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Hurricane Drill Readies Florida For 2016 Season

Dave Dunwoody

Hurricane season kicks off June 1st and Escambia County joined Florida’s other 66 counties in conducting a dress rehearsal.

Here’s the scenario: Hurricane Kimo, a Category-4 storm, has made landfall in Florida. A Cat-4 packs winds from 130-156 miles an hour which, along with storm surge and tornadoes, can do a lot of damage in a short period of time.

“One of the things that we do not do as well as I think we need to do is the late response and early recovery stuff. And that’s what we’re focusing our energy on today,” said Escambia Emergency Director John Dosh.  

The personnel in the EOC war room represented various public and private agencies and organizations in law enforcement, emergency medicine, utilities, and the Coast Guard, among others. Dosh said the emphasis is on teamwork and expediency.

“While we’re in this room, this isn’t a ‘Me,’ but this is a ‘We,’” Dosh said. “This is how we operate; we work together as a unit, and we’ll work through this process.”

Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown served as Incident Commander for the drill. While the scenario has Kimo just brushing the area, he says it’s important to bring the EOC up to full staff for the exercise.

“We have a turnover [in] personnel, we want to make sure that we’re refining things,” Brown said. “We have lessons learned that we want to concentrate on from [February’s] tornadoes [in Century and Pensacola], and past experiences.”

Also on hand was Escambia County’s Public Safety Director Mike Weaver, who oversees Escambia Fire-Rescue. That agency is often the tip of the spear in a post-disaster landscape, in large part because of their versatility.

“It’s a jack-of-all-trades,” said Weaver. “The toolboxes they carry in their trucks take care of so much and they have to be prepared for so many aspects of a disaster.”

Residents along the Gulf Coast, especially newcomers, are urged to have a disaster plan just in case. That includes water and other supplies for the first 72 hours afterward. And Weaver says if an evacuation order is issued for your area – do it.

“It’s too late after the disaster starts,” Weaver said. “Our responders are unable to get to you; they’re overwhelmed. You don’t want to be trapped in your home. Get out, and be able to come back home.”

The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University predicts a dozen named storms in all, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes – Category-3 or higher.

Hurricane Alex occurred in January. The other names to be used this season, if needed, include Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, and Earl.