Even after the devastating hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, he said, fewer than 50% of those living in storm-prone areas have a hurricane evacuation plan.
While he has been critical of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to Katrina's devastation of New Orleans, he warns against depending on the federal government after natural disasters. He was dismayed to see federal agencies handing out water and ice in South Florida after Hurricane Wilma hit in October 2005, when stores were open and tap water was usable.
"You don't want the federal government to be your first-responders," he said. "The government can't do everything for people and it shouldn't, or else you create a culture of dependence."
Mayfield praises the Florida state government for its well-oiled disaster-response program and steps toward improving building safety, in contrast with other states along the Gulf of Mexico that he says still have no statewide building standards.
Though Mayfield's name and face recognition are the envy of some presidential hopefuls, he laughs out loud at the notion of running for office.
"Oh, good gosh, no! That is just not my thing," he says.
At the hurricane center on the Florida International University campus, Mayfield will be succeeded by Bill Proenza, the National Weather Service's director for the Southern region. Home to 77 million, the region has "the most active and severe weather in the world," according to the weather service's parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Proenza, 62, began his meteorological career at the Miami office as an intern in 1963. As director of 50 regional offices and 1,000 employees in the Southern region for the last eight years, he has long experience collaborating with the hurricane center staff on forecasts and tracking.
"That's why I don't have any problem walking out the door," said Mayfield, declaring himself fearful that the mild 2006 hurricane season left those in the storm zone ever more complacent.