Hurricane Safety Tips for Downtown Fort Lauderdale | Big Picture Broward | Big Picture Broward

Hurricane Safety Tips for Residents Living in Downtown High-Rises

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Hurricane Preparedness downtown Fort Lauderdale

When a hurricane is due to make landfall the first question one must ask is, “Should I stay or should I go?”

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1st to November 30th.

The last major hurricane to make landfall in South Florida (Key West in particular) was Hurricane Irma, whose impact was felt from August 30th, 2017 to September 13th, 2017. We are two months into the 2019 hurricane season, when major tropical depressions begin to form more frequently, so we wanted to share these important safety tips with the Fort Lauderdale community.

This article focuses on two living space situations common in Fort Lauderdale today:

  1. Living in a high-rise building

  2. Living in proximity to ongoing construction

First, follow these standard safety protocols for hurricane preparedness, which apply no matter which state or city you live in and no matter how severe the storm is projected to be:

  • stock up on non-perishable foods and drinking water
  • fill the washer machine and tub with water for household purposes
  • purchase batteries for flashlights
  • fill up car’s gas tank
  • stock extra fuel to power a portable generator
  • charge wireless phone charges

Living in a high-rise building during a hurricane

Miami has been a major leader in construction standards to ensure large developments can withstand major hurricane force winds and storm waters. Most of South Florida and the entire state of Florida have adopted similar building codes to protect residents and infrastructure.

For instance, following Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which blew out windows from the Four Seasons and Conrad Hotels, leaving giant shards of glass strewn across Brickell Avenue, building managers replaced standard windows with tempered glass, which shatters into tiny cubes.

Hurricane Preparedness downtown Fort Lauderdale

Though this has become the standard for new development, many older buildings remain vulnerable. So, it’s important not to think of high-rise buildings as fortresses.

WINDOWS

The first 30 floors of high-rise buildings are defended by high impact windows. These can withstand being hit by a nine-pound 2×4 traveling at 50 feet per second. Windows above 30 feet are required to use “small missile impact” glass, which can withstand being struck by a small steel ball bearing traveling at 130 feet per second.

Check with your building manager before a major hurricane or evacuation notice to see if your residence is outfitted with high impact glass.

If you do choose to stay and ride out a hurricane in a high-rise, the very first priority should be closing every single window and opening to ensure wind cannot get inside. Wind currents run down the side of buildings creating intense vacuums. Any amount of air that comes in is so great, and the pressure so high, that it could demolish the interior of your residence.

It may go without saying, but keep your windows closed at all times during the storm even if it appears that the worst has passed.

Hurricane Preparedness downtown Fort Lauderdale

BALCONIES

Use common sense when securing your residence. Don’t leave anything out on the balcony. Something as fragile as porch lights can turn violent in a storm with major wind force. This holds especially true if you live higher up. Above 40 stories, the wind is so powerful that the building may sway.

STAIRWELLS

Stairwells are a great last line of defense should the storm worsen and become dangerous to people inside a high-rise condo. If you no longer feel safe in your residence, head to the nearest stairwell. This part of the building is the strongest section of any high-rise.

ELEVATORS

In most cases, the elevators of your high-rise building will be shut off. Even after the storm’s passing and in the event of power outages, backup generators will be used to power emergency lights and water pumps. If you are prepared to ride out the storm, we recommend staying in your residence. Unless you don’t mind hiking up and down dozens of flights of stairs.

COOLING TOWER

This is the big structure at the very top of your building that keeps the AC running. In the event of a major hurricane, the cooling tower’s breakers will be shut off for safety. Be prepared to sweat and, again, don’t open the windows for fresh air if the storm is still active. You don’t have to worry about the cooling tower being blown off. They are designed to withstand winds of 175mph just like the rest of the building. If the storm is projected to be more severe (winds of 200mph +), then consider evacuating.

FLOODING

Flooding is a very real threat in South Florida. In 2017, Irma barely grazed Fort Lauderdale, yet floodwaters were still pushed as far west as US1. At that time, there was a mandatory evacuation for all residents east of US1, however, the majority of high-rises are just a few blocks west, so residences may not feel inclined to evacuate.

Depending on the level of the tidal surge, emergency services may be unable to reach you and power may be out for weeks. Additionally, if your building houses an underground or ground-level parking garage, your property may be at risk. Assess the situation, follow the weather channel hourly, and make a decision that will keep you and those in your care safe.

EVACUATION

In 2005, after Hurricane Wilma tore through South Florida, the state legislature amended Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes to include what is known as the “condominium act.” This grants extra power to condo boards and associations if the governor declares a state of emergency, which allows them to demand, by law, that residents evacuate the property for their safety.

Always be prepared for this eventuality by printing hard copies of evacuation routes/plans, as well as procedures for your return.

Living in Proximity to Ongoing Construction

Hurricane Safety Tips for downtown Fort Lauderdale

Though securing an active building site is the responsibility of the developer and construction company, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. During Hurricane Irma, construction cranes in Miami were seen spinning violently. And those were only mild hurricane force winds.

If you live near construction sites, whether they be in your neighborhood or downtown Fort Lauderdale, we advise inspecting the status of the property the week leading up to the storm. This will make you aware of any dangerous materials in your surroundings and allow enough time to contact the site manager with your concerns.

The following is a checklist that construction managers follow when preparing their building site for a major storm. Use this to confirm a construction site neighboring your residence will not put you at risk.

Hurricane Preparedness downtown Fort Lauderdale
Hurricane Preparedness downtown Fort Lauderdale

SECURED STRUCTURES AND EQUIPMENT

  • Are ropes, sandbags, ground anchors and other items used to weigh down materials that could fly away easily?
  • Are materials covered with plastic sheeting, netting or garbage bags to prevent scattered debris?
  • Are loose materials packed and secured with rope or duct tape?
  • Has the construction dumpster been picked up or covered?
Hurricane Preparedness downtown Fort Lauderdale
  • Are portable restrooms secured?
  • Have hazardous chemicals been left out in the open?
  • Is heavy equipment and machinery stored in a garage or other covered structure?
  • Has light-weight fence screens and signage been torn down and stored?

Conclusion

Follow these preventative measures to ensure you and your family’s safety during a hurricane. If you plan to evacuate, do so days before the storm’s projected landfall date. If you leave too late then you may be putting yourself at unnecessary risk.

To teach your kids about the power and dangers of hurricanes, check out the Museum of Discovery and Science! Feel the rush of the Atlantic’s most powerful storm systems with a hurricane wind simulator and news coverage of the devastation left behind after Hurricane Andrew. The Museum of Discovery and Science’s Storm Center is a great learning experience for all ages!