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Hurricane committee prepares for 2010; readies to renew StormReady designation

By Staff | Oct 22, 2009

The Captiva Hurricane Preparation and Response Committee met last Friday to review changes to the Structural Safety Inspection (SSI) team requirements and discuss renewing Captiva’s Storm Ready designation.

The new guidelines for SSI participation state that all volunteers must sign a waiver of liability for the Captiva Island Fire Control District (CIFCD), undergo a mandatory medical physical and provide updated personal information such as addresses and phone numbers, in addition to attending mandatory drill training and learning how to use the new computerized damage assessment software.

“It facilitates getting information to the EOC quicker,” said Lt. Joe Poppalardo.

According to Terry Kelly of the Lee County Emergency Operations Center, the new computerized software has been a major success throughout the county and only costs about $100.

“Everybody who used the system, the [information] came right to the

Emergency Operations Center as to where the damages were,” Kelly said.

“The cities have it, all of the fire departments will have it, our building inspectors have them and all this information is real time. As soon as you hit a wi-fi hot spot you just click the button and it goes to EOC,” Kelly said.

Committee member Doris Holzheimer was pleased to learn about the effectiveness of the new program.

“It sounds like, what keeps happening in the area is that the emergency professionals keep getting better and better at organizing for future disasters. That’s the good news. The bad news is I’m afraid we’ve got some bad will with some volunteers right now, and we want people to feel good about their connection to volunteering on Captiva.

So we’re going to have to go and explain that there have been some changes, and the changes make sense, but they change what we’ve asked people to do. We have to prepare to do that and recruit volunteers under the new guidelines,” Holzheimer said. “I think it’s important to have a place for volunteers.”

Steve Pasquale agreed.

“They should understand where their work goes. It’s important. This is how you get FEMA to respond,” Pasquale said.

Committee members agreed that the SSI team is a crucial piece of the hurricane response process and the sooner the team can report the damages, the sooner relief process can effectively begin.

“If we don’t document, we don’t get disaster declaration,” Kelly said.

Lt. Joe Poppalardo said that he would be meeting with CIFCD Chief Jay Halverson, Captain Alan Delameter and the new head of the SSI team, Ken Suarez. Suarez will then begin contacting volunteers and disseminating the new guidelines.

Captiva residents interested in volunteering for the SSI team can contact the CIFCD, 472- 9494.

Though the 2009 hurricane season has so far been relatively quiet, Poppalardo thanked the committee for their dedication to playing a proactive role in protecting and preparing the community.

“I get paid to do this. This is my job. But volunteers, when there is nothing happening, people get complacent. I’ve discussed this with a couple other groups and agencies and they were very impressed. I told them it’s absolutely amazing that this group is staying focused,” Poppalardo said.

In keeping with the hurricane committee’s reputation for vigilance, the next topic at the meeting involved renewing Captiva’s StormReady designation, originally awarded in 2007.

“Daniel Noah (of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) sent a note saying what we need to do and Terry has already arranged for some dates,” Holzheimer said.

To prepare for StormReady designation, the committee plans participate in a SkyWarn training session and visit Ruskin, the location of the National Weather Service forecast office.

The committee decided to hold the SkyWarn training on Monday, Feb. 8, from 10 a.m. to noon. An island location has not been selected yet.

Kelly also mentioned that the EOC has begun setting up clinics for administering the H1N1 vaccine in Lee County and are in desperate need of volunteers. People interested in volunteering or finding clinic locations can visit the EOC Web site, www.LeeEOC.com. Volunteers will be required to undergo a background check.

The committee will meet again in December.

For more information about the hurricane committee, visit www.MyCaptiva.info.