Sarasota Co. making new plans for hurricane evacuations

- As Hurricane Irma approached Florida, emergency management officials warned the public it was time to leave. 

Shelters filled to capacity as people evacuated. 

"There are some people who did go to shelters. Of course, it's not the most pleasant experience, but they're safe," said Josette Largent. 

Largent kept a close eye on Irma from out of state. Many of her neighbors at Venetian Park Estates in Osprey packed up to leave. 

"The most difficult thing I heard from some people is they brought animals or animals weren't allowed to go to certain places," she said. 

Those are just a few challenges that many faced. Josette and others in her community formed a safety plan for their residents. 

Officials in Sarasota County are working with former FEMA director Craig Fugate to come up with an improved plan. 

"We'd open up a couple of shelters [and] they'd fill up. Now we [have] to go back and tell people other shelters are opening up, yet they only heard the first message and you've got people showing up to shelters that are already full," said Fugate. 

Fugate suggests announcing evacuations by regions and not zones. He said opening all shelters at once and making all shelters pet-friendly would encourage people to leave. 

"If we don't need all that space it's much easier to close shelters than to keep trying to open them up and stay ahead of the evacuation," he said. 

He reminds everyone that public shelters should be a last resort when people have nowhere else to go. 

If you know someone who is not in an evacuation zone it's best to stay with them. Fugate's suggestions will go into an after-active final report. 

It'll be presented publicly to the Sarasota County Commission on March 14. 

He said there is always room for improvement when it comes to keeping people safe. 

"Let's solve this for the public and make it easy for them and reduce the barriers that people come up with to refuse to evacuate," he said. 

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