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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Jun. 6, 2019 1 year ago

'Preparing for a storm:' Volusia County Emergency Management director talks tips

The county is hosting its first-annual hurricane expo on Saturday, June 8.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

With hurricane season officially underway, early preparation is key, said Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Judge. 

From making a checklist of items and preparing documents, to revisiting insurance policies and making a family plan, there are things people can do before a storm that will benefit them in the long run should the area be hit with a storm this season. Hurricane season isn't something to delay planning for until a storm is announced, Judge said. 

“When people are prepared, then it makes my job easier," Judge said. "It makes recovery easier.”

Hurricane season began on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30. Here are some things the county's emergency management director wants residents to keep in mind so they can plan accordingly.

Stay informed, and don't wait

Pay attention to the weather, Judge said. Despite the fact it's early in the season, there has already been one named storm: Subtropical storm Andrea. That's an example that a storm can happen outside of hurricane season. 

“If you don’t like watching the news, at least just watch the weather," Judge said.

People should evaluate how ready they are now to avoid getting caught by surprise, he said. They should plan on losing power during a storm, and therefore have battery-operated flashlights and lanterns on hands, as well as batteries. A hand crank radio will also be useful to stay in touch with what's happening in the community. 

Having four to five days worth of food in the pantry is suggested, Judge said. Peanut butter is one of his personal emergency food staples. 

Judge also said people have the responsibility to craft a family plan in case they need to evacuate. "Hide from the wind, run from the water," is a slogan to keep in mind when making a plan, he said. And if you have to evacuate quickly, Judge said having all your important documents in one place, like an old suitcase, is a good idea.

"If you wait until danger is here, it's too late," he said. 

Residents should also review their insurance policies and consider buying flood insurance if they don't have it yet. For those planning to evacuate a county shelter, they should plan to bring their own food, cot, chair and supplies. 

Inside the EOC

During hurricane Irma, Judge counted 248 people inside the county's emergency operations center in Daytona Beach. That number included several individuals with the communication center, as well as representatives from all 16 municipalities, power companies, the airport, Department of Transportation and universities. 

“It’s crazy," Judge said. "Everybody in here is a problem-solver.”

The county has 20 emergency support functions, such as health and medical and law enforcement that oversee certain agencies. The county's health department takes lead of the local hospitals and EMS, and the sheriff's department is the lead law enforcement agency. 

Having everyone in one room helps since the county will be making many requests throughout a state of emergency, Judge explained. Depending on the storm, curfews, protective actions and calls for evacuation may need to be enacted. The county is also in charge of requesting supplies in advance and after a storm. 

“With Irma, we had 20 hours of tropical storm sustained winds, so we just needed to have all the people here," Judge said. 

If no one in the room can solve a problem, then it comes to him. 

“Emergency management is a team effort, and it really involves everyone throughout the county," Judge said.

The county is also gearing up to host its first-ever hurricane expo at the Volusia County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 8. The free event, hosted in cooperation with the Volusia Community Organizations Active in Disaster and the Volusia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, will offer educational presentations about storm safety, hazards and emergency preparation. 

Local businesses, service organizations and county divisions will also be in attendance. Judge will be leading a facts and myths session.

“We’re all vulnerable to a potential for a disaster," Judge said. "While we would like to think it’s going to happen to somebody else, it can happen to us."

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