By Tamas Mondovics

The message was simple at this year’s Severe Weather Awareness Week promoted by Hillsborough County officials as it urged residents to be prepared year-round by signing up for HCFL Alert, the county’s official mass notification system.

Led by the theme, “Don’t Be Caught off Guard During Weather Emergencies – Stay Safe and Sign Up for HCFL Alert,” the event held during the week of January 22-26, focused on five distinctive natural hazards.

The event covered lightning, marine hazards and rip-currents, tornadoes and thunderstorms, temperature extremes and the most often discussed in the region—hurricanes and flooding respectively.

Last year saw one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent history, and Hillsborough County was no exception as Hurricane Irma brought tropical storm force winds and heavy rains to the area.

Hillsborough County has joined state emergency officials in promoting Severe Weather Awareness Week, a time to focus on the state’s potential natural hazards and help people learn how to prepare and cope with them safely.

“Planning is a big part of the emphasis, and Hillsborough County emergency managers urge residents to prepare for the worst by having a plan before disaster strikes,” said Hillsborough County Emergency management director Preston Cook during last year’s preparation for the busy hurricane season.

Cook added that it is easy to forget hazardous conditions year-round, and emphasized that while a significant effort is placed on promoting hurricane awareness, residents often focus their preparedness efforts only during hurricane season.

“Other types of severe weather can be just as devastating,” Cook said.  

One specific safety tool to help stay prepared year-round is the HCFL Alert to receive time-sensitive, important messages about emergencies and non-emergency events in Hillsborough County.

According to officials last year, Hillsborough County emergency managers used HCFL Alert to keep residents informed before, during, and after Hurricane Irma by providing real-time messages regarding sandbag distribution, evacuation orders, and flooding dangers.

For more information about Hillsborough County’s Office of Emergency Management, and to sign up for HCFL Alert, visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe.