HURRICANE CENTRAL, Fla. - Emergency workers want to make sure you know which evacuation zone you live in before a storm. The program is simple and it's called, "Know your Zone." Now, two counties are making it even easier for you to know your zone. You can just look up, while driving.
"Well the idea was we had to get away from just handing out pieces of paper with just a map on it. That really didn't tell you much of anything," explained Charlotte County Emergency Management Director Wayne Sallade.
So he came up with the "Know your Zone" computer program. You go online, type in your address and your evacuation zone pops up. But for Sallade, that wasn't good enough.
"Not everybody's on the computer yet," he said. "So we needed a visual, some type of a visual system. So we decided: everybody has got stop signs and street signs, pretty close to where they live."
With the help of Federal grant money and some volunteers, Sallade was able to put up more than 9,000 colored collars around Charlotte County letting people know what zone they're in. A red collar means you're in zone "A," the first place to be evacuated should a storm strike.
This year, Lee County is doing something similar. Soon you'll see colored squares with letters popping up on prominent signs throughout the county.
"By knowing your zone you'll know right away if we say evacuate zone "A" and you're in zone "A" there's no question anymore," explained interim Lee County Emergency Management Director Gerald Campbell.
And if you're in the zone that's being evacuated, you need to leave.
"If you ignore an evacuation order, you're accepting a 30 percent or so risk that things can go badly," said Campbell. "Those are very high odds when you're betting your life and your family's safety and those of your loved ones."
In Collier County, you don't have to know what zone you live in, you just need to be familiar with nearby streets.
Emergency Management Director Dan Summers says Collier is unique because its zones are divided by major roadways, like U.S. 41. According to Summers, if Collier County issues an evacuation order, it will sound something like this:
"Depending on the category of storm it would be all residents that are west and south of U.S. 41, all of those in mobile homes, all of those in recreational vehicles," said Summers. "If there are some special areas that are of concern, we'll identify those by community name. Or we'll say those that are north of south or east or west of the Naples Municipal Airport as an example."