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Pinellas County Advises Businesses On Hurricane Preparedness

List of people on meeting to prepare for businesses for hurricanes. Includes picture of hurricane and pictures from preparedness kit on top.
Pinellas County
A team of Pinellas County officials hosted a summit on Wednesday to prepare businesses for potential hurricanes.

Hurricane season started June 1, and Pinellas County is making sure businesses are prepared and ready to  act in case of a disaster.

At a recent summit, county officials advised businesses on what to do before, during, and after a storm.

“We want our businesses to get back open as quickly as possible,” said Cathie Perkins, the county’s Emergency Management Director.

Officials said communication is key and encouraged businesses to sign up for Alert Pinellas, get battery-powered radios, and maintain contact with the county.

Josh Boatwright, the county’s Public Information Officer, also said that best way to keep the county informed of developments in your area is through social media, using “#Pinellas, whatever the name of the storm is.”

“We definitely look to our partners in the business community and community partners to really try to amplify our main messages so that we can answer a lot of people's questions that way,” he said. “But we do have folks on social media and on live chat, particularly Facebook, who can interact with users to answer questions if people are unclear about some of the information that we're putting out.”

Pinellas is also looking for alternative hurricane shelters to decrease the number of people at each location during the coronavirus pandemic.

Perkins is asking businesses to consider becoming host homes to help house employees who need to evacuate.

“Is your business outside of the evacuation zone? Is the building strong enough and secure enough? Would you allow your employees to come in?” she said. “And communicating that to them so they can make that plan in advance.”

At public shelters, they are increasing the sanitation and ensuring staff have extra personal protection equipment available, and Perkins is also working with hotels in the area to serve as non-congregate shelters.

All evacuation locations will be required to maintain social distancing standards, and people will be required to wear masks inside.

Director Mike Meidel of Pinellas County Economic Development said after a storm, it’s essential businesses quickly fill out a damage assessment form at FloridaDisaster.biz, a joint effort between the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM).

It includes details specific to businesses, such as what they need to provide to return to a business in an evacuation zone.

“One of the key things we need to do is immediately indicate to the governor and to our congressman that the damage has been strong enough to validate an emergency disaster declaration by the federal government to get FEMA funds here,” he said.

Businesses are encouraged to get re-entry passes now, instead of rushing during the two or three days before a storm hits.

“If you don't have these passes, and they do start allowing you back into the beaches, your owners won't be able to get there, the residents won't be able to get there,” said Fire and Rescue Chief Jevin Graham. “You'll be locked out without this proof of reentry.”