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Captivans prepare for storm season with hurricane seminar

By Staff | Jun 16, 2010

Amy Hoyt of the Lee County Emergency Operations Center.

On Tuesday, the Captiva Hurricane Prevention and Response Committee, in conjunction with the Captiva Island Fire Control District and the Lee County Sherrif’s Department, presented an informational storm preparedness seminar at South Seas Island Resort.

In addition to a wide array of educational literature and preparedness materials available to participants, speakers included Lt. Joe Poppalardo, chief Rich Dickerson of the CIFCD, Gerald Campbell and Amy Hoyt of the Lee County Emergency Operations Center.

Poppalardo and Dickerson discussed geographic zone divisions used for incident command after a storm and how it works on federal, state and local levels.

The geographic zones were put together by John Wilson of Lee County Emergency Management in the late 1990s in order to create a unified command system.

Sanibel and Captiva’s unified command team consists of Poppalardo, Captiva fire chief Jay Halverson, Sanibel fire chief Danny Duncan, chief Bill Tomlinson of the Sanibel Police Department.

Gerald Campbell of the Lee County Emergency Operations Center.

“We go to them for all of our resources as far as what we’re going to do after a hurricane. So far, the system has worked out very well,” Dickerson said.

“Through Charley, we learned a lot of valuable lessons with this system. It was trial and error,” Poppalardo added, and then acknowledged the Hurricane Committee, which was formed immediately after Hurricane Charley, for doing “a tremendous job in taking steps to designate Captiva as a StormReady community.”

Poppalardo also reminded attendees that if they’ve already sent in their home owner’s letters in the past, designating which people can check the home owner’s property after a storm, they do not have to resend the letter.

“Though it doesn’t hurt to update it,” Poppalardo said.

Campbell followed Dickerson and Poppalardo with a presentation about how to prepare for hurricane season.

“The news tells you to have a plan, get a plan or make a plan, but nobody really tells you how to do that. It doesn’t come natural to you and it can be sort of intimidating,” Campbell said.

Campbell said when making a plan for a hurricane, people should consider four criteria:

• I want to survive

• I want my family and friends to survive

• I want my stuff to survive

• I want to be able to recover as easily as possible

“Those are four good goals for anyone’s plan,” Campbell said.

But Campbell then discussed the many factors that occur during a hurricane that might impede these four goals, including rain, flashfloods, tornados and most importantly, storm surge.

Campbell encouraged attendees to insure their homes against damage and to strengthen their homes as much as possible to withstand hurricane-force winds.

He said that everyone should always have an evacuation plan, whether they’re going to stay with a relative outside of the evacuation zone, staying in a hotel or utilizing one of the EOC’s safety shelters.

“If you have no reason to stay — and staying to protect your stuff is not a reason — leave early. You are the person most responsible for your safety. You need to do your part to be prepared,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s colleague Amy Hoyt spoke next, giving a demonstration of the latest computer software used by first responders, such as the CIFCD, to assess property damage after a hurricane.

“After Charley, we knew we had a problem with damage assessments and all of these paper forms,” Hoyt said, describing the thousands of paper assessment forms submitted to the EOC in 2004.

It was this paper problem that sent Hoyt — a self-proclaimed computer geek — in search for a solution.

“We found a program that had started to be developed over on the east coast to handle their multitude of storms in 2004. We kind of took their idea and ran with it and starting in 2005, we began working on a better way to do damage assessments. This year, the technology is finally in the right place and we think we have a very good solution,” she said.

Hoyt then gave an in-depth demonstration of the program, showing participants how first responders might conduct a “windshield assessment,” inputting data regarding damage to properties (with categories such as “none,” “affected” and “destroyed”), road blockage and other destruction all over Captiva.

The information that first responders put into the program can be immediately uploaded to the EOC database from the assessor’s laptop.

“It’s very easy and quick to do these windshield surveys, and that’s important because these assessments need to be fed to the State so that they can declare an emergency and release money. The faster we can report losses to FEMA, the more money we get,” Hoyt said.

To learn more about the resources available through the Lee County Emergency Operations Center, go to www.LeeEOC.com.

For local information on storm preparedness, go to www.MyCaptiva.com.