Hurricane Irma: one perspective

by Dan E. Summers, Director
Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services and Emergency Management

It is my sincere hope that everyone in our community, especially those hardest hit by Hurricane Irma, are on the road to recovery and that the generosity of our neighbors made the holidays as pleasant as possible for those experiencing tough times.

Many in our community and nearby still have many long months ahead of them to get back to pre-event conditions. As I’ve stated to the Board of County Commissioners on many occasions following Hurricane Irma, disaster response is hard; disaster recovery is harder! It is harder in the fact that we are all anxious to get back to our pre-disaster routine and almost every part of our day is interrupted by some sort of challenge left by Irma.

Whether we are awaiting a bid to replace the roof, delayed in traffic because of a debris removal truck, inconvenienced by events postponed at church due to damages, or vacation days impacted by school make-up days, hurricane recovery is no fun for any of us. It is my hope that, as a community, we understand that patience, perseverance and generosity are the cornerstones of working together to recover. Except for a few speedbumps along the way, which is why they call it a “disaster, “this community has an awful lot to be proud of.

While disaster recovery is not an exact science, a few numbers about our response and recovery efforts may put some of our hard work and the long road into perspective.

• 63 tractor-trailer loads of water and food were distributed with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the state’s emergency management agency, and the Collier County Emergency Operations Center

• 18 distribution sites were supported around the county for water and food distribution

• more than 17,000 residents took shelter in 27 Collier County schools and other buildings

• 235,000 accounts were without electrical power

• approximately 4 million cubic yards of horticultural and construction/demolition debris will be picked up

• $24 million in emergency financial assistance will be distributed by FEMA to families

• 53 nonprofit agencies and organizations are involved in local emergency assistance and repairs

• 1,231 Collier County government employees were engaged in emergency operations after the storm

• 185 news releases were published

• 18 press conferences were conducted

While this is just a micro-snapshot of the efforts that took place under the purview of the Collier County Emergency Operations Center, we would be far remiss if we did not mention the equally hard work of staff of the City of Naples, City of Marco Island, the Collier County Sheriff ’s Office, the efforts of Ms. Dottie Joyner and Mayor Grimm in Everglades City, a huge host of nonprofit organizations both nearby and in Goodland and Immokalee, and the District School Board of Collier County that did an awesome job under challenging circumstances under the direction of Dr. Kamela Pattonto open its schools to support our fast-breaking emergent shelter needs.

Last, but not least, my personal thanks to our residents, guests and businesses who went far out of their way to be neighborly, prepared, and generous with their time and talents to lend a hand. Hurricane Season 2018 is just 140days away. Don’t forget what you learned from this season to be even better prepared in 2018.Thank you for a job well done and for your continuing generosity to help those still in need of a hand.

Happy New Year! Like us on Facebook at collierem, and follow us onTwitter at CollierEM

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