County expands oil spill preparation plans
The Lee County Emergency Operations Center is expanding plans already in place to deal with the British Petroleum oil spill should it reach our shores.
EOC spokeswoman Diane Holm said the agency is getting ready to purchase up to five shallow water skimmers.
Skimmers are used to scoop up weathered oil, such as tar balls, in sensitive areas.
The equipment is expected to cost up to $12,000 per unit and will be purchased using funds currently available in the county’s public safety budget.
“We don’t have any yet, but this is about acknowledging we’re preparing for it,” Holm said.
The area contingency plan calls for placing booms to deflect oil from environmentally sensitive areas such as mangroves, nesting areas and sheltered tidal flats.
The boom directs the oil to areas where it can be easily captured and removed, such as beaches, according to a prepared statement from Holm.
Holm added that people looking to volunteer in some capacity if the oil does reach Lee shores, need to pay close attention to the emergency operation website for information.
As it stands, volunteers are being coordinated through Volunteer Florida, but Holm said there’s been communication difficulties among the multiple agencies.
She said all agencies involved are working out the kinks, and should have things smoothed out in a few weeks.
“There doesn’t seem to be any communication between state and county governments,” she said. “But we’re trying to get things better organized, and if that day arrives, we’ll know how to handle everyone who wants to help.”
She said, too, that it’s important for citizens to let the Emergency Operation Center to take the lead on any local clean up efforts.
All municipalities work in conjunction with the EOC during emergencies.
Lee County’s Director of Public Safety John Wilson is currently in Tallahassee and slated to go to Alabama, as part of the State Emergency Response Team, according to Holm.
Wilson will have the opportunity while there to learn if any additional revisions are needed in Lee County’s plan.
Holm said Lee County might be lucky because the ocean current might keep a majority, if not all, of the oil from reaching our beaches.
But if it does, she said the EOC will be ready.
“In the event it does show, we’ll be prepared,” she said.
For more information on Lee County emergency plan, or to stay updated on volunteer information visit their website at leeeoc.com.