Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management has teamed up with the other counties surrounding Lake Okeechobee (Martin, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee) to develop solutions for the unlikely event of a problem with the Herbert Hoover Dike. The main priority of these activities is to ensure the safety of all residents living around the lake. With the joint efforts of all agencies, an emergency evacuation plan has been created to address the roles and responsibilities of each jurisdiction, government agency, and area resident.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
All citizens that could be affected by a dike breach should plan ahead. Please review the FAQs below:
How will I be notified in case there is a problem with the dike?
- Emergency Alert System – The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a message that is broadcast over local television and radio stations. This broadcast will provide more specific information regarding the protective measures the public is advised to take, such as evacuate to a specific location. The EAS is broadcast on FM 90.7 and local television and radio stations.
- NOAA Weather Alert Radios – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Alert Radios are used to provide alerts to the public of impending severe weather conditions which may require extra caution or the need to take cover. The Weather Alert Radios broadcast only messages from NOAA and the National Weather Service.
- Regional Alert and Notification System – The Palm Beach County Regional Alert and Notification System allows a pre-recorded message to be sent to all telephones in a certain area to provide information or a warning message. All published telephone numbers are already included in the system's database and new numbers are added shortly after the phone is activated.
- Police and Fire-Rescue – In the event that an evacuation is required Police and Fire/Rescue vehicles will pass through neighborhoods with their lights and sirens on as well as alternately announcing over the public address systems that residents are being evacuated and a location they are to go to for pickup. If this should happen, Palm Beach County Emergency Management strongly urges all residents and businesses to obey these instructions immediately.
How will I evacuate the area in case of an emergency?
When a mandatory evacuation is issued, it's time to take immediate action. Seek an evacuation route that leads out of the danger zone. If you don't have transportation, please head to one of the three following options:
- City Hall locations (Belle Glades, Pahokee, South Bay)
- All public schools
- All regular Palm Tran routes in the Lake area
Palm Beach County will have buses going to each of the sites listed above. Once on board one of the buses, you will be taken to a shelter.
What if I have special medical needs and require assistance?
South Florida Fairgrounds and Palm Beach Central High School provide a safe refuge for Palm Beach County residents with certain types of medical problems. Space at the shelter is limited and prioritization is based on need. Call (561) 712-6400 to learn about eligibility requirements and to receive a shelter application.
Where will I go once I have evacuated?
The first option you should pursue would be to stay with family or friends that live outside the danger zone. If you cannot relocate to a relative or family member's home, please tune into local radio stations and TV stations for updated information. Local officials will coordinate shelters outside the danger zone.
When can I go home?
In the event that any area around Lake Okeechobee is under an evacuation order, residents will not be allowed to return to these areas as long as hazardous conditions remain. This may include any of the following: contaminated flood waters, severely damaged infrastructure, exposed power lines, sewage, and hazardous materials. As soon as the area is deemed safe, residents can return home.
How can I best prepare for a dike breach or other emergency in my area?
- Plan Ahead – The best offense is a good defense. Obtain and store supplies and review plans with your family now to avoid panic in the event of a disaster.
- Establish an Out of State Contact – In case of an emergency situation, you should establish one contact person that you can call and provide your status. In an emergency, access to phone lines or cell service may be limited. Call your contact and update them regarding your status. Give this number to other friends and family so they can call other relatives and not tie up overburdened lines in a disaster area. This helps everybody's peace of mind. Many of us now rely on cordless phones. If the power supply fails, these may be inoperable. Purchase a phone that is not cordless. This will be essential when the power is out.
- Create an Escape Plan – Develop a plan to get your family out of danger, remembering that your plan may need to change depending on the threat you face (for example, flooding versus wildfires). Practice your plan frequently with your whole family, especially if small children are involved.
- Protect Important Documents – For insurance purposes, photograph things of value and either take the printed pictures or an electronic version of them with you. Put people in the pictures to help prove ownership. In the case of mandatory or voluntary evacuation, make sure you have important papers either stored in a safe deposit box, or pack them up to take with you. This includes insurance papers, deed information, marriage licenses and pet vaccination records – anything that you might need to prove who you are, what you own, and where you live.
- Prepare for Flooding – If you expect flooding, move sensitive items like computers, electronics, heirlooms, and furniture to higher ground. Keep a supply of tarps to protect your belongings in case of water infiltration.
- Stay Tuned to the Radio or TV – Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and/or TV to stay informed. Also check that you have enough flashlights. Battery-operated lanterns provide a lot of illumination. Make sure you have enough batteries!
- Be Ready to Evacuate – Local officials will inform you of the need for mandatory evacuation. If local officials tell you to go, GO! If you have been ordered to evacuate and you stay, you will be on your own in case of emergency. Fire-Rescue vehicles may not be able to get to you in high water conditions. You and your family may be trapped and unable to reach safety, food, and water.
- Plan Your Route – If a mandatory evacuation is ordered, you and everyone else will be on the road. Plan ahead and anticipate supplies you might need for the drive. Know where you're going in advance of an evacuation and map out several routes in case some roads are blocked by flood waters or other hazards.
What if I still have questions?
Please contact your local municipal officials at the numbers listed in your phone book. If you're still unsure about who to contact or you live in unincorporated Palm Beach County, please call the Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management at (561) 712-6400.