SARASOTA COUNTY- In the days leading up to Hurricane Irma, Sarasota County officials were preparing for a potential Category 4 landfall. Emergency Services Director Rich Collins says they’re now studying just how prepared they were.
“I think this storm really offers an opportunity for us to look at a worst-case scenario,” Collins said. “That we were fortunate enough to not experience to that level. But still allow us to identify, how that impacts us.”
Collins says they implemented emergency plans that had been in place for years, and will be looking at them in the “after-action report.”
“Anytime you have a response like that you really have the opportunity to lift the hood on the engine,” Collins said. “Look inside, see how it ran, identify if there are any things you would tweak or change to make it better for the next response.”
They will be reviewing these plans with the health department, Sheriff’s office, school district, and other partners they worked with during the storm.
“We had 20 thousand residents in shelters,” Collins said. “I don’t think that’s been done in a very, very, if ever long time. So, how did that work, let’s go back and take a look at that.”
Collins says the goal is to find the areas they can improve, like making sure residents with special needs know they can register for shelter assistance all year.
“In the two or three days leading up to Hurricane Irma, we had 800 residents,” Collins said. “over 800 registrants get into the system. We were able to handle that but it really stressed our system, so let’s take a look at that”
And will measure everything from preparation to recovery effort.
“Some of the issues we’re dealing with debris and contractors,” Collins said. “Because of the amount of debris across the entire peninsula.”
The report will be peer-reviewed by other Florida Emergency Management Officials.
“We’re looking to bring those folks in to look at our plans,” Collins said. “Help us look under the hood at the engine and make sure that it’s prepped and ready for the next one.
The report is expect to take about 90 days to complete, and they are unsure how much it will cost.
The Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Barancik foundations have offered to help facilitate study sessions.