Prepare for hurricane season with sales tax holiday

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – May 26, 2017 – Hurricane season officially starts Thursday. Are you ready? Do you have enough water and non-perishable food to last three days to a week? Do you have a flashlight, batteries  radio?

Florida had a nice long run of 11 years without a hurricane making landfall. Our luck ran out last year when Hurricane Hermine hit the Panhandle in September and Hurricane Matthew swept across the east coast in October.

In the days and hours before the storms arrived, stores sold out of batteries, water, propane and other storm necessities. Instead of waiting for a storm to threaten, save yourself time and money by preparing now.

The Florida Legislature approved a three-day “disaster preparedness” sales tax holiday June 2 through June 4, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law May 25. Scott, who had proposed a nine-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday, signed off on the shortened tax holiday as well as a three-day back-to-school sales tax holiday for school supplies and clothes starting Aug. 4, and the elimination of sales taxes on feminine-hygiene products, known as the tampon tax.

Items that will be tax-free during the disaster preparedness holiday include: reusable ice packs up to $10; flashlights and lanterns costing $20 or less; a gas or diesel fuel tank selling for $25 or less; batteries, coolers and first-aid kits costing $30 or less; radios and tarps costing $50 or less; and generators costing $750 or less.

According to Florida Tax Watch, a sales tax holiday makes it more likely Floridians will prepare for a hurricane, especially after last hurricane season.

What to bring to a shelter

Usually, evacuees are told to take a few important things to a shelter. Food. Batteries. Flashlights. A change of clothes. Medication. Maybe a book or two and comfort items for children.

But you need more. Here are some ideas for a better shelter experience:

The basics:

  • Bedding, pillows and, if possible, an air mattress or cot. Most Red Cross shelters do NOT have cots and the most comfortable shelter goers had air mattresses like the Intex Comfort Plush Airbed with built-in pump.
  • Get creative, make a bed out of sofa cushions or plastic lounge chairs or pool float.
  • Earplugs and eye masks. Babies scream, people may talk while you’re sleeping. Lights may turn on at daybreak.
  • Pack food that does not need to be heated. The food is limited at shelters, so bring extras such as peanut butter, jelly, bread, fruit and snacks and store them in an ice-packed cooler. Don’t forget a can opener.
  • Drinking water. Shelter officials recommend a gallon a day per person. Err on the generous side, you never know how long a storm will linger.
  • Surge protector and chargers. While the power is on you’ll want to make sure your phones and devices remain charged. There are not many outlets so bringing a surge protector will help and make you popular among your fellow evacuees.

Keep yourself busy:

  • Games, books, cards, magazines. Once the power goes out, so do the televisions.
  • Bring along board games for kids. If you like crafts, pack supplies, such as knitting needles.
  • If you bring a tablet or laptop, realize most shelters, which are public schools, will not allow you to use their wireless network.

The extras:

  • Air freshener. Remember: There could be a few bathrooms for hundreds of people. Also on this note, bring toilet paper and deodorant, just in case.
  • Handheld, battery-powered fans or paper fans. Storms could cut out power and generators likely would be used for lights and kitchen use only.
  • Batteries and portable battery packs. For cell phones, portable televisions, portable video games, etc.

Basic disaster supplies kit

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Cash and change

Copyright © 2017 the Treasure Coast Newspapers (Stuart, Fla.), Kelly Tyko. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.