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New Approaches To Disaster Prep, 10 Years On From Charley

Hurricane Charley

Hurricane Charley map. Image: NOAA

On the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Charley, Seminole County’s emergency manager says the county is now better organized to respond to a major disaster.

However the county is also now more reliant on volunteers than it was in 2004.

Seminole County emergency manager Alan Harris’ first day on the job in that office was August 13th 2004, the day Charley hit.

Harris says just clearing debris alone cost millions, and in some cases it took years to repair the damage.

He says staffing and resources aren’t what they were 10 years ago.

“In local government, we have heard the cry, and the cry is less government, so we have done that,” says Harris, adding that smaller government also means fewer staff.

Seminole County employs about 1200 people total- down from 1600 in 2004.

“Our staffing levels are 1998, not 2004, 1998, so we definitely need volunteers,” says Harris.

In an emergency he says the county would need volunteers with medical skills, and people to go out and help vulnerable residents like seniors.

But, he says, strides have been made in preparedness in the last decade.

Emergency shelters are protected with roll down shutters and hardened doors, and the county has held 65 training exercises since 2004 to enhance disaster response.

Mobile technology means in a disaster people can now be kept informed by text message, while a smartphone app allows residents to tell the county about damage in their neighborhood.

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About Matthew Peddie

Matt Peddie