Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Statewide effort helps Florida prepare for hurricanes

For decades, emergency managers pleaded for money to help Florida prepare for the big one. Repeatedly, their pleas failed to get support from the public and legislators.

It took nature to change all that.

Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane that struck south Florida on Aug. 24, 1992, played a vital role in establishing a statewide emergency management trust fund which still provides the backbone for state and local emergency managers, said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate.

Many other states facing catastrophic disaster haven't been able to create such a pool of money, he said.

"This again was one of the key lessons from Hurricane Andrew: That the state would and did dedicate a funding source for emergency management for the state of Florida," Fugate said.

He called Florida "the envy of the nation for the amount of funding that's provided at the state and to the counties."

In 1993, the state created the Emergency Management, Preparedness and Assistance Trust Fund, which is funded by surcharges on insurance policies. Annually, it provides each of Florida's 67 counties with $7 million, according to Florida Association of Counties

Fugate said Florida deserves a lot of credit for the trust fund, established in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and the "Storm of the Century" the following year.

"Florida recognized that they need to fund emergency management," he said. "They needed to fund and build capacity and at the local level, particularly at the counties, which in Florida have the primary responsibility for carrying out emergency management."

Aside from creating a well of money, Florida also implemented a number of key recommendations that had been introduced in past legislative sessions but failed to gain critical support.

New legislation mandated that vulnerable facilities such as assisted-living facilities, nursing homes and hospitals have emergency evacuation plans approved by local officials.

The state began annual hurricane exercises and evacuation plans became more regional than county-specific.

Fugate, a seasoned Florida emergency manager, was serving as the emergency manager in Alachua County at the time Andrew ripped across south Florida. He recalled a slow evacuation.

"You literally had people stuck in traffic trying to leave Miami," he said. Shelters in the Gainesville area were opened for people who got stranded on the interstate because they ran out of gas.

After Andrew, shelter directors began to update designs. Emergency managers performed shelter surveys and realized they actually had shelter deficits and shelters that were inadequate.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804 or on Twitter a @Danny_Valentine.

Statewide effort helps Florida prepare for hurricanes 05/18/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 18, 2012 12:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared

    World

    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.