by AR Staff
May 21, 2016
NO HURRICANES MANATEE CO. IS READY
BRADENTON, Fla. -- No hurricane has delivered a direct hit to Manatee County, Fla., since 1944, but that didn't stop hundreds of emergency responders from getting ready again on Saturday as a new hurricane season begins on June 1.
At the county's hardened Emergency Operations Center Friday, a day-long exercise brought out the entire emergency preparedness community, from the expected fire, police and military resources to folks from the purchasing department who pay for all the special needs a hurricane can generate.
The annual eight-hour exercise was open to the media but lightly attended by the press.
In an afternoon series of wrap-up talks spelling out what had occurred during the morning's live exercise, speakers detailed the resources and responses the county has on tap to meet the needs of the fictional 30,000 people whom the invented Hurricane Kimo had displaced.
Victims might have been injured, homeless, without power, water and food as the hurricane's destruction spread. The Salvation Army was there to feed all the participants, as it would be for victims of a destructive hurricane like Charley, which devastated nearby Punta Gorda, leaving thousands of wrecked homes and stores and many homeless, after turning away from Manatee County at the last minute in 2004.
Attendees were given a comprehensive 2012 emergency handbook that showed every possible material that might turn deadly in a storm, along with complete instructions on what to do if some of the materials were released.
The first step: Stay "upwind, uphill and upstream" from the spill, keep others away and observe the various requirements for handling materials from gasoline to radioactive substances.
The list contains thousands of items, including hundreds of medications, that can become dangerous if mishandled.
Also in the packet were out-of-date Verizon white and yellow pages and a big map of Manatee County. A county IT expert briefly discussed the role of the Internet and social media in a major disaster. The Internet was designed by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as a survivable communications resource in the event of nuclear war and other disasters.
Ironically, no "Energy" expert appeared in the afternoon session, even though power outages are frequently the most common result of hurricane-force winds, raid and storm damage, leaving smartphones, WiFi, online computers and social media helpless to respond. Florida Power & Light (FPL), though, which serves the region, did have a major presence during the live emergency exercises in the morning, county spokesman Nick Azzara said.