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Cape to participate in disaster preparedness course

By Staff | Jun 10, 2015

TIFFANY REPECKI Jesse Spearo, planning chief and emergency management coordinator with the Cape Coral Fire Department's Division of Emergency Management, and Mayor Marni Sawicki announce a training exercise Tuesday that the city will take part in in August.

The city of Cape Coral has an opportunity to test its policies and procedures related to disaster preparedness thanks to the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Cape was selected, along with 17 other cities nationwide, to take part in FEMA’s Integrated Emergency Management Course. It is a nearly five-day exercise-based training that places Emergency Operations Center staff under realistic crisis situations within a structured learning environment.

The course is administered by the Emergency Management Institute, based in Maryland.

“It tests the core capabilities of the city,” Jesse Spearo, planning chief and emergency management coordinator of the Cape Coral Fire Department’s Division of Emergency Management, said.

This week, FEMA officials are visiting the Cape in preparation for the training, which is scheduled for August. The information gathered will be used to design an exercise specific to the city and region.

The training is expected to be based on a scenario involving a direct hit from a hurricane.

Paul Ganem, training specialist with FEMA, explained that between 42 and 48 municipalities submitted applications to take part in the Integrated Emergency Management Course.

“Cape Coral’s was a compelling store,” he said. “It’s been awhile since there’s been a major incident.”

Ganem noted that FEMA officials learn from each disaster that they encounter.

“(Hurricane) Charley was certainly one of them,” he said.

This week, FEMA officials will review the city’s disaster preparedness plans, talk to local businesses and others to see how they would be impacted by a disaster, and conduct additional research.

“It’s an opportunity for the city to practice what they do,” Ganem said of the exercise, adding that procedures will work or not. “It gives us an opportunity to look at any shortfalls or gaps.”

Mayor Marni Sawicki joined the group for a helicopter flyover of the city Tuesday. Photos taken during the flyover will be used after a disaster to access damages, apply for funding and more.

“This is a great opportunity for Cape Coral again to take these situations and prepare for any disaster that might take place,” she said.

Sawicki brought the training to the city’s attention after hearing of it at a seminar from the mayor of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Staff only had days to apply, and she applauded them for getting it done.

According to Ganem, the 18 cities selected for the course were viewed as “worthy” based on several criteria, including the last recorded disaster in the area and partnership with nearby communities.

“The size of the community mattered, as well,” he said.

“We saw the value of what Cape Coral was doing here,” Ganem added.

Spearo explained that the training provides an all hazards approach – not just for storms.

“We need to be prepared,” he said.

Officials reported Tuesday that the course is not costing the city anything.

The city of Cape Coral has an opportunity to test its policies and procedures related to disaster preparedness thanks to the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Cape was selected, along with 17 other cities nationwide, to take part in FEMA's Integrated Emergency Management Course. It is a nearly five-day exercise-based training that places Emergency Operations Center staff under realistic crisis situations within a structured learning environment. The course is administered by the Emergency Management Institute, based in Marylan.