In 2004 and 2005, six hurricanes hit Florida, but since then no storms have struck.
Charlotte County Emergency Manager Wayne Sallade saw the county thorough Hurricane Charley in 2004. He said the intervening years without storms may have created a sense of complacency. But, he said his greater concern is that the economic downturn has impacted people’s ability to prepare.“You know people have had to make choices in this economy in this that we’ve been going through and many people obviously have chosen to put food on the table rather than re-up their disaster supplies kit or start from scratch and put one together,” he said.
However, in the last five years forecasters have gotten better at predicting where storms will go, thanks to improved technology. For example, for consumers an I-Phone app is now available which alerts the user if they’re in an area where an evacuation has been ordered.
Webinars and other technology have also made it easier to get the word out and plan. But, Collier County’s Homeland Security Coordinator Shanti Smith says technology can’t replace relationships.
“It’s s so much easier when you’re all together in the room to give each other the opportunity to speak out fully and address your questions to see who you’re talking too, who your partners are,” said Smith. “Having that face-to-face connection always makes the phone calls easier to follow up because you have some sort of relationship in place.”
Nearly 2,000 emergency, relief and planning officials are in Ft. Lauderdale for the conference.
Forecasters are predicting an above average hurricane season. It begins June 1.