FMB Fire Department Has Advice
Fort Myers Beach residents are no strangers to emergency preparations, living on a barrier island with an annual six-month hurricane season. With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, locals must prepare for a 14-day or longer quarantine, should they or someone they encounter contract it. Fort Myers Beach Executive Assistant Fire Chief of Life Safety & Support Services Ron Martin discussed what to have on-hand should you need to self-quarantine, and how these differ from hurricane precautions.
“You do not need an evacuation plan nor register at local shelters! In fact, we want you staying home, with just the immediate members of your household, practicing social distancing of 6 feet or more, following the best advice from your health and public officials. This is not the time to host a neighborhood barbeque or cocktail party, not even in your backyard, so do not invite your friends over.”
Chief Martin reminded, “You do not need to worry about losing electricity, as the coronavirus will not affect the power grid, so binge-watch all the television you want in air-conditioned comfort! Unlike in hurricanes, where you can lose power for days at a time, you can keep frozen foods in your refrigerator, but refrain from panic buying and only purchase reasonable amounts of food, without storing away every roll of toilet paper you can! Grocery stores are remaining open, so if you run low, family or friends can shop for you or they can deliver. Stop hoarding bottled water and stick to your normal consumption. Remember, while your air conditioning is keeping you comfortable watching television, turn on your faucet and water magically comes out!”
File of Life
“You do not need to stockpile your medications, because we anticipate pharmacies will remain open, but this is the perfect opportunity to update your medical history and ‘File of Life.’ If you need more information on how to start your ‘File of Life,’ see our website at prevention@FMBFire.org. While we advocate cash on-hand during a hurricane, should power go out and credit card machines and ATMs no longer work, now we actually advise the opposite. Coronavirus can be on money, and we want you to limit your social interactions, so use your credit or debit cards more than normal. Keep a little hand sanitizer on you, to give your hands a quick clean after you touch the credit card confirmation buttons, then when you get home, immediately do a thorough handwashing. Full tanks of gas are not a necessity, as we don’t want you out-and-about a great deal anyway, but don’t ride on ‘E’ either!”
While you do not need to pack your homeowner, flood and auto insurance policies along with other pertinent documents, “since we are all in our houses looking for things to do, this is the perfect opportunity to review all these as well as your medical insurance policy and emergency contacts,” emphasized Chief Martin. “Update your Living Will and designate who can act on your behalf should medical conditions dictate that you need a surrogate. Reach out to them and others to find out how they are, as with social distancing, people can get lonely. Here at the FMB Fire Department, we make telephone calls to people that we call ‘Messages of Hope,’ along with social media cards, that allow us to social distance while letting folks in our community know that they are not alone and we are all in this together.”
Stronger, Better, Healthier
This is a great time to check your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, the Chief reminded, “and if you have a fire extinguisher, make sure it is still good. Do a high risk assessment of your house, especially if you have elderly family members, so check extension cords, make sure throw rugs are secure and install night lights, as when we age, our night vision is no longer that good. Remember your pets; not only do they need their food, water and medications, but one of Governor Ron DeSantis’s essential exemptions is you can still take them to your veterinarian. This is a good time to contact Lee County for their animal license and to update their immunization records. Research is indicating that cats may be able to catch coronavirus, so thoroughly wash your hands before and after you pet them.”
Social media can be your best friend, but Chief Martin cautioned, “Be careful who you follow for good advice! There is excellent information in the social media world, but there is a lot of incorrect stuff as well, so choose your sources wisely and prudently, like the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department webpage. The Center for Disease Control is reliable, Lee County is a great resource, as is the Florida Department of Health. Listen to medical and public professionals and use good sanitary practices, like handwashing, social distancing and common sense. Wash your hands with soap and water (for a minimum of 20 seconds) more than ever before, keep your social distance of 6 feet or more, and socially isolate with your own family, and we can effectively limit, then hopefully eliminate the coronavirus. Stop hoarding hand sanitizer, as it is far less effective than good old-fashioned soap and water. Hand sanitizers are just for a quick zap to neutralize the germs, then once you get home, use soap and water to thoroughly clean your hands.”
Chief Martin’s biggest message to our community? “The women and men of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department are here to serve you, so we ask everybody to heed the advice of our public health and government officials to ‘shelter in place’ for our own good. We offer a special thanks to our partners from the Town of Fort Myers Beach for their swift and bold actions to best protect our citizens. These sacrifices impact our everyday lives, but we are all in this together, and I have no doubt that together we will all come through this as a stronger, better and healthier community!”
- Ron Martin, Fort Myers Beach Fire Department Executive Assistant Chief of Life Safety & Support Services. Photo provided.
- An empty Times Square at noon on April 7 confirms that Fort Myers Beach is following ‘Stay at Home’ orders. Photo by M. Layfield.