Sunday, January 30, 2011


As part of the annual Severe Weather Awareness Week public preparedness campaign, Florida emergency management officials today joined Radio Disney to announce the winners of the annual poster and video public service announcement contests at a kickoff event at Downtown Disney in Lake Buena Vista.

“Severe Weather Awareness Week is designed to educate our residents and visitors about the potential weather hazards that affect the Sunshine State,” said David Halstead, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “I applaud this year’s poster and public service announcement contest winners for their creativity in providing potentially lifesaving disaster preparedness information about these weather hazards.”

More than 800 students statewide participated in the poster and video public service announcement contests, through a partnership with the American Red Cross.

Poster Contest Winners:
1st Place: Miranda Shellenbarger
5th Grade
Eastside Elementary School, Brooksville, Florida

2nd Place: Kaitlyn Boncaro
5th Grade
Forest Lake Elementary School, Deltona, Florida

3rd Place: Virginia Villarreal
5th Grade
Westside Elementary School, Clewiston, Florida

Video PSA Contest Winners:
Middle School Category: Sean Reagan and Garret Johnson
Diplomat Middle School
Cape Coral, Florida

High School Category: Joey Engelman, Christopher Taylor,
Paul Capone, Alfonso Duran
Pembroke Pines Charter High School
Pembroke Pines, Florida

Additional Severe Weather Awareness Week sponsors include the Florida Association of Broadcasters, the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association, the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association, I.D.E.A.S, and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

To learn more about Severe Weather Awareness Week, visit For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and GET A PLAN!, please visit: Follow us on Twitter at or join our blog at:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are urging beachgoers along the Gulf and southeastern Atlantic coasts to use extreme caution as a high risk of rip currents is expected today. The cold, gusty conditions will bring a high risk of dangerous rip currents to coastal counties from Escambia to Dixie County, Citrus to Monroe County, and Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties as well.

“The same system that is bringing the threat of severe weather to the state will also cause rough waves and rip currents along the Florida Gulf Coast and southeastern Atlantic coast,” said State Meteorologist Amy Godsey. “With these conditions, residents and visitors to the beaches of Florida should check the rip current outlook before entering the water and follow any instructions from safety officials.”

A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water that runs perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet (61 to 762 meters) lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Also, rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) or faster and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.

In Florida, rip currents kill more people annually than thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes combined. They are the number-one concern for beach lifeguards. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents. The greatest safety precaution that can be taken is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards.

When at the beach:
• Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
• Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches.
• Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify hazards. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water. This is part of their job.
• Learn how to swim in the surf. It's not the same as swimming in a pool or lake. Also, never swim alone.
• Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.
• Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.
• Pay especially close attention to children and persons who are elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.

If caught in a rip current:
• Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Never fight against the current.
• Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
• Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle--away from the current--towards shore.
• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.

If you see someone in trouble, don't become a victim too:
• Get help from a lifeguard.
• If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
• Throw the rip current victim something that floats--a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
• Yell instructions on how to escape.
• Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

Follow safe boating practices:
• Have a VHF Marine Band Radio and NOAA Weather Radio on board.
• Check the marine forecast well ahead of time.
• Know the limitations of your boat. If small craft advisories or gale warnings are issued, you should postpone travel.
• Be sure everyone aboard is wearing a life jacket.
• File a float plan at your marina.
• Thunderstorms and weather-related hazards form quickly. Never let these storms cut off your route back to land.

Beachgoers who want to learn more about rip currents can visit Boaters can go to to check the current marine conditions and updated forecasts. For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: Follow us on Twitter at or join our blog at:


State and local emergency management officials are urging residents and visitors along the Florida Peninsula to stay alert and exercise caution as a potentially severe storm system moves east into the state today and tonight.

“The Storm Prediction Center has placed all of the Florida Peninsula and far eastern Florida Big Bend in an area for an enhanced risk of severe storms from Tuesday afternoon through early Wednesday morning,” said State Meteorologist Amy Godsey. “This severe weather threat will persist overnight and we strongly encourage residents and visitors across the region to monitor this weather system and to be prepared to act if warnings are issued.”

This storm system will have the potential to produce tornadoes, damaging wind gusts and hail, especially during the overnight hours, along with one to three inches of rain. Residents and visitors to the state should monitor local media outlets and ensure that their NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio alert settings are turned on.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: Follow us on Twitter at or join our blog at:

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Governor Rick Scott and Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll made their first official visit to the State Emergency Operations Center last week, and received an hour-long briefing on the facility’s capabilities and the role of the State Emergency Response Team during disasters.

Director David Halstead and Major General Emmett Titshaw, the Adjutant General of the Florida National Guard, gave the operations briefing which included an overview of Florida's highly developed response network. This network is composed of hundreds of emergency management partners at the local, state and federal level to ensure a rapid and effective response in the event of a disaster.

Governor Scott commended both Director Halstead and Maj. General Titshaw for their outstanding service to the state, and acknowledged the Division of Emergency Management’s "international reputation" for its high preparedness and response standards. Senior agency staff were on hand to brief Governor Scott and Lt. Governor Carroll on numerous issues, including: evacuations, disaster logistics, communications, food and medical supply distribution and other key functions of the state’s responsibilities during disasters.

"We have a great team and the state is well prepared," said Governor Scott at the conclusion of the briefing.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: Follow us on Twitter at or join our blog at:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are urging residents and visitors to use caution during the work week as patches of dense fog may affect many Florida roadways statewide through Thursday morning.

“An increasingly humid air mass ahead of an approaching cold front, along with warmer than normal overnight temperatures and calm winds, will create conditions that are favorable for dense fog formation across much of the Florida Panhandle and Florida Peninsula early Wednesday and Thursday morning,” said Amy Godsey, State Meteorologist. “The dense fog is expected to lift by mid-morning. Until then, motorists traveling in these areas should remain alert and prepared for sudden drops in visibility.”

Should driving conditions be impaired, the National Weather Service will issue a Dense Fog Advisory, which means visibilities may be reduced to less than one-quarter mile. Drivers should avoid traveling in dense fog and follow these safety tips:

• During the morning hours when fog is heavier, slow down and allow for extra space between vehicles.
• Use low-beam headlights and be prepared to stop on short notice.
• Avoid driving distractions such as mobile phones and music devices.
• Monitor local road conditions for possible road closures.
• Use extreme caution and allow extra time to reach your destination.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: Follow us on Twitter at or join our blog at:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are urging residents and visitors across Florida to prepare for temperatures near or below the freezing point tonight through Thursday. Very strong northwesterly winds will push an arctic air mass into the Southeast United States throughout the day which will cause frigid daytime and overnight temperatures about ten to twenty degrees below normal with colder wind chill values. Freeze and Hard Freeze Warnings are in place for 60 of Florida’s 67 counties tonight and may be extended for portions of the state into Thursday and Friday. A Wind Chill Advisory is expected to be in effect for nearly all of Florida by tonight.

“The duration and intensity of these cold temperatures can pose a danger to pipes, pets, agriculture and persons without adequate shelter or heating,” said Division of Emergency Management Director David Halstead. “We urge all Floridians to take the necessary precautions to protect their families and property from this cold weather event.”

A Hard Freeze Warning is in effect for all of North Florida, with temperatures dropping below freezing just before midnight and reaching the mid to upper 20s before sunrise both Wednesday and Thursday. The Hard Freeze Warning includes Alachua, Bay, Baker, Bradford, Calhoun, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Franklin, Gilchrist, Gulf, Gadsden, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Marion, Nassau, Okaloosa, Putnam, Santa Rosa, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Wakulla, Walton and Washington counties.

There is also a Freeze Warning in effect for all interior and western counties in Central Florida Wednesday night with freezing temperatures expected for three to six hours early Thursday morning. Glades, Hendry, inland Collier and western Palm Beach counties are under a Freeze Warning tonight for four to seven hour durations of temperatures between 27 and 32 degrees. Freeze Warnings may be issued once again for most of these areas on Thursday night.

In addition, winds between 5 and 15 mph overnight will produce wind chill values in the teens across North Florida and in the low 20s to low 30s throughout Central and South Florida. Wind Chill Advisories are possible across North Florida for Thursday night as well.

Wind Chill Advisories or Warnings mean the combination of very cold air and strong winds will make temperatures feel colder than they actually are. Hard Freeze Warnings and Freeze Warnings are issued when sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely for a prolonged period of time.

These conditions can kill crops and other sensitive vegetation. Young children, the elderly and the homeless are especially vulnerable to the cold so take measures to protect them. Exposed water pipes need to have adequate protection from the cold temperatures.

Residents and visitors should remember the "Five P's" of cold weather safety. The “5 P’s” are: Protecting People, Protecting Plants, Protecting Pets, Protecting Exposed Pipes, and Practicing Fire Safety.

The following actions are important safety measures:

• Stay indoors and use safe heating sources.
• Be aware of the fire danger from space heaters and candles. Keep such devices at least three feet away from all flammable materials such as curtains and furniture, and install recommended smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
• Indoors: Do not use charcoal or other fuel-burning devices, such as grills that produce carbon monoxide. Install at least one carbon monoxide detector per floor in your home.
• Outdoors: Stay dry and in wind-protected areas.
• Wear multiple layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing.
• Drink non-alcoholic fluids.
• Shelter or bring inside animals, especially pets.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: Follow us on Twitter at or join our blog at: