping up to the plate when it’s needed and helping each other out in a bad situation.