The week of January 23-27, 2017 is the National Weather Services Severe Weather Awareness week in Florida.
On January 25th, at 10:10 AM local, the Miami NWS office issued a practice Tornado Warning alert tone on NOAA Weather Radio and began the drill. Participants were asked to find a safe place to shelter, and post a photo fo themselves to social media.
Hendry County Amateur Radio Emergency Service operators took the opportunity to practice emergency communications by scheduling a Severe Weather Watch exercise net at the same time.
Over the course of thirty minutes, controllers and participants passed exercise messages relating to what they were experiencing at their location.
Amateur radio operators worldwide can be found providing primary and backup communications for municipal agencies and NGO’s during times of crisis.
Big Lake Amateur Radio Club works with Hendry County Emergency Management to provide training and a pool of communicators that can be called up when needed. If you would like more information on amateur radio, emergency communications, or Big Lake ARC, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on the link below for the exercise final report.
Normally, we think of storms and fire and maybe getting a call to report to the EOC to handle comms – if our homes are safe, of course.
But what about a missing child?
What if you got a call to report at 8pm to EOC to help with an area search? Would you be prepared for that? Team leaders were recently put on standby for that very thing.
The little girl was found not long after, but it did bring up some preparedness questions.
Outside of it being end-of-day, and most of us heading to bed, would you have had to scramble to be there?
Part of managing an emergency is being prepared before it happens.
This doesn’t mean you have to grab your 72-hour bag.It doesn’t even have to be your regular deployment go-bag with all the wires and adapters and nerd stuff.
Participating in this task force would have been good with a HT with charged batteries, appropriate clothing and shoes, nighttime supplies like a sturdy flashlight, light-sticks, and bug repellent. Some water and snacks. A little cash for refueling body and vehicle. A low-load kit like this can be kept in a large fanny pack.
Check your preps. Maintain them year-round, not just storm season. Your participation may very well make the difference.
A 72-hour bag is personal. One for a man will be different for a woman. Children’s bags are built around items to keep them occupied. Though most will be similar in load-out, the specific items will vary.
In short, don’t let anyone tell you what you must have. There are as many ways to pack – and overpack – a bag as there are websites to tell you how.
For the new folk, a 72-hour bag is what you will need personally for a couple of days if you have to leave your home. You may be evacuated, or it may be a deployment. You may be called up to work a shelter, or you may get pushed out of your home by a storm. Either way, “home” is what’s in that bag for a day or three.
Assuming you’re not going to have to live off the land you’ll need toiletries, change of clothes (multiple underwear and socks), snacks, water, and medications.
Make sure any meds are in labeled pharmacy bottles. And carry copies of important documents, as long as the originals are in a safe place. Otherwise, bring the originals in plastic zip-bags.
Maybe a pillow and blanket to keep in your car. And a book to keep you occupied during slack time, of which there will be a lot. Don’t count on having a place to recharge your phone, tablet, or computer. One you sap the battery, it might be a while before you can charge it back up.
“FEMA’s Children and Disasters webpage reflects resources available to support the integration and implementation of children’s disaster related needs into preparedness, planning, response and recovery efforts initiated by state, local and tribal governments, as well as stakeholders responsible for the temporary care of children.”
For citizens, this section of the FEMA website offers many links to help with youth and family preparedness, planning, response & recovery, and how to help children cope with the emotional aftermath. There is also a free monthly newsletter.
For providers and reservists that have done the pre-requisites, the Training Resources link offers:
Shelters do not take pets, as of right now. There is legislation in the works that will make provisions for one shelter in a given geographic area to make considerations for pets. The only animals allowed in shelters are service dogs and miniature horses. Comfort animals are not allowed.
That said, if the situation is bad enough that you have to evacuate, so does your pet. Think ahead on what you need to do to accomplish this. You are solely responsible for your pet, not first-responders or shelter workers.
Here’s a FEMA pet-preparedness video with a lot of good practical thoughts:
If you haven’t yet, get your pet microchipped, and get a collar with your telephone number on the tag, or sewn in to the band.
Food and water for at least five days for each pet, bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food. In the heat, your pet will go through a lot of water. Pack a few gallons just for them. Plus keep an extra gallon on hand to use if your pet has been exposed to chemicals or flood waters and needs to be rinsed.
Leashes, harnesses and carriers to transport safely and to ensure that your pets can’t escape. Make sure that your cat or dog is wearing a collar and identification that is up to date and visible at all times.
Carriers should be large enough to allow your pet to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down. (Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for hours at a time.) Be sure to have a secure carrier with no loose objects inside to accommodate smaller pets—who may also need blankets or towels for bedding and warmth as well as special items, depending on their species.
Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a first-aid kit.
Current photo of you with your pets and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated—and to prove that they are yours once you’re reunited.
Written information about your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues along with the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.
Newspaper, paper towels, plastic trash bags, and a dilute bleach solution for sanitizing after clean-ups. Cat litter box, litter, litter scoop and small doo-bags to collect all your pets’ waste. Grooming items, and a comfort toy or blanket, too.
All the phases of Emergency Management work together to preserve life, and to prevent environmental as well as property damage. These are continually being developed, practiced, and monitored at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), in LaBelle. The EOC is generally a quiet building, but once it is activated, it becomes a hive of activity. The Emergency Operations Center acts as a coordinating entity. It is a place where all agencies come together to help our community.
When a disaster happens Emergency Management becomes the lead agency in coordinating the response. The situation room in the EOC becomes the center of all decision making and is the coordination point for a unified response to any disaster. Having everyone in the same room allows for better communication between the departments and outside agencies. The Hendry County EOC, when activated, is organized using a hybrid version of the Incident Command System (ICS). The different agencies are divided up into four sections under an Incident Commander or a Unified Command. The sections are: Planning, Logistics, Operations and Finance/Administration. It is within these sections the appropriate Emergency Support Function (ESF) are assigned.
In conjunction with the State of Florida and the National Response Plan, Hendry County has identified 18 ESF’s. The people that fill these roles come from various departments and agencies from the county, community non-profit organizations, the Cities of LaBelle and Clewiston as well as many volunteers.
Emergency Support Functions (ESF)
ESF 1 – Transportation
ESF 2 – Communications
ESF 3 – Public Works
ESF 4 – Fire Fighting
ESF 5 – Planning
ESF 6 – Mass Care
ESF 7 – Resources Support
ESF 8 – Health & Medical
ESF 9 – Search & Rescue
ESF 10 – Hazardous Materials
ESF 11 – Food & Water
ESF 12 – Energy
ESF 13 – Military Support
ESF 14 – Public Information
ESF 15 – Volunteers & Donations
ESF 16 – Law Enforcement
ESF 17 – Animal Concerns
ESF 18 – Public & Private Partnerships
Activating the Emergency Operations Center means that an emergency situation has reached a level which requires vital personnel to gather and begin the process of protecting citizens, property, and the environment. The activation also oversees any assistance that will be required from neighboring counties or the State of Florida through mutual aid. Currently there are 3 activation levels used throughout the State of Florida:
Level 1: Full Scale Activation of Local, State, and Federal Emergency Response Teams
Level 2: Partial Activation of State Emergency Response Team
Level 3: Monitoring Activation
Most of the time, the Hendry County maintains a Level 3 Activation. This means that the Emergency Management staff are continuously monitoring many different areas (including the weather), and making sure that the citizens of Hendry County (and all its communities) are prepared for whatever disaster that may rear its ugly head.
Most people think that it means ambulances and 911 calls, but actually Emergency Management is vastly different. Some people also think that we are just the hurricane people, and we always get asked, “What do you do when there are no hurricanes?”
Historically Emergency Management has been around for many years; however during WWII it was known as the Department of Civil Defense. Our seniors may remember the “duck and cover” drills.
It has evolved over the years, and has changed to become the lead agency in coordinating all hazard and disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Today, Emergency Management is the process of preparing for, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating an emergency.
There is considered to be four phases of Emergency Management:
PREPAREDNESS is an on-going activity that happens all year around. It includes preparation and response to natural and manmade disasters. Planning is an important part of the preparedness phase. An integral part of planning includes training staff, conducting drills, ensuring that all equipment works properly, and coordinating activities in the community. The preparedness phase also involves educating the community on how to be prepared, so if you need a public speaker for your business, or school, we are just a telephone call away at (863) 674-5400.
The RESPONSE phase includes the mobilization of resources and supplies. This is the time when responders and workers are out in the community after a disaster has occurred conducting damage assessments, rescuing survivors, providing food and water, and providing shelter, just to name a few. A well thought out response plan goes hand-in-hand with preparedness. Towards the end of this phase the County and the State of Florida will provide documentation to the Governor to seek a Presidential Disaster Declaration.
The RECOVERY process attempts to restore any damaged areas to their previous state. Recovery efforts can be both long and short term depending on the severity of the event. It is during this phase that the Federal government will provide disaster assistance to local residents through Individual Assistance (if eligible) or Public Assistance (for governmental infrastructure including not for profit organizations). This assistance may come from FEMA, or the Small Business Association (SBA). There are certain criteria that must be met in order to get this assistance, and is never guaranteed.
Finally, the MITIGATION phase is the process of breaking the cycle of disaster/rebuild. There is a local committee that meets twice a year to discuss mitigation projects. These meetings are open to the public, and may provide an opportunity for you to identify areas in your community that could benefit from disaster mitigation.
Amateur radio, or ham radio, is a popular hobby that brings people, technology, and communication together. This is also the recipe for a valuable service during times of disaster.
People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, without the Internet or cell phones. It’s fun, social, educational, and can be a lifeline during times of disaster because when all other forms of communications fail, ham radio will always get the message out.
You can set up a ham radio station anywhere; in a field, at a club, or at home! At the Emergency Operations Center, our “radio shack” can move into our CERT trailer or under a tent canopy in the field if needed.
Although Amateur Radio operators get involved for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of the technology and operating principles, and pass an examination for their license.
Hendry County’s local amateur radio association is the Big Lake Amateur Radio Club, providing Emergency Management with a pool of operators for the ARES and RACES corps. These individuals volunteer their time, skills and equipment to providing back-up communications for the county during emergencies and special events.
ARES, Amateur Radio Emergency Services is an affiliate of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national association for hams.
RACES, Radio Amateurs Civil Emergency Services is a group whose roots go back to the Civil Defense days and are used by local emergency managers during declared emergencies
Hendry Emergency Management hosts one-day classes for amateur licensing about one per quarter. Contact us at 863-674-5404 to find out the next class date!
– – Brian Newhouse, Director of Emergency Management
The last few weeks have been very eventful in Southwest Florida. We have had tornados and cold temperatures, car crashes and fires. It just goes to prove that you never know when a disaster is going to strike.
Those that prepare themselves, their 72-hour kits, and their homes prior to a catastrophic event are much less likely to suffer the long term effects and will quickly return to normalcy. Those that don’t heed the warnings of wisdom and prepare are the ones that will suffer the most.
My job as an Emergency Manager is not only to write plans for the government, but the bigger responsibility is to educate you, the public, to be as well prepared as you can be. If after an event, you still need help, we will always be there for you.
By preparing a 72-hour kit, you will not be a burden on your friends, neighbors, or the local responders. Heed warnings now and educate yourselves.
Knowledge is power and disasters are unpredictable.
Until next week, be safe and be working on your kits.
– – Brian Newhouse, Director of Emergency Management