After a prolonged period of hurricane-free weather in Florida, some residents may be rusty about the need to make plans for an approaching storm. The state appeared to be rusty, too, but officials promise to quickly correct the oversight.
At Thursday morning's first statewide TV briefing on Tropical Storm Erika after his return from a Colorado vacation, Gov. Rick Scott stayed on message ("Stay prepared!") and was responsive to most questions. But a fixture for decades of these televised briefings was missing: a signer-interpreter from the Department of Education to provide the governor's message to Floridians who are hearing-impaired.
"There was no particular reason in particular," said Aaron Gallaher, the spokesman for the Division of Emergency Management. "This conference came up rather quickly this morning. More than likely, that was one of the details that, from now on, moving forward, we'll make sure that's there. And actually, that's something I thought about after the fact."
Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters confirmed that in the past, DOE has been asked to provide sign language specialists. She said she could not say whether the agency received a request before Thursday's first briefing because none of the knowledgeable staffers were available.
In the video freeze frame above, a sign language specialist was helping viewers during a televised briefing with Scott after Tropical Storm Karen in 2013.
Florida's official hurricane preparedness website, floridadisaster.org, notes that the state has produced five hurricane-preparedness videos and former emergency management chief Craig Fugate is quoted as saying, "We want all Floridians to get a plan to be a survivor."
Scott did have Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a candidate for U.S. Senate, at his side Thursday to repeat the governor's main points in Spanish to Florida's large Spanish-speaking population.