Russel Honore, 'Cat 5 General' from Katrina disaster, speaks tonight at Tampa fundraiser
Wake up and good morning. Anybody who watched Hurricane Katrina's destructive flooding of New Orleans in 2005 and the controversial aftermath of rescue and recovery will remember the eventual arrival of Lieutenant General Russel Honoré as a get 'er done, positive force. Honoré became known as the "Category 5 General" by commanding Joint Task Force-Katrina. He led the Department of Defense response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and directed the operations of over 22,000 military service members, 200 aircraft and 20 ships.
Honoré retired in 2008 and has spent most of his time on the speaker's circuit talking about the need for national preparedness, and in fundraising for such groups as Fisher House and the Red Cross. Fisher House supports U.S. troops and veterans by providing housing for their loved ones during their care and rehabilitation at military installations and VA medical centers around the world -- including at Tampa's James A. Haley and St. Petersburg's Bay Pines Veteran's Hospitals.
Thursday evening, April 22, Honoré will do it again in Tampa in remarks he will deliver at the Centre Club. That's at 123 S. Westshore Blvd. in Tampa. Tim Jarrett, the manager of the Centre Club (part of ClubCorp) discusses the general and his upcoming fundraiser speech here. Click on the video link.
Honoré also wrote a book last year called Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family from Disasters. It is this idea of everybody adopting a culture of preparedness (and probably some amazing Katrina tales) that the retired general will talk about in Tampa.
I spoke with Honoré by telephone Wednesday to learn more about his message. With less than six weeks until hurricane season, the general has done his homework and talked about the need for Tampa Bay to be prepared for a hurricane. It's less the wind that worries him -- given his memories of Katrina -- than the potential for flooding.
"A hurricane easily can push a 10-foot tidal surge into Tampa Bay even if you do not get a direct hit," Honoré says. "It is the surge that causes most of damage in big storms because so many of you are living so close to the coastline and on low elevation."
Enter the culture of preparedness. Be your own "first responder," the general advises. Have an evacuation plan. Know what to do with your kids. Have three days of fresh water and food. Stay informed with a digital weather radio. And it's not just hurricanes. Consider industrial accidents, given the amount of natural gas that gets shipped into Tampa or the proximity of a nuclear power plant, he said.
Honoré praised Florida as one of the better prepared states but said more needs to be done. For example, recent changes in the state require generators at certain gas stations so they can operate and pump gas after storms. But he argues drugstores and other essential stores need mandatory generators, too. And, good grief, put the generators on second floors (a Katrina lesson) so they are not hurt by flooding.
Honoré is not a stranger to Tampa Bay. he happens to be chairman of a small company in St. Petersburg called Grand Investigative Security Services. The company says it provides services that include security, surveillance and countermeasures, and risk management for law firms, corporations, insurance companies, individuals, governments, and non-profit entities.
Thursday's fundraiser event starts at 6 pm. It's $100 per person, which includes a three-course dinner, two drink tickets and an autographed book. Honoré was a delight to talk to, and he's speaking for a great cause.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist