What first responders want you to know before a storm

They're leaving their families to help protect yours

By Candace Campos - Meteorologist

ORLANDO, Fla. - When the worst happens, you might find comfort in knowing Central Florida is home to some great first responders, but during a serious storm, the reality is, they may not always be able to get to you in the event of an emergency.

While you're at home, preparing and riding out the storm, they’re leaving their families so they can protect the community the best they can.

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Unfortunately, high winds and water levels prevent rescue crews from responding to calls, which means there could be times during  the duration of the storm when no one can come to help. 

“If the risk is too great, with little benefit, then we have to reevaluate our response to that area,” Orange County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Brett Wasmund said.

To make it easier on both you and first responders, Wasmund had the following few tips on how you can prepare and protect yourself during and after a storm:

1. Know when to evacuate

If you are under mandatory evacuation, evacuate. This is not only for the safety of residents living there, but also protecting first responders who might have to come to save you.

2. Plan ahead to meet medical needs

If you or a loved one is medically dependent and is in need of electricity for equipment, make arrangements ahead of time. This includes preregistering at a qualified medical shelter near your home.

3. Stay off the roads

Don’t be on the roads unless absolutely necessary. Officials will issue mandatory curfews during and sometimes after a storm, depending on road conditions.

4. Be cautious after the storm

After the storm, be extremely careful when going around your property or neighborhood to survey any damage. Stay away from any power lines and downed trees. Contact your power company.  

When the storm is over, OCFR mobilizes the Citizen Assistance Response Team called CART. The special team works to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, so other first responders are available to answer to serious emergencies. Following Hurricane Irma in 2017, CART responded to more than 500 calls for service. 

This team covers a variety of needs after a storm, which can include passing out water, rescuing people from floodwaters, distributing tarps, patching roofs and removing downed trees or other debris blocking roadways. 

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“You never know when that storm is going to happen. Take those (warnings) seriously so when that storm is as big as they say it is, you are in a situation where you can protect your family, which helps us protect ours, and (avoid) taking unnecessary risks” said Wasmund.

Returning home after a storm is a big priority for Wasmund. In his 20 years with the Orange County Fire service, he's never gone through a storm at home with his wife and daughter. He said that's because when a dangerous storm is threatening, an all call goes out for all firefighters to report to their stations. 

It's because of these tips Wasmund said his wife -- or as he calls her, his "unsung hero" --  has been able to care for their home through every storm.

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“For my wife, I give her a lot of credit for seeing herself and our daughter through those storms, knowing I’m not the person that she can call on for help," Wasmund said. "So that's where it's important to get everything done as those storms hit, and be prepared so your mind is in the right spot as you are helping others."

Hurricane season begins June 1 and goes through Nov. 30.

For more tips on how to prepare your home and family, go to ClickOrlando.com/Hurricane.

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