SANIBEL, Fla. - According to the National Weather Service, an average year in America produces 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes and an average of two landfalling hurricanes. It's because of those hurricane threats that all Florida counties have their Storm Ready certification with the National Weather Service. And so does Sanibel Island.
"Because we are an island, everyone has to know we are automatically in an evacuation zone. We're not high or low. We're an island," explained Sanibel Police Chief Bill Tomlinson.
Chief Tomlinson was in charge during Hurricane Charley in 2004. It was after that storm that the city decided to get its Storm Ready certification.
"We wanted to make sure if we had to go through it again, we did some things differently and tried to improve our plan," said the Chief.
Chief Tomlinson said in order to get the Storm Ready certification, they had to share their emergency weather plan with the National Weather Service.
"It's basically showing that you have a plan to communicate with the public. We want to make sure we reach those people who may not be paying attention to the tv or who are considering staying. We have an older population and sometimes they think oh, i'm just going to ride it out and that's really not the right thing to do," he said.
Chief Tomlinson says not leaving during a storm puts everyone at risk.
"There were two families out here that didn't leave and it really put a burden on us. It was a very time-consuming process when there was really other things that had to be done in the recovery process," he explained.
Sanibel has a number of ways it keeps its residents and tourists informed. From annual hurricane seminars, to the internet, to phone calls, and even door knocks, the police department says keeping people safe is their number one priority and they want to make sure they reach everyone in an emergency.