Reader Phil Henderson writes . . .
I’m Phil, a native Floridian, firearm owner, enthusiast, and a volunteer firefighter. Central Florida has been my home all my life and every time a big storm comes around, I think there are a few things people always seem to overlook.
I always have extra bottled water and canned goods in the house with my extra flashlight batteries but every time the weather turns nasty, people flip out…and for good reason. Many of them are unprepared. I’d like to give everyone a few bits of information that may be useful.
1. If you call 911 during the hurricane, there is a pretty good chance we will not help you
During the height of a serious storm, counties will remove rescue trucks and ambulances from barrier islands. There will be no rescue or ambulance service until things calm down.
What this means: If you live beachside on the barrier islands — Flagler, Palm Beach and Volusia counties are under mandatory evacuation orders — nobody can help you if you stay and accidentally set your house on fire with some candles or have a concussion navigating your house in the dark. This is why it’s really important to get to a storm shelter.
Triage is not just for medical incidents. If it is unsafe for the crew to go out, they won’t go out, which is exactly why equipment and personnel go to shelters on the mainland. Some folks think it’s abhorrent for the fire department to do nothing and let their house burn to the ground, but if it’s too far gone or too risky an operation — like when there’s no water coming out of the hydrant at 3AM and it’s blowing 115 mph — it’s going to burn.
2. If you’re going to get a generator, you should probably get the means to defend it.
Many years ago, when I was a lot more impressionable and much less salty, I had neighbors with generators, cold beer, and a less harsh life after the storm. My house went seven days without power. After day three, that gets old FAST.
So, we got a generator and made a racket with the rest of the folks in the area. Little did I know that overnight, thieves would leave a running lawnmower in the spot where your generator used to be and they’d scamper off with it like modern day cattle rustlers.
My personal opinion is that generator theft during a state of emergency or after the storm should be a death penalty offense. The ACLU might not agree with me, but both barrels of my granddad’s 12 gauge rabbit gun do just fine for my purposes.
This goes back to the point about calling 911. And that assumes you have a phone (landline or mobile) that works. You might not have anyone to help you. In a post storm temporarily apocalyptic world, you better be ready and willing to paddle your own canoe.
After Hurricane Andrew down in Homestead back in 1992, I have friends that lived down there and their homes were destroyed. Looters and anarchy reigned in some spots until the national guard showed up and scared everyone away.
That’s a LONG time to be without protection. I’m a believer in the deterrent value of firearms and if you can responsibly defend what’s left of your property and your neighbors property, I say DO IT.
3. County storm shelters are not your house
You have to bring your own bedding, your own food, etc. It’s like prison, except you don’t get three hots or a cot. And firearms are usually banned in shelters.
That raises three issues. In many areas, storm shelters are elementary or secondary schools. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of a gun-free school zone charge. I will risk my life to save your life. I will not risk my job over some stupid stuff like that. You don’t have a means of self defense in situations like that by statute. Be aware of it before you evacuate to a shelter.
4. Guns after the storm
I didn’t know this until I did the research: the Governor has very broad authority under a state of emergency declaration. One of the broad powers the governor has under Chapter 252 is the suspension or limitation of the sale of alcoholic beverages, explosives and firearms.
That means the governor can suspend or limit the sale of firearms but the governor cannot suspend or limit the sale of ammunition.
Which seems to make sense. Until you read another obscure area of FL statutes that allow the local authority having law enforcement jurisdiction broad powers under Chapter 870 to declare a localized state of emergency.
If widespread lawlessness occurs, the local authority by statute automatically prohibits the offer to sell with or without consideration, any ammunition, gun, or firearm of any size or description – in addition to shutting down any firearm or ammunition retailers.
The way the statute is written, there is no differentiation between a commercial firearm retailer like Bass Pro or Gander Mountain versus my neighbor Jimmy with way too many series 70 1911’s.
What this means for you, as a resident that may or may not be living in an area of widespread lawlessness: If you don’t have a gun now, you won’t be able to get one legally when the SHTF. This is why you need to be buying your guns and ammo BEFORE the storm and not after. A simple reading of the statute says that you can lend or borrow one – but it is illegal to
If you’re thinking about breaking the law, it is a second degree misdemeanor – so the penalty isn’t that stiff but it’s enough to get you hauled to county court. I wouldn’t take the chance.
5. Try not to shoot any looters
This should go without saying. We see way too many people getting shot as it is, and it would be preferable to just hold them at gunpoint until the local LE folks can show up and take things from there.
In short, be safe, be careful, don’t bring your guns to shelters and hope that you have enough guns and ammo post storm – because if the governor and the local LE officials bang the gavel, you won’t be getting any more anytime soon.