Emergency Officials Remind Floridians To Have A Plan During National Hurricane Preparedness Week

Emergency Officials Remind Floridians To Have A Plan During National Hurricane Preparedness Week

Emergency Officials Remind Floridians To Have A Plan During National Hurricane Preparedness Week

~2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st~

Hurricane Season is June 1-Nov 30

National Hurricane Preparedness Week began Sunday, May 25 and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) urges all Floridians to use this week to prepare for hurricane season, which begins June 1. All Floridians should review family and business emergency plans and restock disaster supply kits.

“Each year, National Hurricane Preparedness Week reminds Floridians that it only takes one storm to change the landscape of a community,” said FDEM Director Bryan W. Koon. “This year, on the 10th anniversary of the 2004 hurricane season, I urge all Floridians to take steps to prepare themselves and their families for the upcoming hurricane season.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) released its annual outlook for the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season on May 22. Forecasters predict between 8 and 13 named storms, of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes including 1 to 2 major hurricanes.



Hurricane Preparedness Week: The Deadly Threat of Inland Flooding & Intense Winds

Hurricane Preparedness Week: The Deadly Threat of Inland Flooding & Intense Winds.

Hurricane Preparedness Week: The Deadly Threat of Inland Flooding & Intense Winds

FEMA Twitter  FEMA Facebook Channel  FEMA Ready YouTube Channel  View as web page

May 29, 2014

The National Preparedness Community

Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, high winds, tornadoes, and rip currents. Gaining a better understanding of tropical cyclones and hurricane hazards will help to make a more informed decision on your risk and what actions to take.

Today we’re talking about high wind and inland flooding two incredibly deadly and destructive elements of hurricanes. Read, watch and share! 

Inland Flooding: The Deadliest Element

When these powerful storms move over land, they lose wind strength but continue to dump massive amounts of rain into streams, rivers and lakes, posing a serious threat of inland flooding. These floods account for more than 50 percent of hurricane-related deaths each year.

Watch this short and shareable video of National Hurricane Center (NHC) Hurricane Specialist John Cangialosi discussing the deadly danger of inland flooding caused by tropical cyclones and hurricanes.


Inland FloodingShare this video about inland flooding!

Wind Scales: Judging Hurricane Intensity

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage. Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, however, and require preventative measures. In the western North Pacific, the term “super typhoon” is used for tropical cyclones with sustained winds exceeding 150 mph.

Share more information about Storm Surges

Don’t have it yet? Download the Hurricane Preparedness Toolkit and start spreading the word about #HurricanePrep.


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Property owners better protected as hurricane season nears

Property owners better protected as hurricane season nears.

Property owners better protected as hurricane season nears

Citizens has a record $7.6B in reserves to pay claims

(Courtesy National Oceanic…)
May 24, 2014|By Donna Gehrke-White, Sun Sentinel

As hurricane season bears down on us, Floridians finally can feel some security about their insurance coverage.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. says it stands in its best financial condition ever: smaller, richer and better able to weather the type of major storm Florida has dodged for eight years.

Citizens holds a record $7.6 billion surplus and has reduced its risk by shedding 30 percent of its policies in two years, including more than 46,000 policies in Palm Beach County and almost 70,000 policies in Broward County.

For property owners, the improved finances provide some assurance that they won’t face extra charges to bail out Citizens if catastrophe strikes. That burden would fall on all property owners, not just Citizens’ policyholders.

But some consumer advocates warn of another peril. Citizens has shrunk too quickly, they contend, by shuffling policies to smaller, private companies that might not survive a major hurricane.

Where would that leave those property owners? We won’t know for sure until a hurricane hits.

And that’s inevitable.

Florida has not seen a hurricane since Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma walloped the state in 2005. Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Steve Burgess calls the storm-free stretch “the most significant factor” in Citizens’ financial recovery.

Citizens now has enough money to pay for damages if a once-a-century storm strikes inland policyholders, said Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier. Citizens can handle a once-in-70-year storm for coastal clients, Peltier said. (The law requires Citizens to assess those risks separately.)

For comparison, Hurricane Andrew was considered a once-in-50-years storm.

“We are exceptionally well-prepared for a storm,” said Jay Neal, president and CEO for the Florida Association for Insurance Reform, a nonprofit whose members include consumers and insurance-industry representatives.

Less than a decade ago, Citizens faced a far bleaker future, with its money depleted after eight hurricanes hit Florida in 2004 and 2005.

Auto, home and boat insurance policyholders are still paying assessments — extra charges on top of premiums — to replenish Citizens and the state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, known as CAT. The assessments total 2.3 percent of their annual premiums.

Citizens’ financial strength makes a repeat less likely, experts say.

Potential assessments for Citizens have dropped 77 percent since 2011, when Florida policyholders faced the possibility of $11.6 billion in assessments if a once-a-century storm hit. Now the potential assessments stand at $2.7 billion for the 2014 hurricane season, which starts June 1, Peltier said.

“They are getting close to covering [hurricane claims] without assessing,” Consumer Advocate Burgess said.

To shore up finances and reduce its exposure, Citizens has dropped its number of policies from a peak of 1.4 million in April 2012 to 939,342 as of last month.

In Palm Beach County, policies have dropped to 99,618 from 146,290, most of them west of Interstate 95.

In Broward County, they have dropped to 141,297 from 211,174. Again, most of them are west of Interstate 95.

Some consumer advocates say Citizens has to do a better job of protecting former customers. Some have left Citizens only to end up with companies that later went out of business.

Since Citizens started 12 years ago, six of 31 insurance companies that have participated in its “depopulation” program — an effort to move policies to other insurers — have become insolvent and were liquidated by courts, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

“We have to be more careful of what companies we are pushing people into,” said Sean Shaw, a consumer insurance attorney who formerly served as the state’s insurance consumer advocate.

Bill Newton, executive director of the nonprofit Florida Consumer Action Network, agreed that Citizens has to move more slowly to scrutinize companies before they’re allowed to be part of the program.

Peltier, the Citizens spokesman, said no company can be part of Citizens’ depopulation program unless it has been approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, which has tightened its vetting and now looks more closely at a company’s financial condition and business plan.

“We do a lot more critical analysis,” said Richard Koon, the office’s deputy commissioner of property and casualty insurance. That includes checking on companies’ marketing tactics and ensuring that they have at least $15 million in surplus, up from $5 million previously, Koon said.

Neal, of the insurance reform association, said today’s lower interest rates have helped Citizens and private insurers find cheaper reinsurance, which lessens the chance of a private insurer going broke.

He added that consumers are better protected if a larger pool of private insurers helps spread the risk.

Mortgage broker Adam Cohn encourages his clients to shop around, particularly those buying inland, who would not face a direct hit from a hurricane riding in from the Atlantic.

“Many think Citizens is the only game in town, but other providers can offer a better deal,” he said.

Beginning this year, homeowners cannot automatically sign up for Citizens’ coverage. The Legislature required Citizens to establish a clearinghouse where insurance companies review applications and submit bids for the policies.

Prospective policyholders can be forced to go with other companies if the price is no more than 15 percent higher than Citizens would charge for comparable coverage.

Citizens will expand the clearinghouse to existing customers beginning in August for policies that will begin renewing in the fall, Peltier said.

Currently, 11 insurers participate. The number should increase to 20 by September, Peltier said.

dgehrke@tribune.com or Twitter @donna gehrke


NOAA predicts near-normal or below-normal 2014 Atlantic hurricane season

NOAA predicts near-normal or below-normal 2014 Atlantic hurricane season

NOAA predicts near-normal or below-normal 2014 Atlantic hurricane season

El Niño expected to develop and suppress the number and intensity of 
tropical cyclones

May 22, 2014

2014 Atlantic Hurricane Outlook graphic

2014 Atlantic hurricane outlook.

Download here (Credit:NOAA)

In its 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near-normal or below-normal season.

The main driver of this year’s outlook is the anticipateddevelopment of El Niño this summer. El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms.

The outlook calls for a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.  For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8 to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These numbers are near or below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, based on the average from 1981 to 2010. The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

“Thanks to the environmental intelligence from NOAA’s network of earth observations, our scientists and meteorologists can provide life-saving products like our new storm surge threat map and our hurricane forecasts,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “And even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it’s important to remember it takes only one land falling storm to cause a disaster.”

Satellite view of Humberto, the first of only two Atlantic hurricanes in 2013.

Humberto was the first of only two Atlantic hurricanes in 2013. It reached peak intensity, with top winds of 90 mph, in the far eastern Atlantic.

Download here (Credit:NOAA)

Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said the Atlantic – which has seen above-normal seasons in 12 of the last 20 years – has been in an era of high activity for hurricanes since 1995. However, this high-activity pattern is expected to be offset in 2014 by the impacts of El Niño, and by cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures than we’ve seen in recent years.

“Atmospheric and oceanic conditions across the tropical Pacific are already taking on some El Niño characteristics. Also, we are currently seeing strong trade winds and wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, and NOAA’s climate models predict these conditions will persist, in part because of El Niño,” Bell said. “The expectation of near-average Atlantic Ocean temperatures this season, rather than the above-average temperatures seen since 1995, also suggests fewer Atlantic hurricanes.”

NOAA is rolling out new tools at the National Hurricane Center this year. An experimental mapping tool will be used to show communities their storm surge flood threat. The map will be issued for coastal areas when a hurricane or tropical storm watch is first issued, or approximately 48 hours before the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds. The map will show land areas where storm surge could occur and how high above ground the water could reach in those areas.

Early testing on continued improvements to NOAA’s Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model (HWRF) shows a 10 percent improvement in this year’s model compared to last year. Hurricane forecasters use the HWRF along with other models to produce forecasts and issue warnings.  The HWRF model is being adopted by a number of Western Pacific and Indian Ocean rim nations.

 NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook is not a hurricane landfall forecast; it does not predict how many storms will hit land or where a storm will strike. Forecasts for individual storms and their impacts will be provided throughout the season by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

“It only takes one hurricane or tropical storm making landfall to have disastrous impacts on our communities,” said Joe Nimmich, FEMA associate administrator for Response and Recovery. “Just last month, Pensacola, Florida saw five inches of rain in 45 minutes – without a tropical storm or hurricane. We need you to be ready. Know your risk for hurricanes and severe weather, take action now to be prepared and be an example for others in your office, school or community. Learn more about how to prepare for hurricanes at www.ready.gov/hurricanes.”

Next week, May 25-31, is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. To help those living in hurricane-prone areas prepare, NOAA offers hurricane preparedness tips, along with video and audio public service announcements in both English and Spanish, featuring NOAA hurricane experts and the FEMA Administrator at www.hurricanes.gov/prepare.

NOAA’s outlook for the Eastern Pacific basin is for a near-normal or above-normal hurricane season, and the Central Pacific basin is also expected to have a near-normal or above-normal season. NOAA will issue an updated outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the historical peak of the season.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us onFacebookTwitter and our other social media channels.





For as long as I can remember bloggers have been debating commenting systems. Which one is the best? Which one is the easiest? Which one does the most cool stuff? It’s a minefield out there. And probably the reason why this is so hotly debated is because out of all of the things that bloggers care about the most, comments would rank pretty highly. Sure, some people switch off comments. But if you switch off comments, is it really a blog? The answer is probably not, unless you are Seth Godin in which case you get to do as you please. But for most of us, comments are the life-blood of a blog. They let us know when something has struck a chord or elicited a passionate response.

But which one do you pick? Well, that depends.


You are stuck with the WordPress commenting system which is pretty fantastic, with the added bonus of people being able to sign in with their social media accounts.


Your options are Blogger native comments, Disqus or Intense Debate.


Your options are WordPress native comments, DisqusIntense Debate or LiveFyre.


The pitfalls of the blogger commenting system means that the vast majority of people on Blogspot will use a third party system. The pros are that you can login with google or you can comment using a name/url or even anonymously. But the cons are it often takes more than one step to login and as there is no option for spam control, many people are forced to use captcha as a deterrent which unfortunately also deters people from commenting.


You get the best out of native WordPress comments if you use a couple of plugins. One is Akismet which will moderate your spam for you and the other one is a reply comment notification so that people whose comments are replied to will receive an email letting them know. This is inbuilt in Disqus, Intense Debate and LiveFyre.

The pros of WordPress comments is that they are hosted on your own site, it doesn’t require any script so you aren’t going to have any additional load time and it’s easy for the non-tech savvy to navigate. It also allows for people to leave their website address so people can click through to it.


Disqus is probably the most widely used third party comment system and it does allow for your comments to be backed up on your WordPress self-hosted blog so you don’t lose them. You can comment as a guest or login with a variety of accounts. You do lose the ability to leave a name and url which many commenters like. You can also post photos as part of your comment which is a really cool feature. In the past Disqus has had issues with mobile devices but they have done a lot of work to improve this. However, occasionally Disqus will stop the website from loading and this can be frustrating for users.


Pros are that comments stay on your own blog rather than being third-party hosted and you can comment as a guest or use a whole range of other profiles to login. Cons are load time of websites and that it can be a bit buggy.


Pros are it is realtime commenting, it promotes users to reply to one another and like one another’s comments. But the cons are that it doesn’t allow for guests to comment. You can either login with a LiveFyre account or with a social media profile but this often means that the ability for people to leave a link to their blog or website is taken away.


The commenting system you choose will depend on your own preferences as well as your type of audience. My preference is for WordPress commenting because I think it makes it as user-friendly as possible for people to comment. But, every now and then I look at how well Disqus and LiveFyre are doing at promoting conversations among their readers and I get a twinge of interest in jumping ship. The best thing you can do in deciding on a commenting system is to create a profile of your reader and see which one they would like the best. It’s about them, not you.

{Image Credit}


6 ways to prevent PR burnout

6 ways to prevent PR burnout


6 ways to prevent PR burnout

By Elissa Freeman | Posted: May 12, 2014
Great article by Elissa Freeman about finding the right work balance as a PR practitioner and media relations professional. What I take away from this is that you need to take better care of yourself and your health, or you will get burned out and not be effective to your clients.  Get plenty of rest, exercise, relax and try not to work on Saturdays.  — Pete Cento 
Whether you’re a PR veteran or novice, there are times when the industry has a way of chewing you up and spitting you out. 

Long hours, 24/7 availability, crisis management, shifting deadlines, and ever-changing event scenarios are just some issues contributing to the persistent pressure. 

Lots of people suffer from professional burnout, but PR is notorious for disasters that come out of nowhere—usually at 4 p.m. on a Friday. 

Yet those who stick with it love what they do. 

Everyone has coping mechanisms; here is how five PR pros get through the daily grind with their sanity intact: 

Exercise. “Exercise is huge for me, especially during a crisis,” says Barbara Laidlaw, senior vice president and partner at FleishmanHillard in New York. “The adrenaline runs pretty high, and it’s easy to think that fatigue and burnout are not happening because you’re existing on Red Bull, coffee, and diet Pepsi. Running with music always works for me; the exacting movement and the level of concentration required allow me to turn off my brain from work.” 

No Saturdays. “From a shorter-term perspective, I do my very best not to work on Saturdays,” says Leslie Wood, the director of Canada communications for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “It doesn’t always work, of course, but knowing Saturday is coming is truly a light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Unplug. “Unplugging is hard and takes some serious discipline, but once you can do it, it gives your brain a break to actually be more creative,” says Diana Conconi of Toronto’s Agency Next Door. “It doesn’t need to be a full-on vacation, as wonderful as those are, but truthfully, as an entrepreneur, the longer vacations are scarier to completely unplug on, so lots of short getaways are perfect on so many levels.” 

Family time. “Children help, although I would not recommend someone journeying down that road primarily as a way to avoid burnout,” says Wood. “It sounds crazy, but having multiple, competing interests avoids overloading on any one thing and provides perspective.” 

Talk it out. Edmonton-based Holly Roy of Pumpkin PR cites “walking the talk”—literally. “Believe it or not, talking with friends is a great stress relief. I am so fortunate to have hilarious, savvy friends/colleagues in the business, and once we have a good chat with a few laughs, I’m good to go again.” 

Be passionate.
 Continuing to feel the passion for the job is what keeps Christine Crosbie going. Hitting 40 initiated a switch from journalism to PR, where she regained her motivation for her career. “I’ve been very fortunate to be part of organizations whose mandates I feel passionate about, or I couldn’t do it otherwise,” says Crosbie, who is media relations and strategic communications officer for OCAD University.

Twittiquette: Keep Your Tweets Professional And Personable

Twittiquette: Keep Your Tweets Professional And Personable.


Happy Wednesday!  Interesting article today from Luke O’Neill, editor at Business Wire Boston, about the importance of being professional and personal when composing a new tweet. Your words can come back to haunt you when you least expect it. — Pete Cento, The Cento Group 


Image of Twittiquette: Keep Your Tweets Professional And PersonableBy Luke O’Neill, Editor, Business Wire

This is why we need to master Twittiquette

She flew thousands of miles from London to Cape Town, South Africa, but sadly her tweet traveled much farther.

The story of Justine Sacco is well known in public relations circles. She’s the former PR executive who sent an inappropriate tweet last December and boarded a long flight apparently with no Internet access. Her tweet went viral in a bad way.

Once Sacco’s tweet was exposed, Twitter users perused past tweets and found other offensive posts. At the time, her Twitter profile in part read “troublemaker on the side.” Evidently this day it was her troublemaker persona taking center stage. Then, abruptly, her Twitter account was terminated – and so was she.

Sacco’s story could happen to anyone regardless of the industry; but PR pros are in the public eye more than others and so are their blunders. With Twitter, be professional and personable, but most of all be careful.

In assessing the Sacco fallout, a CNN story observed: “The incident was a glaring reminder that every word uttered on the Internet can be heard by seemingly everyone on the Internet, sometimes with serious consequences.”

Image of Twittiquette: Keep Your Tweets Professional And PersonableIntention vs. Interpretation

You may intend a tweet to be snarky, funny or whatever, but readers may interpret it differently. It’s best to be clear and straightforward rather than sarcastic or jokey while also not being vanilla. A balance needs to be struck. Like an email, a tweet’s tone can be tricky to decipher since no one can see you roll your eyes after a sarcastic jab.

Another quandary within Twitter is your personality might not always match your “professionality,” but it’s still important to stay genuine and not contrived. And yet with some forms of PR, it’s OK to have an edge, you just can’t have that edge be too sharp.

“Whether your Twitter account is work related or not, you’ve got to keep it professional,” Peter Stringer, senior director of digital media at the Boston Celtics, wrote in an email. “If you work in PR and don’t understand that one misguided tweet can potentially bring down a reputation, brand, company or your career – whether you have 10 followers or 10,000 – I would suggest you find another line of work.”

Stringer manages the team’s main Twitter account with its 1.4 million followers. He said it’s vital for marketing and PR pros to respect their companies’ brand.

“In today’s day and age of personal branding, people are representing their employers, whether they know it or like it or not,” said Stringer. “And along those lines, if your name and company is associated with your Twitter account, people are going to make the connection.”

Disclaimers ‘Meaningless’

A growing sentiment among Twitter users is the oft-used profile disclaimer – “Tweets are my own and do not reflect my company’s views” – is not sufficient. After all, these disclaimers are not included in every tweet.

“A disclaimer in your Twitter bio is meaningless,” said Stringer. “They certainly don’t exempt you from having poor judgment. If an employee tweets something offensive and goes viral and creates a dust-up, like it or not, they’re a reflection of their employer. The employer will find itself under pressure to distance itself from that employee. You’re probably going to get fired.”

In addition, there seems to be some debate whether PR pros should even have their own personal Twitter accounts while also maintaining a professional client account.

Some bloggers have argued that PR pros should have just one professional Twitter account and keep personal interests off the grid. But others, like SHIFT Communications marketing analyst Amanda Grinavich, feel personal accounts can help PR pros connect with reporters and display interests outside of work.

“However,” she added in an email, “any time you are tweeting as a known employee of a company, people will associate you with that company. This doesn’t mean you’re tied down to speaking only about that client or brand, but it does mean any poor choices you make could fall back on the company. Overall, the balance comes down to using good judgment.”

In a blog, Grinavich pointed out: “We can’t really imagine how you can do your job in PR or marketing without using Twitter in your own way to learn about how things work on both sides of the coin – business and personal.”

Help is Here

Stringer added this social media caveat: “You’re representing yourself. Every tweet, selfie, blog is leaving a digital paper trail that will last forever. Our children’s children will someday read that subtweet that went viral when they Google us with their brain – or however that technology works in 2064.”

Lastly, a Mashable post has some helpful Twitter etiquette guidelines, including: Treat your Twitter posts as though your parents, grandparents and bosses were reading.

And ever delve into the recesses of Twitter’s help center? It’s chockfull of helpful hints and rigid rules. A couple lines stand out: “What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly,” and “You are what you Tweet!”

Tweet tips: Five quick ways to maintain professionalism on Twitter:

1. Never post when you’re upset.

2. Don’t engage in a negative discussion until you have all the facts

3. Everyone is human.

4. If you would not say it to your grandmother or CEO, don’t tweet it.

5. Tweets are forever.

Feel like tweeting now? Why not tweet this article?


About the Author: Luke O’Neill is an editor at Business Wire Boston. Admittedly, he is fairly new to Twitter (@ONeillNews) but has a master’s degree in multimedia journalism and nearly 15 years of communications experience.