Hillsborough emergency officials urge residents to prepare for Hurricane Season

Hillsborough County emergency managers urged the public to start preparing for hurricane season Wednesday, which is less than two weeks away. 

Officials said evacuation zones are expected to change in the coming days or weeks and the most important thing residents can do is regularly check the county's website for an updated map.

"People will see this year that those evacuation zones have updated," said Katja Miller, Human Services and Mass Care Emergency Management program coordinator with Hillsborough County. "We want them to check that regularly throughout the summer as that information is coming out, so they have the most up-to-date information if there is an event and to know as well they really need to pre-plan for where they need to evacuate to if that's the case."

Miller said this is the first time in several years the evacuation zones, which are different from flood zones, are changing. She said the rising sea level and potential for storm surge to flood neighborhoods differently made the update necessary.

RELATED: Pinellas County updates evacuation zones for nearly 48,000 households ahead of hurricane season

Emergency managers are also urging the public to make sure their hurricane prep kit is ready, which should include water, food, medications, batteries, along with supplies for children and pets.

"It's incredibly important to prepare ahead of time for these sorts of things," said Katherine Patino, with Hillsborough Emergency Management. "We never can predict some sort of shortage. When people start to panic, they'll panic buy. And you may not have the opportunity to get what you need to prepare for a storm."

The county is also looking for nearly 100 ham radio volunteer operators. There are currently about 90 volunteers, but emergency managers need roughly double that amount to man as many emergency shelters as possible.

"We do everything from staffing the shelters to supporting the battalion chiefs to supporting the general public," said Bill Miller, who helps coordinate the program. "We think when we support the general public, it could be as something [important] as health and welfare messages."

Other tips from officials: Arrange in advance for loved ones with disabilities who may need transportation assistance. And, as always, make plans for your pets.

Katja Miller is also urging the public to sign up for the county's mass notification system, called HCFL Alert. Emergency alerts include evacuations, flood warnings, severe weather notifications and major road closures.