A year after Hurricane Irma hammered the state, and in an era of more mega-storms, the nation’s former top emergency response official warned Monday that an alarming number of Floridians are still ignoring evacuation warnings and public pleas to prepare.
Along with several storm readiness and insurance experts, former Federal Emergency Management District Craig Fugate unveiled survey results showing Floridians’ lack of hurricane readiness, adequate property insurance and an unwillingness to leave when in the path of danger.
“You’d think that after Irma caused so much damage and cost so many lives in Florida last year, more people would understand what’s at stake,” Fugate said Monday. “We’re seeing an increased level of activity but also the increasing impact of these storms.”
Even though they were asked after Irma’s devastation, one in five Floridians surveyed still said they would not evacuate when a Category 4 storm is forecast to hit within 10 miles of their home. And more than half of Floridians who live in evacuation zones have disregarded recommendations to leave ahead of a powerful storm.
A total of 58 percent surveyed said they would not evacuate in a Category 1 or 2 storm predicted within 10 miles of their home. Eighteen percent said they would not leave in a Category 3 or 4 storm predicted to come within 10 miles of their home, and 24 percent in Southeast Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, Pam Beach and Monroe Counties) said they would not leave in the same scenario.
The survey of 1,000 Florida residents was conducted earlier this year from Aug. 23 to Sept. 2 as part of the National Hurricane Survival Initiative.
Fugate, who hosts the initiative’s “Get Ready, Florida!” television special, said the findings should be a wake-up call for the state.
“We’re still finding most people don’t understand the risks,” Fugate said.
Homeowners understand the importance of strengthening roofs and windows but often overlook the threat from vulnerable garage doors, he added. “If you get a breach in those doors or anywhere in the house that is going to lead to the most devastating damage to the home.”
Among the survey’s other findings:
- Floridians are more prepared to meet the needs of their pets in a storm than they are the humans in their home.
- The portion of Floridians who wrongly believe it’s safe to run a generator in the home has increased over the past nine months; almost one-third surveyed (31 percent) believe it is okay to run a generator in either a garage (16 percent), on a balcony (13 percent), or any room with an open window (8 percent).
- More than one-third of Floridians who live less than two miles from the coast don’t have flood insurance.
- More than half don’t know what their homeowners or renters insurance covers in a hurricane, with many incorrectly believing insurance covers things like replacing spoiled food, removing debris from the yard and buying a generator.
“Water does not stop at a line on a map,” FedNat Insurance Company CEO Michael Braun said, adding that the time to make sure homes are properly insured is now.
Kevin McCarty, former Florida Insurance Commissioner and current member of Assured Risk Cover’s Board of Advisors, said homeowners can explore insurance products that cover out-of-pocket costs that people often mistakenly believe their homeowner’s insurance covers. “There are a number of things that are not covered … such as flood and loss of power that would have damaged food,” McCarty said. “So a number of things are falling into a gap.”