Networking, Coordinating, and Outreach
How “Volusia Prepares”
August 9, 2002
Author: Charles C. Craig
Emergency Services Coordinator
Volusia County Emergency Management Division
49 Keyton Drive
Daytona Beach, Florida 32124
phone: (386) 258-4088
As is the case throughout Florida, the communities of Volusia County are
vulnerable to a wide range of physical, meteorological and technological disasters. This
fact has been demonstrated by the very high human and economic costs of events that
have recently (during the past 5 years) impacted this part of the state. A coastal county in
east central Florida, Volusia with 48 miles of coastline and approximately 1,100 square
miles of land has a major tourist attraction in a NASCAR racetrack and many special
event venues bringing over 200,000 visitors each. County and city leaders along with
Volusia County Emergency Management, in an effort to eliminate and/or minimize the
impacts of future disasters, developed and implemented a hazard mitigation program or
"Local Mitigation Strategy" (LMS). Entitled Volusia 2020, this initiative successfully
formed a strong public/private partnership predicated on using “2020 hindsight” to correct mistakes of the past, “2020 insight” to grasp the County’s vulnerabilities and risks
and “2020 foresight” to plan for a secure future as a disaster resistant and resilient
community all by the year 2020. The Florida Department of Community Affairs provided
grant funding in 1997 and 1998 for risk assessments and mitigation strategy development.
Partnering with the local communities and businesses identified over 100 local projects
and programs that proposed to: harden critical facilities through aggressive shuttering
programs, alleviate flooding through special drainage projects (including elevation of
flood prone properties), and preparation of the urban wildfire interface areas with
horizontal and dry wells that could be activated in times of fire threats. This volunteer
effort by all sectors of the community – public and private, government and industry –
contributed to the economic development of our county by providing job opportunities
and resource usage while enacting mitigation and recovery initiatives to the impact of
emergencies and disasters. Emergencies and disasters continued to occur in Volusia
County at an average of four per year. These included tornadoes, windstorms, wildfires,
rain events and brushes with tropical storms and hurricanes and the terrorist event of
2001. The mitigative programs that were completed decidedly lessened the impact of
these events over previous years.
With the need for more partnering and coordination now clearly defined but a
staff of only seven plus the director, Volusia County Emergency Management had to
develop a flexible team approach to task assignments. These were within Emergency
Management’s three (3) major program elements of Planning; Operations, Training and
Public Education; and Administration and Logistics. This was necessary in order to become the catalysts for change to prevention and mitigation. Staff was asked to be professionally involved in all aspects of each area, in fact it was expected. Partnering, with private industry, networking and coordinating as well as public education and outreach became an important part of all staff work. Partnering with the American Red Cross and the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, allowed low cost business continuity “Emergency Management Planning Workshops for Business, Industry and Government” to be offered to local businesses. Partnering with local churches, the American Red Cross and other allied agencies to form Volusia Interfaiths/Agencies Networking in Disasters (VIND) to provide local crisis counseling and relief post disaster and education pre-disaster. Partnering with the Volusia County School Board, County government, area hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities resulted in the placement of weather alert radios in all county facilities, as well as all schools, hospitals and most healthcare facilities.
Subsequently in 2000, Volusia County applied and was one of seven counties in the state of Florida to be designated as a FEMA Project Impact Community, primarily
on the strength of all the proactive mitigative activity from the LMS and the results of our networking. Partnering with the Ormond Beach Fire Department, Florida Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), Institute of Business and Home Safety (IBHS), Florida Dept. of Emergency Management, and the Volusia Homebuilders Association in the construction of a Fire Information and Risk Education (FIRE) house. This is an example of a mitigated residential home illustrating by cutaway the construction measures taken to resist storm disasters and Firewise construction and landscaping techniques. Partnering was also accomplished with the Daytona Beach Partnership, a non-profit organization charged with implementing Rebuild America, Waterfronts Florida, and Project Impact initiatives within the downtown business district. Under these programs, property owners or tenants planning façade improvements, signage or outdoor lighting mitigation projects have access to University of Florida experts to perform energy efficiency and disaster mitigation assessments. Partnering with Community Services to implement a Project Impact grant to perform mitigation measures during residential remodeling brought new roof systems to low to moderate-income homeowners, thus stimulating the local economy. Our mentoring relationships expanded to offering the opportunity to review/ test (tabletop exercise) preparedness plans for local businesses. Several businesses seized the opportunity including the International Speedway Corporation, Bethune-Cookman College, the Stewart–Marchman Corporation and Tyco Healthcare Kendall. Private
industry is realizing that a disaster resistant community is able to recover from a disaster with less property losses, business closings and missed workdays. They also now perceive the need to understand how to interface with local government agencies during emergencies. Thus the shift from the Planning area to the Operations, Training and Public Education area was subtle. All staff now supported the tabletop exercises, as they were real time tests of existing plans in existing facilities. The lessons learned revealed additional needs resulting in additional coordination and planning. The Administration and Logistics folks managed the budget, did grant administration and monitored the operational supportive purchases.
Looking at our incident history and realizing that 90% of all Presidentially declared disasters were weather related, led us to apply for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service designation of Storm
Ready, which we received in 2001. We joined early on more than 419 communities
countrywide and 25 out of Florida’s 67 counties with this designation. Integrating Storm Ready principals into our annual training programs had meant more trained severe weather spotters to protect Volusia County. Now county agency representatives and private agency representatives shared a common training base with our Ham radio clubs and public protection personnel. Our formal hazardous weather plan for tornadoes was successfully coordinated with the School Board and provided for participation in a statewide tornado drill each year. The Storm Ready program requires that systems be in place to monitor local weather, alert and notify the public, activate warning points and promote preparedness through community seminars. Our mitigation initiative of placing weather radios helped to prepare the community and aided in the Storm Ready qualification. What better integration could we have created than Volusia 2020, Project Impact, and Storm Ready to bolster our community’s disaster resistance. And to think these designations were the direct result of planning, coordinating and networking outreaches!
After September 11, 2001, Emergency Management began coordinating with the hospitals and Daytona International Speedway as preparation for potential mass casualty incidents during the Daytona 500, and the Pepsi 400 races. These venues entice some 240,000 people at each event each year. Planning coordination quickly grew to include Daytona Beach Police, Volusia County Fire Services, the FBI, U.S. Customs, EVAC ambulance, Volusia County Department of Health, the Medical Examiner, the International Speedway Corporation and the hospitals. Soon after, we had an AMTRAK Autotrain derailment in an adjacent rural county with limited resources which we were able to support with county and private resources. All the hospitals wanted Incident Command System (ICS) training, which was completed and are now in advanced Hospital Incident Command System (HEICS) training. Tabletop exercises are programmed to follow. Recent local, state and national political and bureaucratic changes of recent years have suggested a moniker change from Project Impact to “Florida
Prepares”, and logically, “Volusia Prepares”. Regardless of the moniker, Volusia County is better prepared. Are we storm proof or disaster proof…No! But our survivability quotient has risen sharply.
This previously related series of events reveals how planning leads to coordination and networking which leads to operations, education, awareness and the leveraging of mutually supportive endeavors monitored and managed by administration and logistics. The more you plan, the more you need to coordinate and network and reach more people, the more ideas of needs and vulnerabilities are generated, the more agencies and entities become involved, the more networking and partnering must be done and so the spiral grows… The problem is the execution requires more staff, more hours, and
more resources. The key is prioritizing workloads and task assignments. Each member of the staff does public presentations. Two focus primarily in the mitigation and plans arena, two are responsible for operations and daily duty officer responsibilities, one functions in the healthcare/special needs/sheltering area and two handle budget, grant management, database management and office management.
With the advent of Homeland Security initiatives and requirements and now
Citizen Corps responsibilities, the Emergency Management plate is fuller than ever. And, we haven’t impacted land use and growth management from the mitigation perspective yet.
There is so much more coordination, partnering, and networking to be done.
Hopefully, commensurate with expanding roles and responsibilities will come the
opportunity for staff expansion. This will open the door for the multi-talented emergency
manager of the future. Those who can step into the outreach and networking role while
still able to plan, operate and administer. These emergency managers will have a
tremendous impact as Volusia and other counties “Prepare”.
NOTE: Volusia County Government is a Charter Government with a County Council and
County Manager. The County Manager oversees six (6) Departments. Emergency
Management is one of seven divisions that fall under the Public Protection Department.
We have an extremely supportive Department head and County Manager and since 1997
have put over 500 Volusia County employees thru courses at FEMA’s Emergency
Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland.