Florida Hosts an Emergency Management Conference to Share What We Do Right

A new report from the Department of Homeland Security finds only one in four states is prepared to cope with a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Fortunately, for residents of the Sunshine State, Florida is one of them.

Florida was hosting emergency managers from a dozen other states Monday in an effort to help them improve their own disaster plans.

Bill Doran is leading a group of Louisiana’s emergency managers on a tour of Florida’s mobile command vehicle. They’re checking out the high-tech equipment and asking questions of their Florida counterparts.

“If the governor comes out in the field this becomes his office, so you can set up an area field operation type thing and reach back to the Emergency Operations Center for support.“

Florida’s mobile command vehicle is one way state officials can respond even when all communications are out in a disaster zone. It has its own satellite, Internet, and radio capabilities.

The vehicle tour is part of a daylong look at how Florida prepares and responds to disasters. Twelve other states came here to look and learn, including the Louisiana team.

Bill Duran of Louisiana says it’s a learning experience for him.

“There’s no law against grabbing better programs and using them. We try to take back some things where we can improve and we look at some things that we’re doing well and we’re just confirming it by seeing other states doing that as well.”

Florida is the only state in the country to have earned top marks for disaster preparedness in a recent report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Dave Bujak of Florida Emergency Management says other states can benefit from lessons Florida learned the hard way.

“Whether it’s a hurricane or an earthquake or a tornado, a catastrophic event is a catastrophic event, and it impacts the infrastructure and the people pretty much the same way.”

The key will be taking those tips home and actually putting them to work.

The Department of Homeland Security found the most common flaw in states’ disaster plans, other than Florida, was a lack of clear command structure for how governments would react to a major disaster.

Other shortcomings included plans for how governments would care for citizens with special needs, and providing care for large numbers of evacuees. Again, Florida was the only state to earn a top rating in all categories.