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Hurricane Preparedness: Quiet Time = Good Time to Plan

Annually, November 30th is Miami’s benchmark date signaling the official end of hurricane season. Until that time, vigilance is a necessity, and that includes staying well-stocked with essential hurricane supplies in the event of a late-in-season storm.

While preparations are important throughout South Florida, Brickell Avenue high-rise residents and those who live near the edge of Biscayne Bay are especially vulnerable to the force of high winds and high tides, so there are additional steps required to prepare and protect your home.

John Morales, meteorologist for NBC6 and himself a Brickell resident on the 12th floor of his condo, says, “These quiet times are the time to think of the different steps that we need to take to get ready.”

Make a Friends, Family & Pet Personal Safety Plan

Whether you’re an individual or part of a larger family, Morales stresses first and foremost that all residents must have a plan in place and it needs to incorporate preparation for pets, children and any special needs or elderly family members. Take time to prepare by visiting websites that offer important guidelines and information necessary for effective hurricane disaster planning.

Know Your Association’s Storm Prep Requirements

For condominium dwellers, each household’s plan needs to incorporate the mandates of their condo association’s management plan.

When living in a condominium you are not fully in control; there are limitations

to what a homeowner can do to their property and residents are expected to comply with the condo requirements. “Be aware of where you live and what the condo’s requirements are,” Morales advised.

According to Orlando Velazquez, property manager at the 1060 Brickell Condo, residents are required to secure their residence and remove all items stored on balconies in the event of a Hurricane Watch. According to Velazquez, buildings built after 2003 were all constructed with hurricane-impact glass so shutters are not required.

What if your windows are not impact-resistant?

If you don’t have impact-resistant windows, for some residents it is necessary and required that they put up shutters. Each condominium has its own set of rules and plans so be sure to familiarize yourself with your own building’s specifications.

Gail Feldman, BHA president and president of her condo association at Bristol Tower which was built a decade prior to the installation of impact windows, said that currently unit owners in her building are not required to have shutters or impact glass. However, many homeowners have installed shutters choosing among two or three of the building management’s recommended companies. These are ones that understand and conform to the Bristol’s particular stipulations.

“There is now a movement by some of our owners to install impact-resistant glass windows, as specified and approved by the Bristol Association. We have not yet mandated that all unit owners be protected by one of these forms of protection,” Feldman said.

In terms of preparation, Bristol unit owners are expected to close their shutters when notified to do so, with assistance if needed. The same applies to any objects on the balcony, such as plants and furniture which must be removed. And if the owners are out of town, management will enter the units and complete the work for the owners.

Evacuations are announced to all unit owners and in the past Feldman said, “Many owners leave the building but some chose to stay. To date, we do not go door to door demanding that everyone leave the building.”

Blanche Back, a long-time resident of Brickell Biscayne on 25th Road says that, “the building has mandated shutters; however, we have allowed owners to install hurricane-proof windows. And employees and management help any resident who requires or requests assistance with putting up their shutters.” Brickell Biscayne also requires that balconies be cleared and if the owner is out of town; management will do the clearing for them and prepare their unit.

The Wind Equation: Hurricanes and High-Rise Living

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Brickell Avenue high rise office building windows damaged by Hurricane Wilma. Photo © Jeff Greenberg

When watching a storm develop and discussing what “category” a hurricane might reach, John Morales reminds us that the higher the elevation, the higher the wind speed.

“The wind speed will increase very rapidly when it is just 100 or 200 feet off the ground. So, by the time you get to these very tall buildings, the wind speed is easily a full category above what the wind classification is,” he said.

For example, the people on the 20th floor and above will feel a hurricane a full category strength stronger. This is a relatively recent discovery.

“We started to learn these things when the trackers switched from radio to GPS tracking and began to monitor how fast the wind was moving as it dropped to the ground,” he said. “Now there’s a fine resolution of measurements going down all the way until it falls into the ocean or land. And now they are incorporating this into their advisories…extra precautions for condo dwellers.”

Meteorologists measure this with a dropsonde, a tube that’s filled with instrumentation that measures air pressure and calculates the way the wind moves all the way to the ground with a GPS tracker inside.

“For 72, It’s Up To You”

stormcategoriesMr. Morales also emphasized that Brickell residents should be informed about the 72-hour self-sufficiency request government officials and meteorologists alike are including in their preparedness message. For 72, It’s Up To You means people should be prepared to be on their own for 72 hours after the storm without needing supplies or power.

“This is a new message that we have been spreading since hurricanes like Katrina and Wilma. Brickell is fortunate in that it is somewhat unique because it is my understanding that the power tends to come back more quickly because it’s so densely populated,” Morales said. “However, even with that said, still best to follow the 72-hour rule.”

When it comes to electronic gadgets like cell phones and tablets, it is advisable to conserve power through external batteries. Be sure to charge all your devices early in advance of the storm. Consider investing in a hand-crank emergency radio that includes a cell phone charger.

“These devices and supplies are relatively inexpensive, he said. Investing in the right supplies can keep those devices going for a long time,” he said.

Storm Surge Precautions

If the Brickell area gets a significant enough storm, there will be a storm surge to deal with, obviously a significant threat to some of the buildings with underground parking and any other type of parking lots that flood. For this reason, it is wise to plan ahead to move the car from any ground level or underground parking because of the threat of sea water entering the car.

The City of Miami and Miami Parking Authority offer the Miami Vehicle Protection Program which enables those pre-registered to park one vehicle per household free of charge in one of the Miami Parking Authority’s five municipal garages. The program is available to all residents and employees of the City of Miami at any Miami Parking Authority Municipal Garage with sign up generally opening in May for the coming hurricane season. (This year is full.) Depending on need, the Miami Resident Vehicle Storage Program (MVP) may be put into effect if other natural disasters require us to do so.

Participants must pre-register for the free Miami Resident Vehicle Storage Program through the website (miamiparking.com) or through a NET Office (BHA’s closest office is located in Mary Brickell Village).

In essence, it is vital to remember these few points, said Morales:

“You do not want to stay in your high-floor residence, and you also do not want to go outside. That’s why the plan is so important. If evacuation is necessary, a plan of action is crucial.”

Remember the key to success is to educate yourself and make your personal safety plan during the quiet times!

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Brickell residents are among the earliest for recommended evacuation in the case of a hurricane, but there are no hard and fast rules as to when the call will be made to evacuate. It is up to the emergency management officials. Residents should monitor local media, the Miami-DadeCounty website and your building’s condo management team for up-to-date information about evacuation.

Miami-Dade County has numerous online tools and downloadable information links to help you prepare for a storm and to educate you about evacuation procedures.

www.miamidade.gov/fire/evacuations.asp

The American Red Cross offers a Hurricane Tracker app to help you monitor local conditions throughout the storm track, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out. The Red Cross also offers a comprehensive Hurricane Readiness website.

App available for iPhone and Android.

www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/hurricane-app

Hurricane Preparedness

www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/hurricane

From BHA News Vol. XXIV No. 2, Summer/Fall 2014