Severe Weather Preparedness

Congressman Gaetz gives an update on the response to Hurricane Sally and explains what the state and federal governments' response will be over the next few days.



Governor Ron DeSantis Updates Northwest Floridians on the state response to Hurricane Sally


Hello, Friends —

As Northwest Florida continues our recovery efforts from Hurricane Sally, we are expecting FEMA to make a Major Disaster Declaration for our state. This will likely happen soon, as FEMA has already issued one such declaration for Alabama. In this interim time, however, it is important to start preparing your claim documentation in order to apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how to begin:

  1. Document the waterlines of the flooding damage that occurred in your home or on your property. The more addresses to indicate water damage from the hurricane will increase individual assistance from FEMA. Please also list any furniture or other belongings you have lost in the storm.
  2. Do not wait to clean up the damage to your residence. After taking photos, immediately start removing water from your home, as mold grows quickly.
  3. Contact your insurance provider and file your claims individually. You will need your insurance claim information prior to applying for FEMA assistance. Please do not apply to FEMA before the declaration is made — the system will not accept applications until a disaster has been declared. Please wait to file with FEMA until after the declaration has been signed by the President.
  4. After the determination from your insurance company on the settlement has been received, you can file with FEMA. Please note:
    • You MUST give FEMA the settlement information from your insurance when filing for assistance.

Call 1-800-621-3362, go to, or use the FEMA app to file for assistance with FEMA, when it is time to do so.








  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible to report the damage. Have your policy number ready. Damage associated with wind and other severe weather is typically covered under a standard homeowners, renters or business policy. Property owners with flood damage need to contact their flood insurer to file a flood-related claims. If you have flood damage but do not have flood insurance, federal disaster assistance may be available in the form of grants and loans if a federal disaster is declared.
  • Photograph or videotape the damage to share with your insurer and keep a copy for your records.
  • Make temporary repairs if it is safe to do so. If there are holes in your roof or your windows are broken, be sure to cover them as quickly as possible to prevent further damage.
  • Save receipts for any materials you purchase to assist with repairs. You may submit them to your insurer for reimbursement.
  • Do not throw away any damaged items until an adjuster visits your home. Keep in mind that due to COVID-19 and social distancing, you may collaborate with an adjuster via a video call instead of in-person.
  • Many standard homeowners and renters policies provide reimbursement of additional living expenses when the property is determined to be uninhabitable due to damage. This provision helps pay for things like temporary housing, restaurant meals, overnight parking and laundry service. Check with your insurer or agent for a list of what your policy will cover.
  • Watch out for crooked contractors and third parties posing as contractors who often go door to door after disasters preying on homeowners in desperate need of repairs.



  • Shovel or scrape mud off floors, furniture, and walls before the mud dries. Then hose down the walls with clean water, starting from the ceiling.
  • Major appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves, can be washed and dried completely. In most cases, they will not be damaged unless they were operating at the time the water covered them.
  • Diluted chlorine bleach can be used to clean household items, appliances, walls, and floors and will help control odors.
  • Wood furniture should be dried outdoors, but not in direct sunlight. Remove drawers and other moving parts before they dry.
  • Food utensils and equipment should be washed thoroughly and sterilized before using. Any food that is open and exposed to flood waters should be discarded.



  • Be cautious about starting a vehicle that has been exposed to flood waters, and if your vehicle is missing report it to the police.
  • If the water got above the floorboards, or the seats are wet, do not try to start the car. The electrical system is the most sensitive to water damage and trying to start the car could cause more damage.
  • Open the hood and check the air filter. If it is wet, do not try to start the car.
  • Report the loss to your auto insurer and protect the car from further damage by covering any broken windows.

What to expect after filing a homeowners claim relating to a hurricane

The flood insurance claims process

Emergency financial preparedness toolkit



The following are web sites and contact information for various federal and state agencies:

Escambia County:

Holmes County:

Okaloosa County:

Santa Rosa County:

Walton County:

Traffic and road information:

Though this is a challenging time for all of us, we will get through it together!


General Prepardness Tips for Severe Weather


Get a Game Plan

The following are web sites and contact information for various federal and state agencies:


Top Tips to Be Prepared:

  • Make plans to protect your property such as storm shutters or plywood for windows. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking. Bring things indoors including lawn furniture, toys, trash cans or anything that could fly through a window.
  • Learn evacuation routes and contraflow procedures. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you need to evacuate. Florida Disaster - Division of Emergency Management - Evacuation Zones designated by counties.
  • Gather personal documents, including Social Security cards, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, etc. Make a record of these documents and all valuable possessions.
  • Keep your automobile fully fueled; if electric power is cut off, gas stations may not be able to operate pumps for several days.
  • Be prepared to survive on your own for a few days. Assemble a disaster kit. Include a battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, blankets, clothing, food and water, prescription medications and medical supplies.
  • Talk to your family about the dangers hurricanes can present. Plan a centralized meeting place for your family in case you are separated from one another. Choose an out of state family member or friend for everyone to contact and check in with.
  • If you are receiving Social Security or Veterans Benefits make sure you have direct deposit. This will ensure you receive all of your benefits if you have to evacuate. The Social Security Administration's telephone number is 1-800-772-1213 or visit their website. The Veterans Administration's telephone number is 1-877-222-8387 or visit their website.
  • Know how to shut off utilities. Know where gas pilots are located and how the heating and air-conditioning system works. If you have any questions, contact your local utility company.


During storm season, it is important to pay attention to updates from the local media outlets. Also, contact my office with any needs or concerns you may have. If any of our district offices are ever required to evacuate, you can always reach my staff in our Washington, D.C. office at (202)-225-4136.

Important Contacts

Escambia County

Holmes County

Okaloosa County

Santa Rosa County

Walton County



Federal Emergency Management Agency

Disability Disaster Information

Pet Rescue/Triage

U.S. Small Business Administration

Open Shelters

Congressman Gaetz Congressional Offices in Florida:

  • Pensacola Office: (850) 479-1183 226 S. Palafox Place, 6th FloorPensacola, FL 32502
  • Fort Walton Beach Office: Phone: (850) 479-1183 | Fax: (850) 479-9394 *Call for an appointment* 1170 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Bldg. 4, Rm 454 Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547


Important emergency preparedness Twitter handles to follow:



Every hurricane underscores the critical importance of preparedness. Hurricane season always poses a threat to coastal areas, and it is crucial to be prepared before disaster strikes.


The best preparation involves planning long before a storm threat emerges. Many people wait until the day before to buy supplies, but by that time, stores are frequently out of necessities. It is worthwhile to prepare ahead of time, and get supplies before a storm is imminent. Necessities include non-perishable and non-frozen food, bottled water, a first aid kit, and a flashlight. Batteries and a backup generator will help if you lose power for an extended period of time.

While staying inside your home is usually recommended during weaker hurricanes, in the event of a powerful hurricane, it may not be your safest option. Many websites provide information about evacuation plans and routes, and it is important to have this information in advance, in case conditions require action. Print out a copy of evacuation routes, as a storm may hinder your ability to connect to the internet.

The website is very useful, and has preparation tips and up-to-date evacuation maps for every county in the state. Similarly, provides a great deal of information about current and future storms, including forecasts, radar, and more.

Finally, it is important to protect your property in the event of an imminent hurricane. Make copies of important documents and back up your electronic data. Survey the exterior of your house, and make sure there is no present damage. The water and wind of a storm can greatly worsen pre-existing damage, causing major structural damage. Make sure all gates and doors are securely locked, to lessen the chance of the wind ripping them from their hinges.

Most importantly, have a discussion with your friends and your loved ones, to make sure they are prepared, too.

Each hurricane season has the potential to be dangerous to our district. Good preparation will help keep you and your family as safe as possible.