MIAMI – Sept. 12, 2018 – As three hurricanes plow across the Atlantic, a poll released Monday found significant gaps in Floridians' knowledge about how to get safely through hurricane season.
Few knew that a poorly secured garage door could allow the storm to penetrate their homes. A lower number than in 2017 knew that a badly placed generator could kill their family with carbon monoxide gas. And few knew that the possession of homeowners insurance wouldn't protect them from a severe financial hit after the storm.
"We're not going to stop the hurricanes," said Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and former Florida emergency management director, speaking on a telephone news conference to release the poll.
"The way we change the outcomes is to make sure we have insurance to protect our homes and our valuables against losses and we take steps to fortify our homes before storms threaten, that we have our supplies, both for our pets and for our families, and if we're in an evacuation zone, we don't hesitate. We head the evacuation."
The poll of 1,000 registered voters in Florida was conducted from Aug. 23 to Sept. 2 for Get Ready! Florida, a partnership that promotes hurricane preparedness. Here are some key findings:
Garage doors: Just 8 percent mentioned garage doors when asked about the most vulnerable parts of their home.
"I think people get the roofs and the windows and the shuttering, but they're leaving one part of their house vulnerable, and that's garage doors," Fugate said. "If you get a breach of those doors, or a breach anywhere in the house, that is going to lead to the most likely devastation of the home. … It's something that people need to fortify."
Insurance: Here's a scary fact about insurance – the typical hurricane deductible is $5,000. Didn't know that? Neither did 85 percent of the people polled.
"And a hurricane deductible is one of the largest short-term financial obligations following a disaster that any of us face," said Guy McClurkan, executive director of the FAIR Foundation, an organization that promotes insurance reform. "There's a really huge financial risk in just being able to meet post-storm financial obligations in order to protect your home."
Generators: Although these are a well-known hazard, 39 percent wrongly believed that it was safe to place a generator in a room with an open window, a crawl space, balcony, garage or attic. That's an increase from 32 percent last year, and it shows awareness may be fading that portable generators generate lethal gases.
"We thought we had the message out – don't put a generator in your house or next to your house or in your carport or in your garage," Fugate said. "But our survey says those numbers are going back up. We're seeing an increase of people who don't understand the risk of generators. It's a potentially fatal mistake to run a generator in an enclosed space or where the exhaust can get into a home."
Evacuation: Eighteen percent said they would refuse to evacuate, even if a Category 3 or 4 hurricane was predicted to hit within 10 miles of their home. If the storm were "merely" a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, the number that would not evacuate climbed to 58 percent.
Pets: People put their pets ahead of a lot of other things. The poll found the number of people who assembled pet supplies "well in advance" to be 80 percent, compared with 61 percent for supplies of food, 60 percent for window protection and 59 percent for water supplies.
"We did get some good news in the survey," Fugate said. "I think the pets are going to be OK."
Copyright © 2018 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), David Fleshler. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.