Editor’s Note: Veronica Taylor is a consultant specializing in disaster preparedness, response and recovery. She previously worked with The Patterson Foundation to help deepen its understanding of the disaster space. As a guest blogger, she will cover issues relevant to the disaster sector.
The Patterson Foundation’s office is located in Sarasota, Florida, and since Florida is surrounded on three sides by water, they are very aware of the potential for a disaster. What they were not sure of was how prepared their community would be for a disaster.
That’s where I first came in to TPF. If you’ve been following my blogs, you now know that I have personally experienced a disaster or two, or three or four! I was excited to be invited to evaluate Sarasota County, a county that often serves as a model for the rest of Florida and the nation as a disaster resilient community. I wanted to see just how good they really are.
They’re pretty darn good! I believe this can be attributed to the leadership of the County Emergency Management Office, the quality of the public and private infrastructure entities, and the coalition of dedicated volunteers and social service organizations that meet and train regularly to improve processes, communication, and interdependent support systems.
Much of this preparedness is a result of Hurricane Charley in 2004, a hurricane that unexpectedly struck neighboring Charlotte County. Although dodging the disaster bullet, the disaster exposed extensive weaknesses in Sarasota’s disaster preparedness plan. Then again, in 2005, the nation learned from Hurricane Katrina about the significant weaknesses in the national disaster preparedness plan.
Many improvements had been made since then, but were they enough? I was just wrapping up my evaluation when the community was tested again with the threat of Tropical Storm Debby. Just how well did the Realities of Preparedness stand up to the Realities of Disaster?
Well, let’s just say more lessons were learned and additional improvements are being made. Even though they dodged another disaster bullet, they went through the pre-disaster drill and found a few glitches in the process.
Disasters have been happening before the days of Pompeii, and we still can’t seem to get it right. Is your community prepared enough – and what is enough? Maybe, it’s never enough. That’s why it’s important to constantly monitor, train, practice, assess, and tweak the processes for changing realities. And because of that, I still say Sarasota County is “… pretty darn good!” The very next week, 25+ community organizations were at the table with emergency management tweaking the process.
My next few blogs will compare Sarasota County’s Realities of Preparedness with the Realities of a Disaster. Please keep reading and send me your comments email@example.com .