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Sorting out ABCs of our SOS agencies

Sleep well, Pasco residents. If the popcorn hits the fan tonight, you need to know that the HMPC is working hard on the Pasco County LMS and that the Hazard Mitigation Section of the DEM is keeping the FEMA Region IV posted so that they know that DMA2K is being complied with.

Of course, if you belong to the HMPC or qualify as an OIP you already know this, but if you aren't on the seven-page HMPC or OIP list, I am here to tell you, with some help from Michelle Baker, that your BIC (butt is covered) if some disaster, natural or man-made, strikes Pasco County.

I called Michelle, who is the county's director of the emergency management, just to make sure she wasn't being held captive by an acronym freak high on speed, caffeine and white sugar who was sending memos out in her name. The letter on my desk was so full of government verbiage and confusing acronyms and abbreviations that another bureaucrat had sent it to me for translation.

She was good-natured about my call.

"I know," she said. "Everyone thinks the military is bad on acronyms, but we have more than our share in the emergency management business. I could make it a little less confusing by spelling everything out, but then it would be four times as long."

And let's be clear, I am only having a little fun at Michelle's expense. She does a tough, important job that has become even more important in this uncertain post-Sept. 11 world and she is, by all accounts, good at it.

She came to Pasco 10 years ago this month, right after the no-name storm demonstrated what can happen when the system designed to protect us breaks down just a little (it was as close to a disaster as Pasco has had in the past 30 years), and she came here with the experience of having worked in her field in Miami during Hurricane Andrew.

Being ready for disasters and their aftermath has a lot to do with federal money, and so does being ready to jump through the right hoops to obtain it. If you don't understand the language in which that business is being transacted, it doesn't get done.

It's all kind of dry reading right now, but probably more important when you are about to drink the last of the water in your bathtub and the plastic sheeting you used to replace your roof just blew off, and you don't know where you will be sleeping tonight.

So, for the uninitiated, the Pasco County HMPC is the Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee, which had to meet to discuss LMS (local mitigation strategy); and the HMPC heard from the director of the Division of Emergency Management, who gave an overview of the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) plan for Region IV, which includes Pasco County's compliance with DMA2K (Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000).

The committee consists of more than 100 members, centered on an initial core of representatives of county government and each municipality and including OIPs (other interested persons, such as citizens and representatives of businesses and nonprofits).

The committee's existence and meetings and the level of participation of its members are integral to Pasco receiving federal money to prepare for or recover from disasters.

See, she was right, it did take four times as much space to explain it, and I might well have missed some of the finer points which Michelle will probably have to forward to the feds in her report on NTBCC (not-too-bright columnist coverage). And, whether we like it or not, you can't communicate with state and federal agencies in plain English; they won't stand for it.

If we didn't have someone here who spoke their language, we could easily find ourselves USCWOP (up sewage creek without a paddle), and (trust me, I've been there) you don't want to take that trip. Good job (GJ), Michelle, CYA.

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