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PreparednessFlorida better prepared to deal with disasters than it was in 2004 — the Year of Four Hurricanes
Much has improved for residents and emergency managers in South Florida since the state’s 2004 Hurricane season, known as the Year of Four Hurricanes. That season, Hurricane Charley released 150-mph winds, followed by Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. Officials in South Florida are implementing new technology and improved protocols to battle the next round of extreme weather events.
Much has improved for residents and emergency managers in South Florida since the state’s 2004 Hurricane season, known as the Year of Four Hurricanes. That season, Hurricane Charley released 150-mph winds, followed by Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. The following year, Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina struck a significant portion of the region, disrupting power lines, communications devices, and food and gas supplies.
The Sacramento Bee reports that officials in South Florida are implementing new technology and improved protocols to battle the next round of extreme weather events. Since 2004, South Florida’s population has increased by roughly 500,000 people to 5.82 million. A growing population makes it more challenging to mobilize residents before and during a hurricane. Authorities must also educate new South Florida residents on how to prepare for an incoming hurricane. “My biggest concern is it’s been ten years, and there’s a lot of complacency,” said Vince Bonvento, assistant county administrator of Palm Beach County. “You have a lot of people who have never been through a hurricane.”
Unlike 2004, the majority of residents in South Florida now have smart phones and social media accounts, so authorities are taking advantage of this by making available storm warnings via text alerts to anyone within range of South Florida cellphone antennas. Emergency managers have also adopted social media to inform county residents about shelter availability, and how to deal with emergency situations in real time. Residents can also use their phones to report damage to authorities using the new geocoded Home Damage Repair Program. Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center has set up a Twitter room to send out notices and monitor social media sites for discussions on weather related emergencies.
Gas stations with eight pumps or more are now required to install generators, and many grocers have installed generators in their stores. Weather specialists have improved forecasting models to provide residents notification when a storm is near. The National Hurricane Center now issues hurricane warnings thirty-six hours in advance, up from twenty-four hours a few years ago.
Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) faced severe criticism for the massive outages in 2005’s Hurricane Wilma. The company has since spent more than $1.4 billion to improve its power system, including adding flood monitors and storm-resistant doors to more than 200 substations, and installing 4.6 million smart meters and other devices that give real-time information on outages. “We’ve learned a lot from the ‘04 and ‘05 storms,” said Manny Miranda, FPL’s vice president of power delivery. “But hurricanes are powerful forces of nature, and we expect outages to occur.”