Lee County committed to preparing, protecting the public
The official start to the 2019 hurricane season is less than a month away. Lee County is ready, thanks to the longstanding and constant support of the Lee Board of County Commissioners.
But Lee County is not idle, as planning and preparations never cease. Efforts to find ways to be more effective and more efficient are ongoing. This past spring, emergency management professionals from around the nation have affirmed Lee County’s efforts.
This month the Board and county manager were awarded the Al Bragg Government and Legislative Award at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach.
The Al Bragg Government and Legislative Achievement is awarded to an appointed or elected official for outstanding leadership in supporting emergency management through sponsoring the enactment of regulations, ordinances or other legal means to improve hurricane preparedness, response, recovery or mitigation at the local level in the state of Florida.
The Governor’s Hurricane Conference award was our second such recognition this spring. In April, the board and county manager were presented an Outstanding Achievement Award at the National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans.
In selecting the board and the county manager for this honor, the award committee cited “all-embracing support and commitment to disaster-stricken communities following Hurricane Michael,” just weeks after dispatching first responder teams to North Carolina in response to Hurricane Florence.
Outstanding Achievement Awards honor innovative achievements “which may serve as a model to others.” In the award application, it was noted that the five board members and the county manager have consistently prioritized innovation in public safety and emergency management and empowered staff to be better prepared. The effort of the five board members and the county manager was exemplified during the Hurricane Michael response. Multiple response teams from Lee County were deployed to support counties in the Florida panhandle. These teams included staff from departments such as Public Safety, LeeTran, Procurement Management, Solid Waste/Utilities and Office of the County Manager.
Lee County Emergency Medical Services teams deployed to the Panhandle to respond to calls after Hurricane Michael devastated the region. They were among the first teams to enter Bay County, Mexico Beach and Calhoun County after Michael’s landfall and performed admirably in an extremely difficult situation.
The first responders were not alone. Responding to requests from the Florida Association of Counties and area Emergency Operations Centers, Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais personally led a team of two dozen county administrators and directors to the Panhandle to support local recovery efforts. Desjarlais has dedicated more than four decades to public service and is a former Public Safety director. Using lessons learned from Hurricane Irma, he accompanied other top administrators, directors, executive assistants and LeeTran bus drivers – with four buses – to shorten the learning curve for their Panhandle counterparts and jumpstart recovery.
This specialized team provided debris management and public information support to Gadsden County, EMS leadership support in Calhoun County and procurement, utilities and county administration support to Liberty County.
The board and the administration did not hesitate to send help and even decided against submitting response costs to the fiscally constrained counties requesting support.
That level of commitment was only possible because of the board’s unwavering support of public safety. That support isn’t limited to hurricanes or other crisis-response efforts but provides a stable foundation that allows a quick response when needed.
While the response was intended to offer support and relief to Floridians in need, it provided additional opportunities for Lee County professionals to gain invaluable experience in responding to a crisis.
Lee County Public Safety asks that the residents and visitors here join us in creating a “Culture of Preparedness” within your own families and businesses. Responding to and recovering from a disaster is truly a community-wide effort.
It isn’t possible to know what the 2019 hurricane season will bring, but Lee County remains committed to preparing and protecting residents and visitors.
Christine Brady is Lee County Assistant County Manager who supervises the Department of Public Safety. For more information, visit www.leegov.com/publicsafety.