FEMA Officials Urge Residents to Check Finances, Refuel Cars and Heed Evacuation Orders as Dorian Nears

Residents who are in Hurricane Dorian's potential path, ranging from Eastern Florida to the Carolinas, should be reviewing their finances and evacuation routes, refueling their cars and monitoring local news media, emergency officials say.

Local officials in St. Johns County, Florida and surrounding areas within Hurricane Dorian's "path of uncertainty" issued the first mandatory evacuation orders effective Monday at 8 a.m. As neighboring counties and states prepare for the Category 5 hurricane's landing, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Deputy Administrator Dr. Daniel Kaniewski told Newsweek that residents must be proactive about their preparations for their own potential evacuation.

Several federal emergency officials tell Newsweek action should be taken immediately before any potential evacuation orders are given by local officials.

Kaniewski urged residents in Dorian's path to immediately begin taking stock of their food, water and medical supplies as they wait to hear if local officials order evacuations in their area. The FEMA official reiterated to Newsweek Sunday that residents should closely follow local TV and radio stations as well as reviewing tailored updates available through the FEMA smartphone app.

Kaniewski stressed that proactive preparations should include a series of measures, such as reviewing one's homeowners or flood insurance policies as well as recording cell phone video of one's home in order to document and take inventory of possessions. According to Kaniewski, this simple task can greatly ease the process of filing claims, should the hurricane damage property. In general, he recommends that people who live "anywhere it rains" should have flood insurance.

Kaniewski noted that flood insurance takes 30 days to go into effect, so a policy purchased this week would not cover damage caused by Dorian's arrival in the next few days.

"Take the phone out of your pocket and walk through your home narrating what you have and take video," he urged residents in Dorian's potential landfall trajectory. "Have that saved to your phone and now you have a pretty good home inventory."

Former FEMA Administrator Brock Long concurred with Kaniewski's proactive recommendations, telling CBS' Face the Nation Sunday morning that people "have got to stop looking at FEMA as 9-1-1." Hurricane Dorian intensified to a Category 5 and has sustained wind speeds reaching as high as 180 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. Massive destruction has already been reported in the Bahamas, where Dorian struck Sunday afternoon.

Kaniewski advised residents to be aware of emergency evacuation routes and to gas up their vehicles immediately. Local officials have the final say on whether or not to authorize mandatory evacuation orders for communities, and their announcements should be monitored through any and all forms of communication.

"None of us can tell the future and you must plan to make sure you're ready to go––car fueled up and cash on hand, know the routes out and evacuation zones," he told Newsweek Sunday.

The FEMA deputy also noted that shelters are available for evacuating residents without friends or family to stay with, as the storm hits the coast. He recommended monitoring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's warnings and updates as well as information available through ready.gov and local websites such as floridadisaster.org.

Earlier in the day, Kaniewski told Fox News that FEMA was deploying emergency response units along the East Coast as the agency waits to see where Dorian will strike.

Hurricane Dorian strengthened over the Atlantic Ocean Sunday morning. Sustained wind speeds reached 180 miles per hour as the storm lashed the Eastern Bahamas on Sunday afternoon. Officials say the storm is expected to impact Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas later in the week. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE WEATHER COMPANY