Before Event During Event After Event Resources

Before the Event

Whenever an Emergency Operations Center is activated due to a weather emergency, such as a hurricane, authorization for control of the Intracoastal Waterway bridges in the area is given to the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port. The Captain of the Port will determine when to close the Port to commercial vessels. When the Port is closed to commercial vessels, it is also closed to dockage of recreational vessels.

Local boat owners are advised, before moving their boat, to obtain the latest available weather forecast for the boating area. NOAA Weather Radio has continuous broadcasts (VHF-FM) and is the best way to keep informed of expected weather and sea conditions. If you hear on the radio that warnings are in effect, don't venture out on the water unless confident your boat can be navigated safely under forecast conditions for winds and seas.

Bridges will be in “lockdown,” closed to boat traffic, approximately 3 ½ hours after an evacuation order is issued or when the winds reach 40 miles per hours, whichever is earlier. This may be as much as, or more than, 23 hours prior to the time that the hurricane makes landfall. Depending on the authority governing specific bridge tenders, some bridges may be closed earlier. Boaters and those with marine interests should closely monitor marine broadcasts and local radio and television stations for current updates on specific bridge closures.

Small and Portable Boats (under 20 feet)

  • If your boat is in storage, check the contract to see if the storage marina is responsible for the boat during a storm. If your boat is kept at your home, it may either be left on the trailer or stored upside down alongside the residence.
  • If the boat is left on the trailer, water that collects inside the hull may damage the trailer. To help prevent damage, let some air out of the trailer tires so water will drain out of the back of the boat, and block the wheels to prevent rolling.
  • Avoid placing small boats between buildings because of the potential for “wind funneling.”
  • Tie the boat down by using either buried ground anchors or large well-rooted trees. Use good, strong rope and protect from chafing. Check boat cleats for strength. Do not use small cleats or cleats screwed into fiberglass. If necessary, tie line fully around boat.
  • Motors and all boat equipment should be stored inside whenever possible. Canvas should either be removed or rolled tightly, because the wind will get under it and gradually rip it.

Non-Portable Boats

  • Tie the boat out away from the docking area by using at least two anchors and lines into deeper water (one anchor forward and one aft). Allow sufficient slack for the rise of the water, possibly 4-5 feet of tide.
  • Tie off the boat at least 12-15 feet from the dock. Clean all cockpit drains and remove any equipment that would be damaged by water.
  • Remove boat records to a safe place or place in a watertight container (glass jar, for example).
  • Remove batteries.

Large Portable Boats 

  • Large portable boats should be stored indoors since the freeboard (difference between the water line and the uppermost full deck of the boat) may act as a sail and move the boat and trailer, possibly tipping the boat over.
  • The boat should be placed in a garage or carport with the car left outside.
  • If the boat is left outdoors, all equipment should be removed, all drains should be cleaned and trailer springs should be opened and blocked.
  • The boat may also be placed into the water and tied down.

Large Non-Portable Boats

  • Make arrangements with a property owner before going up any canal with the intention of tying up.
  • Your boat should have sufficient fuel on board and bilge pumps should be working.
  • Exposed gear should be removed and anything that must be left out should be lashed down.
  • Use spring lines to hold the boat away from the docks. If you use anchors, be sure the chain is attached to the anchor along with a weight, midway of the line to increase the holding strength.
  • You may also use trees to secure lines, but the tree must be alive and have large, deep roots. For example, mangroves are good trees to use as anchors, while Australian pines are not.
  • Boats rafted together must have good fenders, such as tires.
  • You may not block a canal with lines while other boats are seeking shelter, unless you remain with the boat, retaining control of the lines to allow other boaters passage.

Broward County Flotilla Plan

Broward County has a Flotilla Plan which assists in the timely, orderly evacuation of large boats that require bridge openings in order to move inland, before bridges lock down to accommodate vehicular evacuations. Small boats that do not require bridge openings do not need to wait for a flotilla to form. The timing of the flotilla and the location of harbors where participating boats congregate will be issued at the time of the weather emergency.

The purpose of the Flotilla Plan is to:

  • organize boat traffic for an orderly evacuation to safe harbor
  • coordinate timing of boat evacuations so that bridges can be locked down for vehicular evacuations

The Officer-in-Charge of the Flotilla Plan is the Broward County Sheriff Marine Patrol. The On-Scene Commander is responsible for coordinating emergency marine traffic operations.

The center of communications for all agencies involved in flotilla operations is the Marine Command Post and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department Communications Dispatch Center. The U.S. Coast Guard and Broward Sheriff's Office assign personnel to the Marine Command Post to facilitate communications with the Coast Guard Auxiliary and BSO deputies.

Communication devices include department radios, portable radios and telephones. Drawbridges are also equipped with telephones and radios. Patrol boats and civilian boats use radios, loud speakers and arm/hand signals.

Flotilla Plan operations occur in two phases, and begin with a Hurricane Watch Advisory.

Flotilla Plan - Phase I

The Officer-in-Charge will notify all flotilla participants that Phase I operations are in effect.

  • Marine patrols will survey the waterways for hazards (such as barges) and determine ownership so that they may be moved or secured.
  • Boat owners should fuel up prior to moving vessels to safe harbor, and store deck equipment.

Flotilla Plan - Phase II

The Officer-in-Charge notifies all flotilla operations participants that Phase II is in effect and that the flotilla movement will cease 3 ½ hours after the Evacuation Order is issued.

  • The Fort Lauderdale Police Department Marine Patrol will be deployed north and south of New River to supervise and assist in the formation of flotillas.
  • Flotillas will be formed north of New River in the Bahia Mar area and south of New River in the Pier 66 area.
  • The Broward Sheriff's Office Marine Patrol will be deployed in the I-95 overpass and New River area to assist westward movement of flotillas.
  • The Florida Marine Patrol will be on standby. Their assistance will be authorized through the State via the Broward County Emergency Operations Center.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary vessels will be deployed to direct boats to the flotilla formation. Regular Coast Guard vessels will be on full alert to render assistance.
  • Communications to the bridge tenders will be via the Fort Lauderdale Communications Dispatch Center and/or the Marine Command Post.
  • During the flotilla, disabled boats shall be taken in tow and not allowed to block the river. Marine Command Patrol will make a report of the disabled boat.
  • When the Marine Patrol Commander feels there is a sufficient number of vessels, there will be a signal for moving up the river. There is no specific time sequence for flotilla launchings.
End of Flotilla

Flotilla operations will cease approximately 3 ½ hours after the Evacuation Order is issued, so that bridges can be locked down for vehicular traffic. The Officer-in-Charge will inform all flotilla operations participants of the time that flotilla movement must cease.

The Broward County Emergency Management Division will contact the U.S. Coast Guard and request that all drawbridges be positioned down and locked in place.

Marine Patrols will continue patrol operations until hurricane conditions force them to safe harbor.


Updated March 2013