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Politics

Gov. Rick Scott: Florida's Prepared for Hurricane Season

May 22, 2011 - 6:00pm

At the onset of the 2011 hurricane season, Gov. Rick Scott is touting Floridas preparedness in case of a major storm.

He conducted worst-case-scenario drills Monday at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, bulking up for a season in which some experts are predicting 18 named storms.

We have an experienced team that is ready to respond to any disaster or crisis. The drill we are completing today will ensure that Florida remains prepared for any tropical storm that we may experience this year, Scott said.

Recent hurricane seasons have been tame, with no major storms making a direct hit on Florida in the past five years. Thats been a welcome relief for most Floridians, but Scott warned that experience is not to be expected.

It is important to remain prepared. Disaster response is a team effort, local organizations play a vital role in assisting Floridians during response and recovery, Scott said.

Newly-appointed state Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon, formerly the director for emergency management for Wal-Mart, also cautioned against complacency.

The concern that I would have, is that since weve gone five hurricane seasons without a landfalling hurricane -- that weve got citizens who have perhaps forgotten what that experience was like in 2004, 2005, and we also have new Floridians who perhaps have not dealt with a hurricane before.

Scott is well known for his push to cut the number of state workers, choosing instead to focus on spurring private-sector job growth in Florida, but in a reverse of that policy, Koons appointment was one position he was happy to pluck from the corporate world. He touted Koons experience in manning emergency operations for Wal-Mart as a good fit for the Sunshine State.

Hes got all the right background to make sure that our state is one, prepared, and then if something does happen that we will have a great effort to make sure we save lives, we take care of those that are injured, those that are out of their homes, those that are short on water, food, and also take care of property and get people back to lead a normal life, Scott said of Koon.

Creating awareness and getting new residents or those lulled into a false sense of security by the lack of storms is high on Koons priority list. That means the list of essential supplies -- canned goods, water, batteries, radios, flashlights -- that are common to most Florida households will be repeated early and often this hurricane season.

And we want to ensure to engage all those citizens, help them understand what the potential consequences of a hurricane making landfall in the state are, and to let them know what their role in preparing for that situation would be, Koon said.

Scott also highlighted the need to prepare ahead of an imminent storm by having evacuation routes and securing ones property as much as possible.

I remind you all to get a plan. Remember it is important to have at least three days' worth of necessary supplies to ensure that you and your familys basic needs can be met following a disaster, Scott said.

The drill Scott and other officials conducted consisted of preparations in the case of a hurricane that comes in from the Atlantic Ocean hitting West Palm Beach, crosses the state and enters the Gulf of Mexico, and then hits Florida again in the Panhandle. It was based on the path of Hurricane Francis in 2004.

In the emergency dry run, an operations center is set up in Camp Blanding in the North Florida town of Starke. Scott headed there after the press conference in Tallahassee, and said that a trial run last year was canceled due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Reach Gray Rohrer at grohrer@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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