Emergency management officials pitch hurricane safety at ballgame

- We haven't yet reached the official start of hurricane season, but we are already keeping a close eye on a disturbance in the Caribbean. With the potential for heavy rain and flooding over Memorial Day weekend, now is the time to prepare for the next six months.

Wednesday was perfect timing for Emergency Preparedness Night at Joker Marchant Stadium. Even on a night out at the ballpark, Lakeland Flying Tigers fans were reminded to map out a game plan in case this hurricane season throws us all a curveball.

Mixed in with the pitches and catches, Polk County Emergency Management and other public safety agencies answered questions and offered life-saving tips on how to stay safe, dry, and connected this upcoming hurricane season, which officially begins June 1.

"We saw after Hurricane Irma that a lot of folks didn't have a disaster plan," said Polk County Emergency Management Director Paul Womble. "Our biggest issue out here in Polk County was power outages."

Womble gave fans a few things to check off their lists early:

"Having extra water, extra food, if the power's out at your house for three or four or five days, how are you going to prepare food? Do you have water to drink? Will you be able to flush your toilets?" Womble said.

In Tampa, city officials also had some critical questions for people to consider.

"Know where you live," said Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Nick LoCicero. "If you're truly living in a coastal area, know you'll you need to likely have to evacuate. If you're living adjacent to a coastal area, know what evacuation zone you do live in."

"Where you're going to evacuate, what you're going to do with your pets," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn recommended. "What are you going to do with senior citizens? Are you looking out with your neighbors, particularly those who are [homebound] or elderly? Do you have your supplies ready?"

He's talking about supplies like flashlights, batteries, radios, prescription medications, and non-perishable foods.

Water, gas, and generators were three items that flew off store shelves and quickly ran out before Irma.

Now might be a good time to stock up on cases of water to avoid the empty shelves later.

Fill your gas tank often and buy gas cans for extra fuel supplies. 

Some might also consider buying a generator while stores have them in stock. If you already have one, make sure to test it out.

Experts also say, if you live in a flood-prone area, don't skimp on insurance.

"It's extra money but if something happens, if we have a flood, if we have an unusual rain event and you don't have flood insurance and you have water damage, your homeowner's insurance and your renter's insurance will not cover it," Womble said.

Florida holds a Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, which begins Friday, June 1 through June 7.

Be prepared: Florida tax holiday for hurricane supplies is June 1-7

The sales tax holiday allows Floridians to buy eligible items like batteries, gas containers, flashlights, and other disaster supplies tax-free.

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