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Hurricane season advice: Consider creating an out-of-state emergency contact

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Earlier this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced its prediction for the 2015 hurricane season, which begins on Monday. The agency predicts the season will be “below normal.”

“A below-normal season doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., referring to the 1992 season in which only seven named storms formed, yet the first was Andrew — a Category 5 Major Hurricane that devastated South Florida.

Now Pinellas County Emergency Services is asking residents to prepare. In a tweet Friday, the agency links to a website recommending the best way for families to make sure that if disaster strikes, they are able to make sure everyone is OK.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Campaign, contacting friends and family out-of-state in an emergency can often be easier than contacting those locally.

The Ready campaign suggestions are a little dated – they were last updated in 2013 – but the message is still the same.

Among the ways the organization suggests families get ready for hurricane season are by creating individual contact cards for every family member, including the kids. Those cards should contain a list of people to contact in an emergency.

While the tips don’t specify this, since hurricanes can get pretty soggy, it’s probably a good idea to get those cards laminated.

An emergency contact should also be listed in everyone’s cell phone as their “ICE” contact (in case of emergency). Law Enforcement Officers and other emergency responders often check a cell phone’s ICE contact in an emergency.

The recommendations are a step outside what’s usually reported in the days preceding hurricane season in which residents in hurricane-prone areas are told to stock up on emergency supplies like non-perishable foods, water and batteries.

The tips are important, though. During a hurricane, phone lines can easily go down. And at a time when many people are using their cell phones, those lines can often get clogged.

The ready campaign also suggests making sure everyone, even not-so-tech savvy grandpa, knows how to send a text message. Those can sometimes get through when calls cannot.

Hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through the end of November. NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 6-11 named storms with 3-6 of those becoming hurricanes. They predict two of those could be Category 3 or higher.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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