Today’s weather is a perfect example of why emergency management is needed year-round

Shannon Weiner, Director of Emergency Management for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county. 

The weather today is a good reminder of why emergency management is so important. 

Weiner said, “What we saw yesterday morning when that storm front came through was that El Nino winter. Emergency management watched those storms locally yesterday morning in partnership, of course with our fabulous partners at the National Weather Service Key West, and our municipal emergency managers. We were very fortunate that while we saw rotation on the radar down in Big Pine and up in Ocean Reef, we didn’t have any tornadoes touched down and the power stayed on across the Keys. So thanks to Keys Energy and the electric co-op.” 

Is there a procedure for a tornado? 

Weiner said, “So in addition to the Weather Service monitoring, we’re keeping an eye on it in real time with them. But if the tornado were able to touch down, then of course, you’re going to get a 911 call, you’re going to get a call for services, that confirmation. Your first responders are going to respond, do a damage assessment, handle any emergency needs, if anyone needs emergency medical care. Once that damage assessment is done, depending on the level of damage, they may call the Red Cross for assistance, they may call emergency management for assistance. It just depends on how extreme the damage is whether it’s an individual home or a neighborhood. But those first responders, they’re always the first on scene, and they would make that determination and if it’s devastating and those guys are going to need a lot of support, then emergency management is there to help with logistics. They might call for what we call mutual aid, which is another fire station to come in and provide them with support. Or they might need more than the Red Cross assistance. We might need to work with the Red Cross to find residents a place to stay. So it really just depends on the level of damage that’s received. Luckily yesterday we didn’t have to do any of that.”

Even severe thunderstorms can do some damage. 

Weiner confirmed, “Absolutely. Of course that can also cause that severe flooding. We here in the Keys are very familiar with that, right? We have our known areas to flood, from Key West all the way to Key Largo. You just want to be careful. You really don’t want to be out driving in a severe thunderstorm, sit inside and wait it out. That’s the good thing about Florida, our storms tend to come and go quickly. Try to stay off the road in in a severe storm because you can get those gusty winds to any and you don’t want to get into an accident. Of course as always stay away from those areas of flooded road. We don’t want you to get stuck.”

The Emergency Operations Center is looking really good. 

Weiner said, “Our contractor, they have been on track since the very beginning. It’s looking like we will be able to move into the building sometime in April, looking towards the end of the month. We don’t have a grand opening scheduled yet. But when we do, I’ll be sure to invite you, that will probably happen in May or the very first of June. We’ll have had some time to test all our systems and make sure we’re in a good place for hurricane season this year.”

Hurricane season typically beings June 1. 

Weiner said, “I anticipate like last year, NOAA was able to open what they called a time of additional monitoring into the last two weeks of May, just because we have seen over the past few years, an increase of those late May early June, tropical activity, so they want the weather service to be able to be prepared. I would anticipate that NOAA’s going to do that again this year just because we’ve had a stormy year, year round this year. So I would be on the lookout and stay alert to see if they they start opening up their programs a couple a couple of weeks early this year.”

The FEMA evaluated exercise will happen again this year in mid-February. 

Weiner said, “Where we will partner with our friends from FP&L and Miami Dade County Emergency Management. This is a FEMA evaluated exercise where they come in and they let us know how well we’re doing, if we’re meeting the national criteria that they set forth for nuclear power plant response. We work very closely with them year round to make sure that we are prepared but they are very good partners and that’s kind of how we kick off the calendar year in emergency management. That’s always our first exercise of the year.”