The Winds of Change

Local officials in Florida are already working with emergency management experts to improve their readiness for the 2018 hurricane season. For Sarasota county, this includes a detailed after-action review of the response to Hurricane Irma, including input from former head of FEMA Craig Fugate, as reported by the Sarasota Observer.

With much of their findings from the review centered on issues of communications, specific recommendations were made for changes to such items as the simultaneous opening of all shelters, rather than in waves, which caused needless confusion among residents as to which shelters were open at any time. Fugate also insisted that officials should refer to zones under evacuation by name, landmarks, or boundaries, rather than by letters. "Just tell me the areas we're evacuating," he said. "Simplify for the public — take the approach that this may be their first hurricane, and they are clueless." The suggestion was also made that once a storm has passed, a color-coded system be put into place to let residents know how safe zones were, using a green/yellow/red notation to indicate the level of danger remaining from flooding or infrastructure damage.

While the outputs from the review are not yet finalized, Sarasota County Emergency Services director Rich Collins indicates his staff were already working to incorporate suggestions in their emergency planning to ensure Sarasota county is ready when the next hurricane arrives.